Alfredo Fernandez Rodriguez

Cuban youth.  Photo: Caridad
Cuban youth. Photo: Caridad

I recently viewed the latest underground video that is shaking up Havana.  The “clip” in question has nothing to do with the usual scenes that are passed around the city from one USB memory stick to another.

It wasn’t like the typical TV programs produced in Miami, like those of Oscar Haza, Maria Elvira or the delightful Alexis Valdez and Carlos Otero.   Nor was it similar to the fiction shorts by Sex Machine featuring Eduardo de la Llano, a comedian living here on the island.

This time, Cuban computer screens have been flooded with images of a supposed Spanish resident, Jacob, the real-life singer/co-leader of the Cuban reggaeton group “Gente de la Zona.”

The name of the group in question alludes to the neighborhood from which the band members originate: Alamar, a hodgepodge of buildings in a zone on the eastern outskirts of Havana. These projects would scare away any architect, as much as anyone going to visit them.

Jacob once displayed his war medal of courage in a song where he tells those listening to him that they have to live in a poor neighborhood to understand “what’s needed to be like Gente de Zona (People of the Zone).”

But he seems to have completely forgotten this, at least during the filming of the new video, where he’s shown in a sprawling mansion equipped with the latest and most spectacular technology.

At the beginning of the video, the home is clearly owned by him.  Later, reality imposes itself, and it’s not clear whether it’s his or not.

It’s eventually implied that the estate doesn’t belong to him after an apparent local businessman is able to provide a detailed and intimate description of the property, much better than the would-be owner can.  On the other hand, the woman acting as Jacob’s girlfriend in the video achieves what seems impossible: Being more rudimentary than him.  She wears herself out showing how all of the high-tech gadgets in the home operate – this to demonstrate the supposed economic might of her reggaeton star.

It is as if by acquiring all the paraphernalia from Hotel Capri’s Salon Rojo and Havana’s Macumba disco, Jacob could erect a façade that would enable him to compete with popular singers in the Latino world.

However, superstar newyorkrican reggaeton artists like Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, Wisin and Yandel have no need for titanic media displays to pull in sums of cash only fantasized about by Cuban reggaeton artists.

And though the quality of this music video and its songs have nothing to make the Puerto Ricans jealous, what is raised -beyond the question of the ownership of the home- is a Cuban reality in which groups like Los Aldeanos, Silvito el Libre, Las Crudas, Porno Para Ricardo and others demonstrate a heightened consciousness of what this reality is and what is needed.

Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges, in his essay “Pierre Menard: Author of Quijote,” spoke of a writer who -having copied Cervantes’ novel- felt as much the owner of the work as the author.  I don’t know, but I expect that the same thing has happened with Jacob: he feels like the impossible to obtain home and cars are his.


Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

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