Metáforas y avatares de la lírica contemporánea

Residente de Calle 13This Thursday is the next installment of student poetry reading in the Carolina campus of the University of Puerto Rico. As part of their examination of the Spanish language, the Spanish Department will present a forum entitled "Metáforas y avatares de la lírica contemporánea". The forum will be from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. in the auditorium of UPR - Carolina.

The intention of the forum is to present a positive side of reguetón and urge people to understand the form of expression and formulate a fair evaluation. According to Mayra Encarnación, coordinator of the series of conferences, around 4,000 new students registered to attend UPR Carolina recently. Most of them have adopted as part of their style of living the jargon and flow of reguetón.

In addition, the forum will explore how in the beginning people attempted to censure and repress the music form, but now the media is using the music to persuade and manipulate the habits of consumers. Examples include Burger King and Cingular, to name a few.

As part of the forum, the psychologist Oscar Carrasquillo and professor Gloryfé Santiago will speak about "Margen, palabra y transgresión: Residente Calle 13. In order to discuss the lyrics of the group, they will use as examples the songs "Se vale to-to" and "Tu mai es la gorda" Below I've included a small piece of one of the songs to give those unfamiliar with the work of Residente, a little flavor of his poetry:

Se Vale To-To

"Dale vuelta 360°
Tú te vas rápida, ligera, suave, lenta
Dale vuelta, quiero bailar contigo
Déjame chuparte el ombligo
Regálame un poquito 'e trigo
Contigo quiero tener un par de hijos
Aunque seamos primos yo te exprimo
Me pongo a hablar en chino
Me pongo serial killer, asesino en serie
Con tus cachondas a la intemperie
Se ponen las cosas como de mini-serie
Aquí llego el que hace que se meen
Aquí llego el que hace que se peleen"
According to Santiago: "Con las palabras que usa, lo que hace es transgredir las convenciones sociales y apartarse del discurso convencional para crear uno totalmente diferenciado en el que él se identifica y a la misma vez identifica al grupo al que se cree que pertenece". Translation in a nut shell, "They are trying to be different."

In an another presentation during the forum, the graduate student Gabino Iglesias will share the results of his investigation of the geographical origin of reguetón. During his presentation he intends to prove beyond a doubt that the form of expression originated in Panamá from artists such as "El General" and "Nando Boom", as Rubén Blades claimed recently.

My Two Cents

With the recent outrage caused by the release of the single "Tango del Pecado" by Residente and Calle 13, and even more so from the general public in reaction to reguetón, I think the whole matter is just silly. Reguetón is simply the latest genre of music to join a long list of music, jargon, and culture to be seen as evil, corruptive, and degenerative. I am completely convinced that freedom of speech and expression is one of the strongest and most powerful rights we enjoy in the United States. Further, any attempt to censure or repress the freedom of expression is futile and counter-productive. The most powerful stimulus to the popularity of a form of expression is to prevent people form hearing, seeing or witnessing it.

Is this form of expression merely a reflection of our culture or is it making our culture? In our society of the quick fix and the sound bite, it is too complicated for a simple answer, but if there is one I think it is a little of both. While I believe that "As a Man Thinketh" (James Allen) so he is, I don't believe that music or videos can affect us significantly. I believe that our environment is mostly responsible for our behavior, which is to say the culture of our society, our offices, our schools, our houses, and our friends. So if pop culture affects us, it does so as part of our environment. So if that environment does not place these influences into a well-balanced perspective, then it could possibly impact us. Which is to say that reguetón is the devil's music and everyone who listens to it is going to burn in hell, or maybe not.