Tag Archives: Calle 13


27 Jul

Soy Puerto Rico Independiente Movement

Soy Puerto Rico Independiente Movement

Soy Puerto Rico Independiente Movement

Soy Puerto Rico Independiente Movement

Two days ago Univision congratulated Puerto Rico on its independence. Problem is, Puerto Rico is not independent, July 25th is Constitution Day for the US territory. The colonization of Puerto Rico is something often forgotten by the world, ironically, especially by those in the United States. Many forget that Puerto Rico is still an US territory, an ancient term that does not seem to belong in this century. Puerto Rico does not have the freedom of being its own country, it is unable to self govern or have its own democracy. Nor is it a state, and does not have state rights. While Puerto Ricans are able to vote in primary elections, they are unable to vote in the actual presidential elections, proving they do not hold the same rights as US citizens. For over a century people in the Puerto Rican Independence Movement have been fighting for Puerto Rican’s independence. Now, with social media the movement is getting new attention and drawing support from across the world.

In 1898, after four hundred years of Spanish colonization Puerto Rico received sovereignty with the Charter of Autonomy. Only a few months later, the United States claimed Puerto Rico with the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American war. During the 20th century the Puerto Rico Independence movement, the Nationalist Party, grew. Violent confrontations like the Ponce Massacre and the Rio Piedras Massacre showed the brutality the United States was willing to use to maintain control of Puerto Rico. Many who fought for Puerto Rico’s independence were killed without trial. In 1948, Law 53, better known as the ‘Gag Law’ was passed. The law made it illegal to display a Puerto Rican flag, speak of independence, hold an assembly regarding Puerto Rico’s status, or sing a patriotic song. The ‘Gag Law’ remained in force for nine years. These actions sent a strong message that although Puerto Ricans were US citizens the protections of the US constitution did not apply to them.

In 1952, the US allowed Puerto Rico its own constitution. However, the constitution was subject to US laws and had to be approved by the US government. In 1954, four Nationalists opened fire in the House of Representatives in Washington DC. They displayed a Puerto Rican flag and yelled ‘Long live a free Puerto Rico’. They wounded five representatives and were all imprisoned. Twenty five years later they were released and received a heroes’ welcome when they arrived in Puerto Rico.

In 2007, a bill was introduced in Congress that would have provided a referendum giving Puerto Ricans the ability to decide if it wanted to become an US state or become a sovereign nation. While the bill received bi-partisan support in the House of Representatives it was never voted on in the Senate before the Congress ended. In 2009, another almost identical bill was introduced that again was not voted on before the Congress ended.

In the middle of June of this year an online campaign spread throughout social media and the internet. The campaign led by the group MRC13 inspired people to write ‘Soy PR Independiente’ (I’m Puerto Rico Independent) on their bodies and post the picture online. It was not long before the campaign gained popularity and momentum. People from Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru and Chile participated in the campaign.

MRC13, Revolution Movement Calle 13, is a movement compromised of people from various countries that believe that change starts with education. It is a group, a movement inspired by the lyrics of Calle 13, a Puerto Rican music group.

MRC13 started the ‘Soy PR Independiente’ campaign after the vocalist of Calle 13, Rene Perez, met with Uruguayan president, Jose Mujica, and Argentinian president, Cristina Fernandez. At the meetings Perez spoke about how Puerto Rico should be included in meetings and summits of Latin America, such as the recent Summit of the Americas in which Puerto Rico was absent from. Perez also urged the importance of the decolonization of Puerto Rico. “Like Puerto Rico and like Latin America, it is important to not let the decolonization of my land turn into a forgotten subject. On the contrary, we should unite to require compliance of UN resolution 1514 of 1960, that requires the immediate limitation of colonialism, more so when in the 21st century there is only a score of colonies left in the world,” Rene was quoted saying at his meeting with Argentina’s Fernandez. It was these meetings that inspired MRC13 to launch the ‘Soy PR Independiente’ campaign.

Calle 13 at the 2011 Latin Grammys

Calle 13 at the 2011 Latin Grammys

Calle 13 has long been vocal on political issues in Puerto Rico, from Puerto Rican independence, to police corruption and education reform. In November, the group was nominated for an unprecedented ten Latin Grammys , nine of which they won. The group opened up the award ceremony with their song ‘Latinoamerica’. Rene, known for wearing shirts vocalizing political issues, wore a shirt that said ‘Una Sola Estrella Libre’ (Only one star free) with the Puerto Rican flag on it. Back in 2009, Rene was asked to co-host the Latin MTV Music Awards. While co-hosting he wore a shirt that said ‘Viva Puerto Rico Libre’ (Long live a free Puerto Rico). While hosting he said, “Latin American is not complete with out Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico isn’t free.”

