The coolest celebration of Latin alternative music happened this week in New York City: The LAMC. The 19th edition was filled with new projects presented by veterans in the Latin music and new artists disrupting the scene. Within this harmonic revolution brought by daring musicians and music executives, the one thing stood out was solidarity with Puerto Rico.
Preceded by Hurricanes Irma and Jose, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017—ten months ago. Today, there are still homes without electricity. Furthermore, the death count went from double digits to over 4,600. The disaster adds a dent to a catastrophic debt crisis, which forced a fiscal control board on the island. As a result, 265 schools have been closed leaving many children in uncertainty. The entire debacle has propelled leaders to call for an audit of the debt, the deaths, and to trigger and investigation over the government’s response in all accounts.
In light of the dire situation Puerto Rico faces, artists from different national backgrounds expressed their thoughts, support, and solidarity.
Chilean electronic music producer, composer and DJ, José Antonio Bravo- best known as Latin Bitman, expressed sympathy to the Puerto Rican environmental struggle, having suffered it himself: “I come from Chile, a country that’s constantly hammered by climate change, especially by earthquakes. We’ve been through these emergencies, so I understand the feeling. I understand it from the victim side and from the recovery side. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Puerto Rico; would love to go to play for the first time, now more than ever. I send Puerto Rico strength. You have great artists; the biggest ones are from Puerto Rico, so please take me there!”
Another Chilean musician crossing over to Latin folk music with her new album Roja Y Negro: Canciones de Amor Y Desamor, Ana Tijoux, made it know she’s well aware of the situation: “I have a lot of friends working in Puerto Rico; filming documentaries and doing music like the Fantauzzi brothers. There’s a collective of people there informing me what’s going on and working hard. Is very important we build the movement. We need to unite.”
Spanish headliner, María Rodríguez Garrido- best known as Mala Rodríguez went a step further to condemn the response of the federal government towards Puerto Rico: “Puerto Rico is a land full of beauty, and wonderful people. I have best friends living in Puerto Rico. I’ve remained aware of what’s going on. The truth is there’s so much beauty and life on the island that nothing can destroy it. Puerto Ricans work and move forward. It’s embarrassing that Puerto Rico didn’t have the support and recognition from the federal government. A lot of people still have a mindset about Puerto Ricans, like if they were second class citizens. That’s absurd.”
LAMC 2018 Discovery Award winner, Carla Reyna a.k.a. rapper Niña Dioz didn’t hold back in her solidarity message: “All my love and solidarity with Puerto Rico. My appreciation for the fight and resistance Puerto Rico is going through. These are very trying times with Trump, for a lot of people. So, I show my support and solidarity as a Mexican sister. Fuck Trump.”
Cuban dissident rapper Bian “El B” Rodríguez kept it simple: “It must be said: Free Puerto Rico (Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!).”
African-American and Puerto Rico resident, Otura Mun, frontman of Ifé got personal in his political view: “I live in San Juan and I suffered a little bit of damages, but others even lost their lives. The response on behalf of the United States was terrible. However, I think the response is typical, since we’re colonized; the relationship has always been as a second-class citizen.”
Puerto Rican doctor-turned-rapper Pedro Juan Vázquez, PJ Sin Suela brought it home: “The situation with Hurricane Maria is that it’s been a very slow recovery. Upon landing you still see blue roofs and we’re already in the hurricane season. Everyone was worried about Beryl. There’s still a lot to do, and we’re still struggling with the debt crisis. However, we Puerto Ricans remain positive. We’re working hard. Let’s maintain Puerto Rico present and in our minds, in solidarity.”
(all photos by Marlena Fitzpatrick)