“Maldita sea, otro apagón.” (“Damn it, another blackout.”)
For Puerto Rican residents like Noelia Torres, 22, Bad Bunny’s words in his newly released music video for “El Apagón” (The Blackout) could not have come at a better time.
Torres, a resident of the town of Caguas, is currently without electricity and water following Hurricane Fiona, which has caused devastating destruction, including an islandwide blackout and catastrophic flooding.
Bad Bunny’s new video features more than his song — it is followed by an 18-minute documentary highlighting injustices and inequalities that Puerto Ricans have been grappling with for years.
The documentary, “Aquí Vive Gente” (“People Live Here”) by Bianca Graulauan independent journalist from Puerto Rico, looks at the island’s ongoing struggle with the power grid, issues of gentrification and the ensuing displacement impacting the island’s residents.
Torres loves that the Puerto Rican trap-reggaeton superstar used his platform to put a spotlight on the island’s very deteriorated electrical system — as Puerto Ricans continue to struggle without power, potable water and heavy damage following Hurricane Fiona.
“He uses his platform to educate issues that really matter,” Torres told NBC News. “He’s been a huge supporter of Puerto Rico. He is always telling us to do what we want with conscience and to always fight for our dreams and fight for a better future for our island of Puerto Rico.”
Yaisha Marie Thodes felt her eyes start to water when she saw her own great-grandmother featured in Bad Bunny’s video.
“Thank you Bad Bunny, thank you for being who you are, thank you for representing us and having us in your heart and soul,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
‘Opened the eyes of many people’
Milly Clemente, a 27-year-old from Virginia, first learned about Puerto Rico’s current issues through Bad Bunny’s music video, spurring her to ask a friend about the situation and learn more.
“This song has opened the eyes of many people who were unaware of the situation in Puerto Rico and it’s a good strategy to raise awareness,” she told NBC News. “We need people with influence and we need to let them raise their voices. It’s excellent that Bad Bunny is raising his voice for Puerto Rico. It was a great time to release this video and spread the word.”
Javier Tomas, 27 and a resident of both Puerto Rico and New York, told NBC News that he has personally experienced tons of blackouts living in the island. He said Bad Bunny’s video is a “clear description” of the reality that Puerto Ricans live day by day.
“I think any effort to improve the quality of life in Puerto Rico is welcome,” Tomas said. “It is important that the world knows the reality of PR, especially the United States.”
Bad Bunny also tries to capture the sound of Puerto Rico in his music, aside from focusing on the issues his homeland faces.
“I’m very proud about my music, about my culture,” Bad Bunny said in an interview earlier this year with Apple Music. “I still to this day make music for the people of Puerto Rico first. I make music from here, for the rest of the world to hear.”
“El Apagón” resonates with residents who have been grappling with an aging and deteriorating power grid even before the destruction from Hurricanes Maria and now Fiona, and who have been very critical of price increases and rolling blackouts after a private company took over Puerto Rico’s energy transmission and distribution system.
The documentary also criticizes the displacement of Puerto Ricans on the island as tax incentives have spurred more wealthy investors to buy up real estate and push prices up significantly in many areas.
“They’re evicting Puerto Ricans to get rich with what’s from here, with what’s native from here,” one woman, who said she was given 30 days to leave her apartment, told Graulau in the documentary. “And now, where do I go?”
The documentary also brings up the privatization of beaches, in which private tourist developments are restricting access to the island’s public beaches.
“It’s part of this whole selling of Puerto Rico that our Bad Bunny talks about in the video, where we see that our natural resources are being sold, that our beaches are being sold, that the environment is not being taken care of,” Roberto Cruz, managing attorney for Latino Justice, a civil rights organization formerly known as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, said.
“All those resources that could be developed within the community in Puerto Rico are being outsourced,” Cruz said.
The theme of displacement also connects to the last sentences in Bad Bunny’s song, which are sung by Bad Bunny’s girlfriend, Gabriela Berlingeri. She sings in Spanish: “I don’t want to leave here, let them go. This is my beach, this is my sun. This is my country, this is me.”
In the documentary, a man tells Graulau, the filmmaker, that “it isn’t fair to be displaced by economic interests… We were born here.”
The music video has more than 6 million views and an outpouring of comments from fans thanking Bad Bunny for raising awareness and advocating for his community.
Cruz, holding back tears, said that through Bad Bunny’s colorful language, the music star articulated the feeling many Puerto Ricans have about economic and environmental injustices.
“We are proud and grateful to Bad Bunny,” Cruz said, “for giving a voice to the people of Puerto Rico during Hurricane Fiona.”
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