What is confusing to me is why the United States does not receive more international criticism for having one of the world’s last colonies. More confusing is why those in the United States, a country that prides itself on freedom and independence, are okay with its country colonizing. I find it hypocritical that the United States has a colony, when it was so against being a colony to Britain and says that it is a promoter of democracy. The surge in Calle 13’s popularity over the past few years and the creation of MRC13 brings hope to the Puerto Rican Independence Movement. Hopefully, through social media more of the international community will recognize the need for Puerto Rico’s freedom and support the movement. Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans continue to fight to maintain their culture and national identity amidst colonization.



26 Oct

Calle 13

Calle 13 at the Fillmore in San Francisco

For those of you not yet familiar with Calle 13, they are a band, whose leaders are siblings from Puerto Rico. They categorize themselves as independent music. They constantly switch up their musical style and sing about social issues in Latin America. Rene (Residente) busts out lyrics that are brutally honest, satirical and intelligent. Eduardo (Visitante) composes music that breathes the soul of Latin America, amazingly intricate and unique. While Ileana (PG13) brings harmony and feminism to the group. Calle 13 sings about social issues from violence, to education, to immigration, to corruption, to poverty. They encourage their listeners to take action and fight for their rights, to unite together for a common cause. They do not sing about these issues in an obvious manner but rather skillfully, intelligently and most of the time upbeat.

I was fortunate enough to be able to go to their concert this past Saturday in San Francisco, where they killed it. They had the whole audience jumping, singing and most importantly thinking. That same day they posted the English translation of the lyrics to their song Latinoamerica. I felt it fitting to turn it into a blog post, one because it is from this song I got the title for this blog, ‘vamos caminando’. Also, because Latin America is one of the central themes of this blog and this song captures the essence of Latin America. It magically captures the beauty, heart, pain and uniqueness of Latin America. This is by far one of my favorite songs and the video is amazing. A beautiful aspect of this song is that instead of choosing some top billboard artist to sing the chorus, that would no doubt have earned them attention from teeny boppers, Calle 13 decided to go the more authentic route. They chose Toto la Momposina(An indigenous Colombian singer), Susana Baca(A prominent Peruvian singer and now Peru’s Minister of Culture) and Maria Rita(A Brazilian singer whose comes from a famous music family), which helps make the song more authentic by having at least four Latin America countries contributing to this song. Obviously, the song is much more powerful in Spanish and more meaningful. The song doesn’t translate over perfectly to English, but the English translation allows those who don’t speak Spanish, to better understand the song and what is being said.

So here is Latinoamerica translated into English:

Verse 1
I am, I am what’s left, I am what’s left from what was stolen from you
A town hidden in the summit, my skin is made of leather that’s why it endures any climate
I am a smoke factory, the hand of a farmer’s labor for your consumption
In the middle of the summer, love in the times of cholera My brother!
I am the sun who is born and the day that dies, with the greatest sunsets
I am evolution in the flesh, a political discourse with no saliva
The most beautiful faces I’ve known, I am the photograph of a missing person
The blood in your veins, a piece of land that’s worth something
A basket(filled) with beans
I am Maradona (soccer player) scoring 2 goals against England
I am what holds my flag together, the spinal cord of my planet, in my mountain range
I am what my father taught me, one who doesn’t love their country doesn’t love their mother
I am Latin America a town without legs but that walks still

Chorus 2x
You can’t buy the wind, You can’t buy the sun,
You can buy the rain, You can’t buy the heat,
You can’t buy the clouds, You can’t buy the colors,
You can’t buy my happiness, You can’t buy my pain

Verse 2
I have lakes, the rivers…I have teeth for when I smile
The now that adorns my mountains, I have the sun that dries my skin and the rain that bathes me
A desert drunk from peyote, a ‘pulpque’ drink so I can sing with the ‘coyotes’ (smugglers)
Everything I need!
I got my lungs breathing clear blue
The altitude that suffocates, I am the molars of my mouth chewing cocoa (leaves)
Autumn with its loose leaves, the verses written under starry nights

A vineyard filled with grapes, a sugar cane plantation under Cuba’s sun
I am the Caribbean sea that watches over the small houses, performing rituals with holy water
The wind that brushes my hair, I am all the saints that hang from my neck
The juice of my struggle is not artificial because my land’s fertilizer is natural

Chorus 3x (Third time in Portuguese)
You can’t buy the wind, You can’t buy the sun,
You can buy the rain, You can’t buy the heat,
You can’t buy the clouds, You can’t buy the colors,
You can’t buy my happiness, You can’t buy my pain

You can’t buy the sun, You can’t the rain
Let’s go walking
Let’s go walking
Let’s draw the path
You can’t buy my life
This land isn’t for sale

Verse 3
My work is rough but I do it with pride, here we share…what’s mine is yours,
This town won’t drown in a rip current and if it crumbles I will rebuild it
I also don’t blink when I look at you, so you can remember my last name
Operation Condor invading my nest, I forgive but I never forget!

