Calle 13: Shut out at the Latin Grammys for political involvement?


Did this t-shirt cost René Pérez (at left) a TV appearance? If his remarks are any indication, then the answer may well be yes:

“They asked me not to talk about Ayotzinapa,” said René Pérez, vocalist of Calle 13, last Thursday morning, after receiving a Latin Grammy award. Although he didn’t indicate anyone in particular, he added: “It seems they suspected it, it seems to me irresponsible that they would have told me that.”

Calle 13 was nominated for nine Grammies, but lost in all the categories that were televised. In the event that he had won, René thought he would use the moment of his acceptance speech to speak of the 43 vanished students of Iguala (Mexico), nearly two months ago.

Since he didn’t win, “El Residente” posted to social networks a screen capture from his cellphone of the rough draft, complete with annotations for improvisation, of the speech he wanted to give during the awards ceremony, transmitted by TNT.

“Above all, I want to give my support to the families and friends of the 43 students who disappeared in Mexico. We are fed up with things like this going on.” And he followed up with an annotation for improvisation: “Maybe ask other artists to join the cause, to demonstrate.”

On the same network, René shared a photo of Rubén Blades, who had joined the call for justice wearing the same black t-shirt René Pérez had also worn, with the slogan: “Ayotzinapa is missing 43”.

“El Residente” was also thinking of devoting some time to the unity as a nation of Puerto Rico, and a short message to US President Obama in favor of freedom for Óscar López Rivera.

In the draft of the speech, one could also read: “Today, November 20, there is a demonstration in Madrid for Ayotzinapa, concerning state crimes and disappearances in Mexico. There was also a demonstration in Mexico, and other places.”

Calle 13 did not win any prizes that night. However, although it did not win in any of the televised categories, it took two awards in the previous ceremony.

Translation mine.

René Pérez’s political activism is turning him into one helluva big rock in the well-polished shoes of the Latin music industry. He’s the most popular rapper in all of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the most outspoken. He’s turned out, musically and personally, for Puerto Rican independence, against the FBI (for its brutal execution of Puerto Rican independence activist Filiberto Ojeda Ríos), in favor of the late Hugo Chávez, and against the mad materialism of the 21st century. He’s not shy about using public appearances to promote political causes; he has often worn his politics on his t-shirt at concerts and award ceremonies. And now this…a shirt reminding everyone, most inconveniently, of the 43 Mexican students who are still missing, presumed dead, and the protests still going on over this.

As the Iguala police have literally gallons of blood on their hands (they handed the politically active university students over to drug traffickers, who executed them and disposed of their bodies, allegedly in a huge bonfire and mass graves), this sort of thing would have been a major downer, at least for those who like to pretend that Latino music is only about celebrating life, with a peppering of ay-ay-ay and cha-cha-cha. The fact that it is also intensely political, and has been for centuries, is something no music industry honcho wants to be reminded of anymore. All they want is to rake in the Yanqui dinero, undisturbed by so much as a peep about the contentious politics of a very fractious region.

Little wonder, then, that El Residente didn’t win in any category that would have allowed him to get up in front of the TV cameras and actually open his big, badass mouth.

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