Missing Shakira

Dmitri Prieto

Shakira. Photo: wikipedia.org

The Latin Recording Academy in the United States has elected Shakira as the most significant figure in the music industry in 2011; awarding her its highest honor: “Person of the Year.” I just read about this on the BBC’s Spanish language webpage (“The night Shakira was the queen of Latin music”).

For obvious reasons I couldn’t be in Las Vegas, but I can’t deny the happiness I felt for the 34-year-old Colombian “youngster” (in Cuba, those who are dedicated to artistic creation are considered young until they’re 35).

For some Cubans her image has become one of a sexual symbol, and for other Cubans she’s an archetypal ideal of ??success.

We’re also told that Shakira, who began her musical career at age 13, heads the Barefoot Foundation, which has raised millions of dollars to improve educational opportunities for low-income war-displaced children in Colombia, and that she’s a member of President Barack Obama’s advisory committee on Hispanic education.

With this news, I couldn’t avoid a twinge of nostalgia. A long time ago I stopped following Shakira, whose feminine figure and voice are so familiar since they’re presented to us daily as metaphors of triumph engendered within the global entertainment industry.

I couldn’t help thinking back to the early songs of that beautiful brunette girl of Arab ancestry, the daughter of a country at war. These melodies had brought joy into my life as a recently graduated biochemist sequestered for days and nights in a small office at Havana’s Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

Those were songs in which Shakira vehemently attacked, with conviction and even eroticism, machismo, poverty and the other plagues that are the other and no less effective face of the same planetary system which today — highlighting her unique talent — the Grammy awards venerate.

It’s no wonder. I know perfectly well that the dynamics of the market ultimately convert critical artists into various kinds of champions of the show.

Now, what I miss most are simply the bare feet of Shakira, that rebellious Barranquilla girl of the ‘90s.

And it’s to that Shakira that I extend my most heartfelt congratulations for her award.


Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.