For many months, my leftie friends on social media — and before you ask, yes, I’m a leftie too — have been mostly unified thanks to their shared hatred of Donald Trump. Then Fidel Castro passed away last week, and now the once sweet Kool-Aid we all used to communally drink has turned to bitter wine (the gross boxed kind).
I don’t really have any conservative friends (that I know of), so the core of my Facebook feed has split into two main camps: group #1) a hardcore, capitalist-hating, Chavez-respecting, Manu Chau-listening bunch, and group #2) the sober, perhaps a bit more centrist and less romantic faction (they probably listen to shitty music too, don’t put it past them).
The former group get huge hard-ons thinking about how Castro essentially got away with flipping off the US for so long, and right in its fat, McDonald’s-eating face. Why? Because most other countries — especially in Latin America — wouldn’t dare to piss off the Yankees. It’s the same band of people who immediately point out all of Castro’s great contributions — many of which, if this writer is to be believed, were already in place before he took over:
Before Mr. Castro came to power in 1959, Cubans suffered from a grasping, corrupt dictator and the U.S. mafia was involved in the island’s casinos, to name two issues. However, Cuba was not an economic straggler and it already “topped the charts” on multiple social indicators.
…ponder Cuban health care. Cuba in 1957 already had more doctors per 1,000 people than did Norway, Sweden and Great Britain. In 1958, according to even one recent regime-friendly academic paper, Cuba “ranked in the first, second or third place in Latin America with respect to its healthcare indicators.” Circa the 1950s, that success included long life-expectancy rates, and the lowest infant-mortality rates in Latin America.
The latter group, the one’s you’ll never catch wearing a Ché t-shirt because Rage Against The Machine ruined them for everybody since the ’90s, are softer lefties, but they do have the capacity to appreciate Mr. Comandante Tracksuit’s support of racial equality, medicine, and higher education (even if he pimped out Cuba’s bookworms later on).
But faction #2 can not turn a blind eye towards all the other shady shit Fidel did (mistreatment of dissenters, homosexuals, and, among many other things, the fact that he never actually implemented a real democracy where people could vote, which was kind of the whole point of his revolution in the first place). Concerning this criticism, die-hard castristas argue that Fidel was simply from another time and he did what he could with what he had, or something along those lines, but camp #2 is having none of it. For all the progress that occurred under his watch, Castro was still a huge asshole, they say.
Alas, these are the core arguments I’ve been reading from many of my buddies on social media. But if you’re truly wondering about the merits of Castro’s revolution — and its culmination — I suggest you check out Patria o Muerte, a new HBO documentary which gives many current Cuban residents a chance to tell their own tale:
Why 6 of YouTube’s top 10 music videos of 2017 are in Spanish, explained
YouTube released its annual list of the most popular music videos of 2017. 6 out of 10 of those videos are in Spanish, but more specifically, they’re from reggaetoneros. How did this happen? I’ll tell you.
First, let’s look at the list:
- Luis Fonsi – Despacito ft. Daddy Yankee
- Ed Sheeran – Shape of You
- J Balvin, Willy William – Mi Gente
- Maluma – Felices los 4
- Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like
- Chris Jeday – Ahora Dice ft. J. Balvin, Ozuna, Arcángel
- Nicky Jam – El Amante
- Jason Derulo – Swalla (feat. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign)
- DJ Khaled – I’m the One ft. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne
- Enrique Iglesias – Súbeme a la radio ft. Descemer Bueno, Zion & Lennox
1) So reggaeton is super popular now, huh?
Duh. It’s been mildly popular in Latin America since the late ’80s, but in the mid ’00s Daddy Yankee’s Barrio Fino LP essentially propelled the scandalous genre into the big leagues. I recently covered reggaeton’s mainstream success in this long-ass rant.
2) You knew “Despacito” was gonna be on the list, but how come it’s not the Justin Bieber remix?
“Despacito” was already popular in the Spanish-speaking world way before the Canadian got to it – in fact, I think the song had been out for almost 6 months when Justino Bieberto released his own “remix” (basically the same song sprinkled with some new phrases on top).
If 5 other Spanish-sung tracks made it to YouTube’s top 10 without Bieber’s help, it’s a curious indication that Justin probably helped himself out more than he helped Fonsi-Yankee.
3) How come Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Britney, or any of America’s most popular singers are not in the top 10, since they usually dominate it?
Well, not all of them have released new music. Taylor Swift did, and the fact that she didn’t crack this top 10 is quite interesting.
But also not interesting at all, because maybe, just maybe, audiences might finally be tired of listening to the same 4 Swedish producers over, and over, and over.
Reggaeton is old hat to most Latinos, but to an international audience, that shit is fresh.