Walk with me, here we breathe struggle
Walk with me, I sing because I get heard
Let’s draw the path!
Walk with me, here we are standing on our feet
Long live America!
You can’t buy my life

For me, the chorus addresses the overwhelming corruption in Latin America. In Latin America, monopolies exist and are very apparent. I remember when I was in Nicaragua someone explaining to me that one family owned the major banks, the oil and the major crops. In the Dominican Republic, one family controls all of the sugar production, the major crop there. It is like that all over Latin America, if it is not a family monopoly it is a multinational corporation. And these people who are filthy rich think that they can control whatever they wish, if someone challenges them, or speaks out against them, they have them killed. They buy their influence in politics, the police, whatever they want. However, in this song, while the verses address all of the unique details of Latin America the chorus focuses on standing up to the corruption, saying that they can’t buy everything like they think they can. Somethings are priceless and even out of reach of the most corrupt.

The very end of the song is the most powerful. I believe it is Calle 13 calling the people of Latin America to come together, to progress, to fight for social justice and not give up. While with my blog title I use ‘vamos caminando’, like let’s go on a journey you, my reader, and I. I think here, Calle 13 uses it as let’s move forward, let’s progress or something more like we move forward together.

I want to leave you with Calle 13’s music video for Latinoamerica. That way you can hear the words in Spanish, how beautiful they are, even if you perhaps do not understand them and so you can see how powerful the video is. When I first saw the video I was almost in tears, with the lyrics, the music and the video I’m in aww of how Calle 13 was able to capture what Latin America is, a place that is so dear to so many of us. Calle 13- Latinoamerica

If you are interested in learning more about Calle 13 I encourage you to buy their music, or their documentary Sin Mapa, or better yet go to one of their shows. If you are interested in Latin America my best suggestion is to visit it with an open heart and mind.

Chile- The Fight for Education

15 Sep

You don’t have to spend that much time with me before I start to bring up Latin American current affairs or make references to Latin American policies. It is no secret that it aggravates me that the news in the US is blasted with events in the Middle East but yet you truly have to dig to find out what his happening in Latin America, a region right next to us. That’s why it is no surprise to me that while, recently, it has been impossible to escape news on protests in Egypt and Libya; I have heard nothing about Chile’s student protests in the mainstream media here. No, I learned about it the way I normally have to learn about what is happening in Latin America by following the right people on Twitter and knowing where to dig on news sites. It saddens me because what is happening today in Chile is historical and something Latin America and the world could learn a lot from.

Protests for education have been happening recently across Latin America, from Puerto Rico, to the Dominican Republic, to Mexico and to Colombia. However, the protests in Chile have gained the most attention as students, educators and Chilean citizens have been continuously protesting since May. The protests in Chile have brought together hundreds of thousands of Chileans across the country, the country has not seen protests this large-scale since the return of democracy in 1990.

The protesters are fighting an unequal and segregated education system which has become more privatized recently. The protesters want public school to be run by Chile’s Education Ministry, instead of local governments. Public schools being run by local government increases the inequality between rich and poor districts. Chilean officials have focused primarily on access to education as opposed to quality and equality. The quality of public school education is extremely poor.

Meanwhile, to attend a university, even if it is public, students have to pay enormous amounts of money. “They know that Chilean universities are the most expensive places to study, that advancing in higher education depends more on the university you leave than your own merits, that success isn’t guaranteed.”, said Bernardo Navarrete, a political analyst at the University of Santiago. Chile has the most complex financing system of education in the region. The education climate that people are experiencing in Chile is one where a parent has to decide which child to send to college. Higher education fees are normally higher than minimum wage. Only a small percent of Chilean youth, the wealthy percent, have access to quality schools and do not have to go into lifelong debt to receive it.

