Last Friday, Bad Bunny released a new video for the song as his hometown continues to be threatened by the threat of Category 1 Hurricane Fiona, which arrived Sunday morning, causing a general blackout that knocked out water service for more than 700,000 people. dozens of inches of rain in some areas.
The video uses the constant blackouts that have plagued the island as a metaphor for the declining quality of life in Puerto Rico, a problem that many activists attribute to government policies, privatization policies, austerity budgets that underfund public agencies and institutions. encouraging those who want tax avoidance to set up shop on the island without contributing to the tax base. It was an honest statement of pride, and it also featured about 17 minutes of reporting by independent Puerto Rican journalist Bianca Graulau about anti-gentrification and environmental activism in Puerto Rico.
Fiona marked almost five years since 2017’s deadly and devastating Category 4 Hurricane Maria. That storm caused extensive structural damage and left many residents without power or water for up to a year. Now, although electricity has been restored in San Juan and some metropolitan areas, the mayor of Lajas, in a hard-hit sector in the southwest of the island, estimates that it will take three months for residents to restore power. in that town
The recovery from Hurricane Maria, the slow response of the administration of former President Donald Trump, the earthquakes in the South in 2020, the economic woes of the 2015 bankruptcy, the ongoing government scandals and the fiscal austerity called for by the Congress-mandated Fiscal Control and Steering Committee. painted a bleak future for the youth of Puerto Rico. Members of all generations have been migrating to the US in record numbers, with the island losing nearly 12% of its population over the past 10 years.
And Bad Bunny doesn’t shy away from these harsh realities. She, who performs her songs entirely in Spanish, has reached almost unimaginable stardom, placing her at No. 1 on Bloomberg’s 2022 Pop Star Power Ranking. On Tuesday, it was announced that Bad Bunny had the most nominations for this year’s Latin Grammy Awards. With 10 nominations, including album of the year. His music combines different Afro-Caribbean musical genres (mainly reggaetón and Latin trap) with a performative flavor that favors an open expression of alternative sexuality. He often crosses paths in his videos, and in recent concerts strange dancers appear as protagonists.
However, in an almost unprecedented way, Bad Bunny has used a platform based on an aesthetic of idyllic sunshine, fun, sexually graphic lyrics and sensual dance to become one of Puerto Rico’s loudest political voices. His commitment to activism, which was also demonstrated by his continued vocal stance during the summer concert tour against LUMA, the US-Canadian consortium that took over Puerto Rico’s electricity transmission and distribution in 2021, began with an appearance at the 2019 protests. Against former governor Ricardo Rosselló and continues to increase.
“We have a government that interferes with our lives,” he said at a concert in San Juan at the end of July. “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, independent journalist Bianca Graulau appears, explaining that although LUMA promised its service would be better than the government-run Electricity Authority, power cuts last longer and residents have had to endure seven consecutive price increases. their bills while the directors of LUMA earn huge sums of money. Puerto Ricans are fed up, the video says, and in fact, several demonstrations were held in late August calling for the cancellation of the LUMA contract, which sounded like 2019 energy.
“El Apagón” is a song that suddenly changes from a Puerto Rican bombshell beat to electronic house music, as Bad Bunny expresses his pride in being Puerto Rican and “Latino”, conjuring images of Puerto Rican nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos. Reggaeton rapper Tego Calderón, salsa singer Ismael Rivera and former NBA star JJ Barea. But he leaves the center of the video after an extended interlude of a dance bacchanal filmed in an abandoned railroad tunnel in western Puerto Rico, and Graulau returns to the uninterrupted 17-minute extra.
Graulau interviewed several people who have been forced out of 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 inspired by Acts 20 and 22, which allow wealthy US citizens from all 50 states to live in Puerto Rico and avoid taxes on stocks, cryptocurrencies and real estate.
This has led to investors turning apartments into posh apartment complexes or expensive vacation rentals and the displacement of decades-long residents. Graulau also travels to the wealthy enclave of Dorado, west of San Juan, to show how difficult it is for local residents to access the beach, which is controlled by wealthy property owners in violation of a long-standing local law that guarantees access to all beaches.
The stories Graulau presents in his report, “Aquí vive gente (The People Live Here),” are not often reported in the US mainstream media — his interview with Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, in particular, was an apologia for Act 22’s strategy to attract transplants. he said He documented that Act 22 recipients donated $240,000 to the Hernandez campaigns; José Luis Dalmau, President of the Senate of Puerto Rico; and Pedro Pierluisi, the governor.
Hernández he tweeted
Clip of interview with Graulau on Saturday morning and he said: “A bad bunny tells other bad bunnies that they have long ears. For the record, Bad Bunny and his successful crew receive the same benefits from the P FKN R government. From Act 20/22 they criticize.” Pierluis refused to be interviewed for the video and both he and Dalmau have not given an opinion on the matter.
Using one of investigative journalism’s most effective strategies — following the money — Graulau makes clear why Americans should be examining the relationship between the US and Puerto Rico. The issue of pay-to-play politics is one that surfaces in most election campaigns and political reform movements, and the situation in Puerto Rico is no different.
In fact, it is worse because of the island’s colonial status, which inhibits its ability to develop a self-sustaining economy. That situation 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, recovery from two hurricane disasters in five years and the effects of the debt crisis is uncertain. What is certain is that Puerto Ricans have a strong national pride, an energy that Bad Bunny has embraced, allowing him to become a somewhat universal pop figure, despite retaining the peculiarities of Puerto Rican slang and the island’s problems, hopes, and aspirations. dreams
Through artists like Bad Bunny, Puerto Ricans know their creative potential, that they deserve to live their lives without constant blackouts, and that they want to displace and stop being used as a tax haven and real estate playground for the ultra-rich.
“I don’t want to leave here” is the last lyric of “El Apagón”. “Leave it they go.”