4) But, but, but AMUUURICAAA, nationalism, the English language, Trump, white power!
Listen, ever since MTV became a thing, most white teenagers in America want to be anything but white, even if the Trump era appears to say otherwise. Those same teenagers may turn conservative country music lovers later in life – it happened to my skater friends from high school — but, as young bucks, that “urban” lifestyle really titillates white people. That’s why Eminem is, much to the horror of this writer, still a thing.
Point is, reggaeton plays into all of the “urban” aesthetics, plus white America always has a Latin-curious thing going on (see “La bamba,” “Rico suave,” “Macarena,” “Suavemente,” or any other crossover hit).
5) Is reggaeton even reggaeton anymore? Or “urban”? Or whatever the fuck?
Nope. Besides a few exceptions, current reggaeton is basically just regular pop music with a different backup track (drum machine pattern, mostly). The original reggaeton, which was offensive, misogynist, political, highly sexualized and demonized, has been sanitized for mass consumption.
Again, I covered all of that here.
6) Are that many people in the US really, really listening to watered-down reggaeton? Let’s talk numbers.
Yes and no. This YouTube list is a global list, not just an American list. That indicates that a lot of people in the rest of the world also caught the reggaeton fever. But, speaking of numbers, there’s another possible reason as to why this genre suddenly blew the fuck up on YouTube.
There’s over 600 million people in Latin America. That’s double the amount of US Americans, but people Latin America may not be consuming their music the way many Americans do. I speak of iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, etc. Some of those are paid services, and I’m inclined to believe most people in Latin America are not paying for them. Americans probably are.
I hypothesize that people’s personal radio stations in Latin America consist entirely YouTube videos, and not Deezer/Pandora/Spotitidaltunes playlists. All of this means that Americans may be amassing more numbers on paid services instead of just YouTube.
7) How come there’s no women on this list?
Well, check out #3 again, but also know that there’s not that many reggaetoneras, which is a shame.
At some point, Ivy Queen managed to develop an audience, but, sadly, she’s a bit past her prime now, and I really can’t see her making a significant comeback. There’s a few new prospects, such as Tomasa del Real and Ms Nina, but I can’t see them being allowed into the Balvin/Maluma/Yankee/Jam club anytime soon.
There’s also Cardi B., and she sings reggaeton songs in her car, nail salons, and other places, apparently. But she’s not really a part of the reggaeton boom — not yet, anyway. (Give it time, though.)
8) Um, is Enrique Iglesias technically a reggaetonero? Wasn’t he, like, some dorky rich kid in loose sweaters?
Enrique was a dorky rich kid in loose sweaters, but that was back in the ’90s. Later he moved to Miami, started hanging out with Pitbull, Wisin & Yandel, Romeo Santos, and “reinvented” himself as a dorky rich kid with reggaetonero friends. Now he piggybacks off whatever trend is popular in the mainstream, just like most global stars, really.
It’s good for Quique’s career, I guess. But probably not for his lineage, since his dad appears to be ashamed of him. Isabel Preysler, his mom, is dating Mario Vargas Llosa, a Nobel laurete, so I can’t imagine her being super proud of her use-an-ass-as-a-pillow son:
So now you know.
Dramatic messages from my aunts hinder my process of trying to become a normal person
Sometimes I peek outside my bedroom window, look at people’s ugly hairdos from afar – I live on the 4th floor of a dilapidated building in the Lower East Side – and wonder, “why can’t I be like them? Why can’t I go on with my life without being obsessed with petty shit? I, too, wanna enjoy Froyo. I wanna mingle with strangers, talk about the weather, and play frisbee in a park while listening to Maroon 5.”
But I can’t.
I can’t because of my family – specifically, my dramatic Mexican aunts – and the way they work up my neurosis. My mom is fine; she’s a stern, quiet, austere militant woman. But my aunts, whom I love and have a close relationship with, somehow passed a telenovela-esque gene my way.
Need proof? Here’s a redacted message from one of my tías. She sent it to me today at 3 in the fucking morning:
Which loosely translates to:
“She’s like a sister to me and I’ll be really sad [if she leaves]. I’m going to miss her. Another bitter Christmas for me. God, what a cruel life. Alright, mijo, take care of yourself!”
My aunt is upset because my mom – her sister-in-law – is considering moving from California to Oklahoma, where my sister lives. Now my aunt is close to committing suicide, or something.
But the best – and most dramatically endearing – part of her message is her cute, modest sign off: “alright, mijo, take care!” Like she just didn’t tell me her Christmas is about to be ruined by my mother.