Why is education so important? Education is the foundation to the society, with strong education comes strong leadership and positive change. To simply put it, better education will lead to a better country. The musical group Calle 13 has been publicly supporting the movement in Chile. The leader Rene Perez was quoted saying, “Education is fundamental. The easiest thing for a government is to have a public that is uneducated so that they won’t fight for their rights. There needs to be free and public education.” When a country has free, public, quality education there are more opportunities for the middle and lower classes to achieve a higher economic level, society gaps close. With more educated minds there are more people to contribute to the country, more minds to work on scientific, technological, and of course political problems. That is why education is so important, and why free, quality education needs to be achieved not only in Chile but across Latin America.

The protests in Chile started as isolated boycotts by high school and university students. In early June protests started with anything from pillow fights in the streets to a huge flash mob of students dressed like zombies dancing to ‘Thriller’, to traditional peaceful rallies. Since the beginning of June hundreds of thousands of high-school and university students have been boycotting their classes as a means of protest. Several cacerolazos (a protest consisting of banging pots and pans) have been carried out. Protesters have also been occupying University of Chile’s campus, right next to the Presidential Palace. The protests have been large, although the Chilean government will try to convince you otherwise, and they have been consistently occurring for months.

On August 1st, the government announced 21 policies and proposals for the development of education including writing into the constitution the right to quality education. However, on August 5th, protest leaders rejected the government’s proposal stating that they want a profound change to the system not just an improvement. A few days later there were mass protests across the country. The news focused mainly on the violence cause by few protesters who broke off from the crowd, but the majority of protesters remained peaceful. Mostly, it was the police whom acted aggressively with the protesters firing water cannons and tear gas into the crowd. Since the protests started two students have been killed by bullets and hundreds of student protesters have been arrested.

Pinera’s government has scrambled to try to end the protests which have cause a nose dive in his popularity. On September 3rd, the President met with student leaders. Both sides discussed a twelve point petition submitted by the Confederation of Chilean Students that outlined demands for education reform. While the two sides agreed on some issues, like a constitutional guarantee to the right of quality education, they also disagreed on many central topics. Most recently, Chile’s Education Minister proposed working groups to find solutions to the conflict for education reform. Just this past Monday students handed over a counter-proposal with four guarantees they want from the government before participating in working groups. The guarantees were: to freeze two bills given to congress in August on education reform that were drafted with no student nor teacher input, to have TV and online coverage of the working groups, to end state funding for profit-based education institutions and, lastly, postponement of the end of the first academic semester, which could leave thousands of students without credit for a partially completed semester. The protesters have been quoted many times saying that they have no idea how this all will end, but they know they are making some sort of change.

One unique aspect of these protests has been who has been at the head leading the masses, the face of the uprising, Camilla Vallejo. Vallejo is a 23-year-old student who serves as President of the University of Chile’s Student Union. Vallejo has her own police protection now, after receiving several death threats. Vallejo has always preached peace to the protesters reminding them that the fight is not against the police but a peaceful fight for education. When discussing Vallejo I can’t help but compare and contrast her with Mexico’s Javier Sicilia (who you can read about in my What the Heck is going on in Mexico? blog) They both are the faces of movements for hope of a better future for each of their respected countries. They both emphasize maintaining peace in their movements and protests and both won’t settle or make half way deals with their governments. However, unlike Sicilia, Vallejo is not an old man in a cowboy hat and a multi-pocketed vest, no Vallejo’s youth and beauty has captivated the nation and the world. Vallejo is very aware of this and uses it to her advantage. She was quoted saying, “You have to recognize that beauty can be a hook. It can be a compliment, they come to listen to me because of my appearance, but then I explain the ideas. A movement as historical as this cannot be summarized in such superficial terms.” And unlike Sicilia, Vallejo is still very young, and it is because of this that Chile is buzzing with hopes of a political future for her.

There is no way of telling what the end result of this movement in Chile will be. But this movement has already accomplished so much I can only imagine that this movement is headed towards success. Perhaps Chile will be a model for movements for education reform across Latin America, a catalyst for movements in the region. They are already happening in Latin America, but from what I have seen they have not reached the level of Chile. I have not followed many of the other education movements closely, except for the Dominican Republic’s 4% movement. Last year, there were calls for the Dominican government to increase the amount of the GDP spent on education to 4%. Two days last year the entire country wore yellow in support of the movement. But there needs to be more, the Dominican needs to follow Chile’s model it’s laid down. The Dominicans, and other citizens of Latin American countries, need to hit the streets in peaceful protest and continue to protest until their demands are met. Today Chile is seen as the beginning of a huge shift in Latin America. Hopefully one day, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and all of Latin America will have education that is accessible to all, free for all and of high quality for all.

I want to leave you with the video of the Chilean students ‘Thriller’ flash mob. (Take note of the stray dogs trying to figure out what is going on) Thriller