HAVANA TIMES, March 28 — “Let’s screw, my love, let’s screw right now // because we were born to screw…” These are lines that appeared in the magazine Union, the journal of the Union of Artists and Writers of Cuba (from page 31 of volume 69 – of which that combination of numbers seems no coincidence!). These words are from the voice of the Pietro Aretino, a poet that date backs to the Italian Renaissance.
One might think it inopportune to pull out an issue of a magazine that has been circulating for months in bookstores and on newsstands throughout Cuba, but what is prevailing right now in the debate over reggaeton are concepts concerning obscenity that are increasingly difficult to defend or question.
Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) is the author of “Sonnets on the Sixteenth Lustful Ways,” whose masterful translation by Cuban poet, essayist, and researcher Jesus David Curbelo was floated in the magazine, accompanied by erotic photographs by Erick Coll.
In his poetry, Aretino also takes alternative positions with regard to gender; his suggestions like “Put a finger in my ass, daddy” and “You’re not a man unless you bugarronea (sleep around for money)” converge with more traditional approaches.
While reggaeton addicts polemicize around the removal of the music video “Chupi Chupi” from the popularity award category on Cuban television’s “Lucas” awards competition, readers of Union magazine can learn that Pietro Aretino also wrote the copious sacred work Passione dei Gesu.
We can’t deny, however, that also on the side of the reggaeton artists we have true pieces of secular mysticism, ones like the devout canticle “Creo,” by Baby Lores.
“Chupi Chupi” (a work by Cuban artist Osmani Garcia) is like an encyclopedia of modern lust, addicted to consumerism and what in Cuba is called “especulacion” or speculation (“conspicuous consumption,” to use Veblen’s term).
Though almost no “bad words” are used, the video consists of a heroic exercise in the ingenious construction of porno-capitalist images based on plays on words that are curiously both common and onomatopoeic.
Pietro Aretino is much more straightforward (it seems that the nascent capitalism of Renaissance Italy needed none of the artifices of media censorship that the nascent capitalism of Cuban reggaeton has had to face).
Still, many readers/listeners confuse both capitalisms with the exercise of freedom.
Despite the economic and cultural factors, it should be noted that reggaeton generally avoids bad words (which is a source of creativity in images), which is something different from hardcore rap artists such as Los Aldeanos.
The learned republic of Italy of the cinquecento provided this brilliant letter in bilingual versions and on the good paper of the “Union” to the learned Republic of Cuba.
Meanwhile, those on the island are still wondering if the word “obscenity” has any meaning while they also try to figure out why reggaeton is so appealing to those who are called “the masses.”
They are asking themselves if one can one differentiate the explicit use of talent to generate media hits like “Chupi Chupi” from poetic works as explicit as those of Aretino’s.