Then again, it’s also genuinely endearing that she has such a strong connection to my mom, a woman she’s not genetically related to. The Latinos-are-super-family-oriented stereotype doesn’t usually sit well with me. Half of my immediate family does hate each other and, although movies like Coco show otherwise, Latino families can be just as fractured as any.
But my aunts are cool. I still love them, even if they hinder my process of trying to become a normal, Maroon 5-loving person.
Just kidding. Maroon 5 sux. I wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire.
Oh and the woman pictured in this post is not my aunt, but Talina Fernández, an aunt-like woman whose dramatic statements have been seared into the collective memory of many Mexicans:
Hearing an American boy disrespect his mother culture shocked the sh*t out of me
Sometime in the late ‘80s, when he was still in grade school, a Mexican boy hounded his mother in a Target store in California. He wanted something, she wouldn’t budge.
The woman, a working-class mom of one boy and girl, came from an austere background. Having raised half of her 11 siblings when she was still in a teenager in Mexico, the woman was privy to the psychological tricks most kids use when they guilt their parents into buying them goods.
Still, the mom was a fair person, a trait she demonstrated a year before when, after months of suffering through her children’s nagging, she bought them a Nintendo. It was an expensive gift, especially for a working mom whose husband only chipped in the bare minimum for immediate necessities. Her kids were usually well-behaved, so she acquiesced, but with a warning: “I’m not going to buy you anything for the rest of your lives.”
Her children were fine with the clause.
But there was an unforeseen catch, at least for the kids: the expensive entertainment system was shipped with only one game – Super Mario Bros. – and the mom, not exactly a tech savvy woman, cared little about the mechanics or playability of the gizmo.
Her children asked for a video game console, not a console and a bunch of pricey games, so her kids had to make do with whatever came inside the Nintendo-branded box.
As a result of playing the same game for over a year, those kids learned to beat Super Mario Bros. with their eyes closed. Once the initial excitement wore off, playing the video game was no longer a cool pastime, but redundant task, and the Nintendo experience came up very short.
But before it fully became a devil’s bargain, that day, at that Target store, her son’s persistence actually got to the Mexican woman. After a year of constant harassment, the boy’s plea broke her impenetrable, ironclad contract, and she agreed to buy her children – her son, specifically – a new game.
She didn’t explicitly agree – she never did. The woman’s way of saying “yes” was simply avoiding the word “no.” Her almost military approach to education would probably be seen as some form of psychological abuse in these modern, befriend-your-child times. But even if the kids were too young to understand her methods, they understood her signals, or lack thereof.
Hardened Mexican mothers believe in resilience, not fragility, and their faint leniency still comes with limitations: “Pick one game – and not the most expensive one,” she warned. In order to pacify that frenzied Mexican child, Target employees would’ve needed to drown him in vat of potent anesthetics, but another boy’s shopping experience – an American whose mother was also by his side – did the trick.
The Mexican boy, too excited to think clearly, was curious about which game the other child was going to choose. The American boy, blond and blue-eyed, was wearing British Knights, a very coveted pair of sneakers, and the Mexican boy, sporting no-name kicks, assumed the other gamer normally got his way.
Because boys with MC Hammer’s shoes always got their way.
“Pick one, Johnny – and hurry,” ordered the American mother. A Target employee was standing behind her with keys to the display case. “Surely he’s played a lot of these games before, so he’s probably going to pick the best one,” the Mexican boy surmised.
“Don’t rush me, mom! Stop being such a bitch,” the American boy replied.
“Fuck the Nintendo game – I’m about to witness a murder,” the Mexican boy thought to himself. He expected the American mother to pick up her son, toss him face first into the unopened display case, and warn the boy that if he cried while picking out glass shards from his forehead, she was just going to kick his ass all over again, but in the car.
That’s what the Mexican mom would have done to her son, but the American mother just rolled her eyes, grumbled, and cautioned: “Johnny, keep it up and I’m not going to buy you a damn thing.”
Her son, too, rolled his eyes.
Flabbergasted, the Mexican boy looked at the Nintendo games, his mother, who was browsing through merchandise one aisle away, and his ugly shoes.
The American boy picked Super Contra. The Mexican boy picked something else.
Gossip1 year ago
Holy sh*t, Juan Gabriel has a secret son — like, for realz
Music2 years ago
Ana Gabriel, the Mexican singer: “I’m better off being asexual, just like the angels”
Culture2 years ago
This flamboyant Spanish band seduced macho Latin America
Music2 years ago
Camilo Sesto resurfaces, looks more like Caitlyn Jenner than Caitlyn Jenner
News2 years ago
El Hotel de los Secretos is Televisa’s own Downtown Abbey — or so they think
Tv/Film2 years ago
This is how La Rosa de Guadalupe got the idea for the famous face breeze scene