Barrio Nerd

Thoughts on Calle 13′s ‘Adentro’ and Boricua Homicides

In ‘Adentro,’ the new single by Calle 13, frontrunner Rene Pérez Joglar raps with visceral fury the famous quote by pro-independence icon Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos: “Cuando la tiranía es ley, la revolución es orden” – “when tyranny is law, revolution is order.”

Is revolution the answer to the social ills Puerto Rico faces (which are not unique to those on the island but also experienced by Boricuas in the Diaspora)?

One ill is that of murder. Nearly a thousand Puerto Ricans die at the hands of their own every year on the “Island of Enchantment.” I never thought having an AK-47 pointed at one’s head (which Calle 13 references in the lyric below) as enchanting.

Qué vas a hacer cuando a tu hijo
lo pillen en la disco
y sin delicadeza con una ak
le exploten la cabeza
o que le borren la cara a tu hermano
de forma violenta
o que limpien a tu mai
con la corta y la cuarenta

When I first heard this song a rush of sadness immersed my body. The images of young, trigueño and negrito men with guns and gold chains reflect in much of our communities both a reality and a fantasy of a hyper-masculine grandeur. This is reproduced by icons consumed by our youth, which Calle 13 directly scolds. The fact that most of these young men – not all – are obviously descendants of those brought by the trans-atlantic slave trade reveals a racial angle to this quagmire of violence.

I reflect on all this as to not perpetuate the popular and contradictory cynicism our usually prideful people vomit in conversations amongst our own. I do it to encourage discussion as to how to increase respect, acceptance, and love among our people on a macro-level.

So, is statehood and therefore more federal funding the answer to the island’s woes? If that was the answer they’d be no Boricua ghettos in the U.S…. Is further isolating and decreasing resources to the historically marginalized the answer? Building more comunidades cerradas? Censoring violent lyrics and marketing images? A school curriculum that teaches acceptance of diversity and embraces its surrounding communities? Full, guaranteed employment or a living wage? An attitude of ‘lets get political sovereignty first and we’ll figure it out from there?’

Let me know what you think. 

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Diaspora as a New Zion?

The Paseo Boricua flag monuments on Division Street in Humboldt Park, Chicago. I took it many years ago.

We left our “home” to only create a new homeland. But we didn’t replace one country for another, shedding our jíbara/o skins, but carried in our souls a nation unforgotten. And in all of our expressions is where you can find it – not hidden, but exploding in its incredible beauty, tragedy, hope, and complexity. And even more marvelous are the ways we are re-making a nation within a nation, a diaspora homeland thinking of our island Zion but creating a new North Star.

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