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Erasmo Calzadilla: My parents named me Erasmo 34 year ago, when I was planted in a neighborhood of retired military personnel situated toward the southern city limits of Havana. I don’t know why, but I’m impassioned with thought, philosophy, art, science, friendship and music; in short, everything good that has stirred the passions of humans, nature, and God – or whoever was the creator. Actually I graduated in pharmacy, but I work as a professor at institutions that believe in me and are welcoming. It is important to highlight that I also hold a well-defined political position: I am a bitter opponent of those who are bossy, abusive, and imposing, those who believe they hold the truth, etc., independent of their attire. To them, I occasionally dedicate a few angry words.

Yes, I’m an Animal

February 8, 2013 | Print Print |

Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — From an intellectual perspective, it’s commonly assumed that reggaeton is a negative phenomenon…regression from what has been achieved musically and culturally…a symptom of the degradation of taste and morality.

And there’s no lack of people who suggest that many such evils originate with (or are caused by) the “revolutionary” process.

Without flatly rejecting those hypotheses, I’d approach the issue from a different angle.

Crudeness, offensiveness, imprudence, simple habits (as opposed to refinement and good manners), the simple and free enjoyment of the body (vs. chastity and the sublimation of sexual instincts) are usually typical features of groups that are disadvantaged, and (therefore) less cultivated, in any society.

Normally these features have a negative character and are frowned upon. Even those who display them do everything possible to imitate the elite who dictate the rules. But when a social system experiences a change in the structure of power, then those same traits begin to ascend the scale of values.

That’s something logical since the burgeoning class (of plebeian origin) often requires harshness and even cruelty to break what’s established and impose itself. This is because those traits constitute factors of social distinction and are tools of cohesion against the displaced group.

Of course, you already know where I’m going. In response to such a view it would be prudent to ask ourselves, before judging, if the rise of reggaeton is only a symptom of decadence or another chapter in the “revolt of the masses.” Or could it instead be announcing the advent of something we can’t yet understand.

Perhaps it’s neither a revolution nor a renaissance. Maybe it’s some kind of stepping backwards after us having missed certain steps.

And departing from the scope of historical speculation, we can ask: Is anything useful from reggaeton aside from the enjoyment of those who enjoy it?

I’m not the only one who has found positive elements of that movement. Dr. Irene Garcia Rubio, a specialist in the mass media, believes that certain aspects of reggaeton promote the emancipation of women (and I would add that of youth too).

Youth tend to be sexual beings – they fall in love and they love to play with their genitals as much as or more than any adult. However, up until yesterday it was typical was for older people to repress those urges and to impose an aura of chastity and innocence on their offspring (especially on young females)…and to lie.

Fortunately this terrible custom of punishing kids today retreats to the rhyme of “Pum Pum.” These days it’s completely normal for the first few songs and dances that parents teach their children (or those that kids learn on their own) to have clear and explicit references to sex.

Now young grade school students don’t need to hide from their teachers to hum their profane little ditties (like back in my days). Now it’s the teachers themselves who are singing them between classes.

In any case, the issue is more complex than it seems to bureaucrats, intellectuals and puritans.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    Reggaeton is less a function of the ‘revolutionary process’ unique to Cuba and more a function of the influences of hip-hop and reggae blends that have become popular throughout Latin America over the last 20 years. Since the late 1990′s the musical tastes of the youth throughout the region have merged due to the more easily distributed CD/DVD media, flash dirves and internet downloads.Proof of this is the fact that Puerto Rican and Dominican reggaeton artists are as popular in Cuba as are Cuban artists, if not more so.

  • isidro

    To me, this all comes with a deja vu flavor: Many of us older Cubans had plenty of this “fashion and music vs. prudish moral codes” in the 60s and 70s, at a time when -unlike today- being an “unauthorized” rebel, in the hippie style, meant facing social isolation at the least, not to speak of political and even legal reprisals. But we should not take lightly the fact that those rebellious years were followed by worldwide neoconservatism in the 80s and 90s. This should remind us of the cyclical nature of historic periods- morale and culture included. Can anyone bet for sure that the Reggaeton Age is not seating on the tail of new prudish times to come? Personally, I just hope and pray for the advent of new musical trends which, regardless of its sexuality, or its absence, wont be as monotonous as reggaeton (please!)…