Loudreading in Post-colonial Landscapes (to the beat of Reggaeton)

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Bad Bunny, photographed while taking part in a demonstration demanding Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello’s resignation in San Juan on July 17, 2019.

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] I am fascinated by the loudreading-inspired project by Cruz Garcia and Nathalie Frankowski (see previous post WAI Architecture Think Tank launches critical education platform). Garcia and Frankowski are architects, educators, authors, curators, and co-founders of WAI Architecture Think Tank. In response to the global pandemic of COVID-19, they have been developing Loudreaders, a series of online sessions and a trade school exploring networks of intellectual solidarity. They are authors of Narrative Architecture: A Kynical Manifesto, and Pure Hardcore Icons: A Manifesto on Pure Form in Architecture.

The Avery Review (No. 48, June 2020) published their beautifully provocative article “Loudreading in Post-colonial Landscapes (to the beat of Reggaeton).” For full article (with epigraphs, extensive footnotes, photographs, and more) please visit The Avery Review.

A Puerto Rican revolution was well underway when the trap artist-turned-political activist Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio, known by his stage name Bad Bunny, got involved in the summer of 2019.3 He is pictured standing still, flag in hand, wearing a face mask and a plastic face shield. Using his immense popularity (with over 27 million Instagram followers, many of whom are young Puerto Ricans), Bad Bunny denounced a system that “has taught” the people “to stay quiet” and made them “believe that those who take the streets to speak up are crazy, criminals, troublemakers.”4 These words were disseminated through a series of Instagram videos, a call to “show them [the government] that today’s generations demand respect” and that the country “belongs to all of us.”5 Through his social media platforms and later through his music, Bad Bunny joined many groups of activists in a collective demand for new emancipatory imaginaries in Puerto Rico.

Led by Instagram, Twitter, Facebook Live feeds, and the sound of the cacerolazos (a collective sign of protest performed by banging pots and pans), the Puerto Rican summer set an ideological fire. A range of queer and trans-feminist activists—most notably Colectiva Feminista en Construcción, a platform that explores feminism as a political project that intersects with questions of class, gender, and race—was joined by students from the Universidad de Puerto Rico and a massive gathering of the general population.6 This series of clashes and confrontations with the authorities in the Puerto Rican capital called for the resignation of Ricardo Rosselló, then governor of the unincorporated US territory.7 The demonstrations began after Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published 889 pages of a private Telegram chat—a messaging app preferred by politicians around the world because of its end-to-end encryption—between Rosselló and eleven aides and members of his cabinet.8 “Telegramgate” or “Rickyleaks,” as it was colloquially known and hashtagged, disclosed sexist, homophobic slurs and remarks targeting colleagues, politicians, beloved icons like Ricky Martin, local activists, and even victims of Hurricane Maria.9

But Puerto Rico instead witnessed a different type of revolution that summer of 2019. This revolution was unlike the many wars and revolts linked to struggles for independence around the world, or even to the previous anticolonial struggles like the armed rebellion of the Grito de Lares in 1898.10 This revolution was not aimed toward changing the Estado Libre Asociado (Free Associated State) status that has kept the archipelago without democratic powers or control over its own economy for more than a hundred years since the United States occupation but rather toward cultivating an emancipatory and dignified rebelliousness that could cooperate within the seemingly perpetual limbo of Puerto Rico’s territorial status. While the clashes culminated in the first resignation of a leading politician in the history of the archipelago, a series of iconic images and sounds circulating through social media platforms and international news networks produced this other, alternatively revolutionary imaginary. The images featured protesters waving Rainbow and Black versions of the Puerto Rican flag, dancing and kissing under the tropical rain, twerking in sacred and public spaces. The sounds included dembow beats (the popular rhythm that forms the basis of reggaeton) as well as the revolutionary anthem Bad Bunny created together with artists Residente and iLe, in which he raps “let all the continents know that Ricardo Roselló is an incompetent, homophobic liar,” a track that joined others in the soundtrack of the Puerto Rican post-colonial revolution.11 [. . .]

Read full article at https://www.averyreview.com/issues/48/loudreading

[Above: Bad Bunny addresses the crowd during the popular protests of the summer of 2019 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photograph by Eric Rojas/AFP via Getty Images.]

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