Bad Bunny wants you to stop ignoring Puerto Rico

When Bad Bunny made his television debut on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in September 2018, he began by recalling that his native Puerto Rico was still reeling from Hurricane Maria, the Category 5 storm that killed nearly 3,000 people. , caused widespread destruction across the island and left its already fragile power grid damaged to an unprecedented extent. “After a year…there are still people without electricity in their homes,” said the artist (born Benito Martinez Ocasio), adding that President Donald Trump has denied the lives lost in the months following the hurricane. “But you know what,” said Bad Bunny, launching in the first single from his debut studio album, an anthem of resilience: “Estamos bien” (“We are good”).

The performance, which the Latin trap-reggaeton phenom gave in front of a collage of beautiful scenes from the island that raised him, marked a powerful and poignant message to the world: Puerto Rico has been beaten but not broken. come what may, feel well. Four years and three more albums later, Bad Bunny has gone from breakout to global superstar, but Puerto Rico – as confident, independent women and hip hop swagger — remains a recurrent and predominant theme in his work.

On Friday, less than 48 hours before Fiona, another catastrophic hurricane, makes landfall in Puerto Rico – knocking out power across the island – Bad Bunny released a stunning 22-minute documentary/music video for “El Apagón” (“ The Blackout”), a sharp track from his latest album, “A Verano Sin Ti(“A Summer Without You”), which has topped the Billboard 200 chart for 11 weeks. To the jubilant, club-ready beat of the song, Bad Bunny raps about his love for the island, ticking off a list of his hometown treasures, including JJ Barea, one of the few Puerto Ricans to play for the NBA (“a champion before Jamesboasts BB), and reggaeton pioneer Tego Calderón. “Maldita sea, other apagwherenot, ” Bad Bunny says, briefly interrupting his cheerful ode: “Damn, another breakdown.”

In the video, verses of “El Apagón” are interspersed with report by Bianca Graulau, a freelance journalist who has documented the inequities in the United States, whose residents lack representation in Congress and cannot vote federally. Five years after Maria, persistent power outages continue to plague the more than 3 million American citizens who call the island home. As Graulau explains in the video, the documentary part of which is called “Aquí Vive Gente” (“People Live Here”), Puerto Rico’s billion-dollar effort to privatize the power grid – thanks to a controversial contract with Luma Energy – did little to ease the problem. Governor Pedro Pierluisi, whose administration hired Luma, publicly criticized the energy consortium for the first time last month after a report by Puerto Rico’s Bureau of Energy showed outages actually increased in duration this year.

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico 5 years ago. In many ways, the recovery had just begun.

Bad Bunny, meanwhile, has spoken out frequently against Luma since embarking on back-to-back world tours earlier this year. “Luma can go to hell” he said in July while performing in San Juan at Puerto Rico’s largest indoor arena, where “El Apagón” sounds even more poignant. He expressed similar wishes for Pierluisi and other politicians before telling the crowd: “The country belongs to us. We are in control. »

“The beaches are ours too,” Bad Bunny added, in a nod to the growing development across the island, which – as well as pushing long-time residents away – has restricted people to their own beaches.

“El Apagón (Aqui Vive Gente)” also highlights the growing number of Puerto Ricans facing displacement due to increasing gentrification, spurred in large part by investors who, lured by large tax breaks, are replacing residential buildings. for a long time by luxury hotels and Airbnb rental aimed at wealthy non-natives. Graulau, who broke history last year of the displacement of residents of the coastal town of Quebradillas, appears in the video, speaking with residents who were driven out of the houses they lived for decades.

“El Apagón” refers to moving across a bridge sung by Bad Bunny’s girlfriend, Gabriela Berlingeri. “I don’t wanna leave here / I don’t wanna leave here,” she sings in Spanish, while urging developers and crypto bros to do so. “It’s my beach, it’s my sun. It’s my land, it’s me.

For Graulau, the impact of Bad Bunny’s song is both professional and personal. “It’s a music video that turns into a news documentary,” the journalist told her followers on TikTok, where she regularly posts videos depicting issues in Puerto Rico that have historically gone unnoticed on the mainland. “I’m so honored that you think of me when you think of these issues. I’m honored that Bad Bunny thought of me and had the crazy idea to give us this platform.

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