July 24 will forever remain in the memory and hearts of Puerto Ricans as the day when music defeated corruption. You're wondering: how and why? Well, the answer is because after nearly two weeks of massive riots and chants against the corrupt, governor Ricardo Rosselló eventually resigned.
Their manifestation was peaceful, as they danced and sang together for the Governor to leave office, as The Washington Post states: ‘‘They protested on horses, motorcycles, jet skis, kayaks, yoga mats and by banging pots. Yet it was the young people dancing provocatively on the steps of the oldest cathedral in the New World to the boom-ch-boom-chick-boom-ch-boom-chick of reggaeton beats that may have finally forced Rosselló out of office.‘‘
Why were Puerto Ricans rioting?
It was the circulation of a conversation among Governor Ricardo Rosselló and 11 of his friends that triggered the people to gather and chant their resentfulness. The over 800 pages of text messages, which were published on July 13 by the Island’s Center for Investigative Journalism, were including several homophobic and misogynistic slurs; in one of the chat messages, the Governor calls a New York female politician of Puerto Rican background a ‘whore’. He also mocks an overweight man with whom he appears in a photo. Besides, Rosselló makes comments about Puerto Rican star Ricky Martin’s homosexuality, thus evoking an entire spectrum of adverse opinions.
As a consequence, some of the people in Rosselló’s administration quit. Instead, the Governor decided to keep working. He hoped the people would get over the incident. But the voice of the majority disagreed with his choice and subsequently took to the streets, crying out its misfortunes. Well, this is how the "perreo combativo" was born, so nicknamed by the young queer, trans and non binary, precisely because of the significant contribution of the perreo, reggaeton style of dance, to the creation not only of a sensual and liberated common space but also, and above all, of political power.
The power of reggaetón and perreo
Influenced by American hip hop, Latin American, and Caribbean music, reggaetón originated in Puerto Rico, during the late 1990s. Reggaetón is the hip hop of Puerto Ricans. The genre is set to speak against corruption and the dysfunctionalities of society. ‘‘Through reggaeton, Puerto Ricans have expressed political critique, resisted state censorship and criminalization, defied racism and misogyny – and now fueled collective action.‘‘ Thus, Puerto Ricans prove once again that the power of music is durable, as it unites the people and sends their strong message against the corrupt leaders through its lyrics.
Rather than text and song, reggaeton brings movement through dance, which in itself represents a manifestation. This style of dance empowers women, as it gives them the opportunity to choose how to move. He is known to be danced with a woman in front of a man or with the man standing behind the woman while provocatively moving his body towards him. It can be danced with or without distance between the woman and the man.
Artists going against the Governor
As above - mentioned, one of the leaked text messages involved an insult towards internationally-loved artist Ricky Martin, who immediately took a stand against Governor Rosselló and corruption, personally accompanying the Puerto Rican protest on the streets. The star confessed to the reporters the following: ‘‘We are tired of the cynicism. They put down women, they put down the LGBT community, people with disability. Corruption, it is insane. We are tired. We can’t take it anymore.”
Residente, iLe and Bad Bunny are other notable names who took part in the manifestation. They joined the crowds to empower them and show them that leaders can be dethroned with the aid of music. In the past years, underground hip hop has been part of the life of Puerto Ricans. Its goal is to shout their unhappiness with corrupt leadership. Ever since it disempowered the poor, the minorities and the different, the Government came under the radar. Songs like Eddie Dee’s Señor oficial (Mr. Police Officer), Ivy Queen’s Somos raperos pero no delincuentes (We are rappers but not criminals) or Daddy Yankee’s Abuso oficial (Police abuse) came to confess the crowd’s dissatisfaction, eventually unifying them under the same star and helping them get rid of the Governor.