Last Friday, Bad Bunny released a new video for the song just as his home island was threatened by the threat of Category 1 Hurricane Fiona, which arrived on Sunday morning, caused a general blackout, interrupted piped water service for more than 700,000 people and dumped tens of inches of rain in some areas.
The video uses the constant power outages that have hit the island as a metaphor for the declining quality of life in Puerto Rico, a problem many activists feel is the result of government policies of privatization, austerity budgets, underfunding of public agencies and institutions, and encourage those who seek tax avoidance to settle on the island without contributing to the tax base. It was an avant-garde expression of pride, and also featured an approximately 17-minute report by Puerto Rican freelance journalist Bianca Graulau on anti-gentrification and environmental activism in Puerto Rico.
Fiona struck nearly five years after 2017’s deadly and devastating Category 4 Hurricane Maria. That storm caused massive structural damage and left many residents without power and water for up to a year. Now, although power has already been restored in some parts of San Juan and the metropolitan area, the mayor of Lajas, in the most affected southwestern sector of the island, estimated that it will take up to three months to restore power for residents. in that town
The recovery from Hurricane Maria, the slow response of the administration of former President Donald Trump, the earthquakes in the southern part in 2020, the economic problems of its bankruptcy in 2015, the continuous government scandals and the fiscal austerity required by the Oversight Board and Fiscal Administration mandated by Congress have painted a bleak future for the youth of Puerto Rico. Members of all generations have been migrating to the US in record numbers, as the island has lost almost 12% of its population in the last 10 years.
And Bad Bunny does not shy away from these harsh realities. He, whose songs are performed entirely in Spanish, has rocketed to almost unimaginable stardom, holding the No. 1 spot on Bloomberg’s Pop Star Power Rankings for most of 2022. On Tuesday, it was revealed that Bad Bunny scored the most of nominations for this year’s Latin Grammy Awards, with 10 nominations, including album of the year. His music combines various Afro-Caribbean musical genres (particularly reggaeton and Latin trap) with a performative style that favors an open expression of alternative sexuality. He often cross-dresses in videos of him, and recent concerts show him with openly gay dancers joining him center stage.
Yet in almost unprecedented fashion, Bad Bunny has used a platform based on an aesthetic of idyllic sunshine, fun, graphic sexual lyrics and sensual dancing to become one of the loudest political voices in Puerto Rico. His commitment to activism, something he also demonstrated with his continued outspokenness during his concert tour this summer against LUMA, a US-Canadian-based consortium that took over Puerto Rico’s electric power transmission and distribution in 2021 , began with an appearance in the 2019 protests against former Governor Ricardo Rosselló and continues to intensify.
“We have a government that is turning our lives upside down,” he declared at a concert in late July in San Juan. “LUMA, go to hell! It’s our country, and we’re the ones who have to take control. I believe in this generation, and I want to live here in Puerto Rico with you!”
At the beginning of the “El Apagón” video, the independent journalist Bianca Graulau appears explaining that although LUMA promised that its service would be better than that of the state Electricity Authority, the blackouts last longer and the neighbors have had to endure seven consecutive price increases. on their bills while LUMA executives earn large sums of money. Puerto Ricans are fed up, the video states, and in fact there were a series of demonstrations in late August demanding the cancellation of LUMA’s contract that seemed to have similar energy to those in 2019.
“El Apagón” is a song that abruptly switches from a Puerto Rican bomba-type beat to electronic house music, as Bad Bunny declaims his pride in being both Puerto Rican and “Latino,” making a collage of images of Puerto Rican nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos, the reggaeton rapper Tego Calderón, salsa singer Ismael Rivera, and former NBA star JJ Barea. But it leaves the video center stage after a lengthy interlude of a dance bacchanal filmed in an abandoned rail tunnel in western Puerto Rico, and Graulau returns for the uninterrupted 17-minute addition.
Graulau interviewed several people who are being evicted from their homes in the Puerta de Tierra neighborhood on the outskirts of the colonial city of Old San Juan due to real estate speculation. This land rush is partially inspired by Laws 20 and 22, which allow wealthy US citizens from one of the 50 states to reside in Puerto Rico and avoid taxes on stocks, cryptocurrencies and real estate.
This has led investors to convert apartments into posh housing complexes or expensive vacation rentals and displacing residents for decades. Graulau also travels to the wealthy enclave of Dorado, just west of San Juan, to show how difficult it is for locals to get to a beach controlled by wealthy owners, violating a long-standing local law that guarantees public access to all beaches. .
The stories Graulau presents in his report, titled “People Live Here (People Live Here),” don’t often appear in the mainstream US media: his interview with Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, Speaker of the House of Representatives from Puerto Rico, in particular, hinted that he was an apologist for a strategy to attract Law 22 transplants. She documented that Law 22 beneficiaries donated a total of $240,000 to Hernández’s campaigns; José Luis Dalmau, head of the Senate of Puerto Rico; and Pedro Pierluisi, the governor.
on Saturday morning the clip of his interview with Graulau and said: “A bad bunny tells other bad bunnies that his ears are long. Just for the record, Bad Bunny and his successful team receive the same tax benefits from the government of P FKN R who criticize from Laws 20/22”. Pierluisi declined to be interviewed for the video and he and Dalmau have not commented on the matter.
By using one of the most effective strategies in investigative journalism — following the money — Graulau makes clear why Americans should take a hard look at the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico. The issue of pay-to-play politics comes up in most election campaigns and political reform movements, and the situation in Puerto Rico is no different.
In fact, it is worse, due to the island’s colonial status, which inhibits its ability to develop a self-sufficient economy. That state is ultimately behind its $72 billion bankruptcy, which created the need for the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board in 2016 in the first place.
Puerto Rico has a host of problems, and with this latest setback, its recovery from the ravages of two hurricanes in five years and the fallout from the debt crisis is even uncertain. What is certain is that Puerto Ricans have an intensely strong national pride, an energy that Bad Bunny has harnessed, in part allowing him to become a universal pop figure despite stubbornly sticking to the particularities of Puerto Rican slang and the problems, hopes and hopes of the island. dreams.
Through artists like Bad Bunny, Puerto Ricans know how powerful they are creatively, that they deserve to live their lives without constant power outages, and that they want to stop being displaced and used as a tax haven and real estate playground for the ultra-rich.
“I don’t want to leave here” is the closing lyrics of “El Apagón”. “Let to them Let’s go.”