Reggaeton: Musical Fad or Social Plague

Daisy Valera
Daisy Valera

I’m not from Havana. I was born and grew up in the central Cuban province of Sancti Spiritus, the town of the Holy Spirit in English. However, when I finished high school, at 16, I obtained a scholarship to study nuclear chemistry at the national institute located in Havana, the capital of all us Cubans. When I left my home town, Reggaeton hadn’t become so notorious.

Now, after four years, Havana and many of its residents make me feel that I am living in an immense Reggaeton video clip, although I truly have no idea who the singer is; it could be Daddy Yankee, Sean Paul or perhaps a local vocalist like Baby Loren or El Chacal (who calls himself an animal in evolution, and I would ask him: towards what?).

As might be logical to assume by now, I haven’t adapted so well and I resist dancing one step to that music with all my might. Every morning when I get on the crowded bus that takes me to the institute where I study, I have to put up with my contemporaries that insist on imposing their musical preference on the rest of the passengers, and that’s in the best of situations. What’s worse is when the bus driver is a lover of Reggaeton, and cranks up the decibels, threatening to explode our eardrums.

Reggaeton is the current rage, and let’s not talk about a trend that’s going to pass soon, since it began around six years ago and shows no signs of disappearing. It’s had a major impact on Cuban young people.

I’ve been living for a few months in Cerro, a densely populated municipality of Havana, known as one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. There, Reggaeton has a huge following among the youth. The style of dress in Cuba has progressively transformed into what you see on US and Puerto Rican video clips: women with ever shorter skirts, blouses better designed to show their busts, and even large boots, with colors that can go from red to florescent green, without forgetting that the attire can be completed with sequins and gloss. Many of these young Cuban women seem to be proclaiming: ‘I’m simply a piece of meat, please come and get me.’

On the other hand, men appear with gold necklaces, the bigger the better, clothes that, religiously, must be brand name, and extravagant glasses that virtually cover their faces, all in those stupid poses that say -I’m the hot guy ladies, wait your turn.

We also can’t forget the godlike cell phone that in the majority of cases is used by people who are easy to locate because they are already in their homes, people that apparently don’t need to work, often because they have money sent them from out of the country or who are involved in some illicit business. In fact, for them work has been replaced by the complicated games that come with the cell phones.

Nearly fifty years after a “socialist revolution” Havana is witnessing the development of a youth that dreams of a late model car or the latest cell phone, dreams that are clearly pro-capitalist. Young women are much less gender conscious, which turns them irreparably into pretty dolls. Meanwhile, young guys cling, more than ever, to a macho attitude.

I can’t avoid thinking of what Havana was like before 1959, a brothel with its doors open for tourists, o better said, with its legs spread.