As Puerto Rican Heritage Month comes to a close I want to take a moment to commend the musical group Calle 13. As a Puerto Rican I was extremely proud when, earlier this month, Calle 13 was recognized by the Latin Grammys taking home nine awards including Record, Song and Album of the Year. They have the record for most Latin Grammy wins – 19 awards – and they have also won two Grammy awards.
It is a source of pride that Calle 13 is getting the recognition it deserves, but I’m even more proud of their consistent outspokenness on issues of social and economic justice in Puerto Rico and beyond. Their music has touched on topics ranging from the repression, corruption and rampant gun violence in Puerto Rico, to the dangers encountered by immigrants crossing the U.S./Mexico border. Their music also seeks to create a pan-Latin American identity, with the incorporation of cultural references and music styles from other Latin American countries.
Tackling these themes, Calle 13 has built a strong international fan base and has achieved wide critical acclaim, yet the government of Puerto Rico has done nothing to acknowledge their incredible success and the pride they bring to the island.
In fact, because Residente, the lead voice of Calle 13, has been openly critical of Governor Fortuño, especially in the wake of protests over massive lay-offs of public workers, he has received sharp criticism from the Republican governor and his administration. There have even been allegations of efforts on the part of the government to engage in censorship of their music because of group members “Diciendo lo que piensan… saying what they think” which is the subject of one of the songs on their award winning album. The government actually canceled a Calle 13 concert shortly after Residente publicly criticized the governor on television.
No surprise here, unfortunately, since the Fortuño administration has now become infamous for the way in which it has openly sought to silence free speech in protests by University of Puerto Rico students and public workers.
Since Calle 13’s incredible achievements are not being recognized by their own government, I wanted to take a moment today to publicly commend them on the floor of the New York City Council for all they are accomplishing, for not being afraid to speak their mind and for being such a source of pride for the Puerto Rican people here in New York City, on the island and beyond.