A few months ago, I brought my Mexican friend a jacket to try on. It was a nice coat—brightly colored with lots of pockets. But he wrinkled up his nose when he saw it. “Muy caribeño,” he said, and tossed it back down on a chair.
It was the same wrinkle I saw two years ago at the LAMC from Latino indie rockers watching the reggaeton panel. The same wrinkle I got from a South American artist friend when I told him I played perico ripiao for my daughter at her birthday party. “You’re destroying her musical taste,” he told me.
Let’s face it: There’s a lot of snobbery going on in this “alternative” Latino scene. And in a lot of cases, there’s also some barely disguised racism that gets really tired.
So I’d like to take a minute to point something out to all of us who imply Caribbean Latinos and Latinos born here are una mierda. Bluntly: you’re ungrateful. Check this out: Just about every major Latino organization in the city was founded by Puerto Ricans. Who fought to have decent bilingual and ESL education in the public schools? Puerto Ricans. Who bore the brunt of getting the city used to Latinos, at a time when lots of them couldn’t apply for certain jobs or live in certain neighborhoods just because of their color/accent? Again, Puerto Ricans.
It’s so much easier to show up here 40 years later, when a whole Latino support network is in place. When there are already Latino museums (who did you think founded El Museo del Barrio?) and when there’s plenty of Spanish-language media (ok, so El Diario ain’t all that good at spelling people’s names, but it’s still something!)
We should recognize: all of that stuff wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Caribbean Latinos working hard to get it done, back in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Newly arrived Latinos may not even realize that back then, Boricuas had to fight for rights as basic as proper garbage pickup in Latino neighborhoods. Now, that doesn’t even cross our minds. Those battles were already fought—and won–for us.
Yet, time and time again I see supposedly progressive, rockero/artist Latinos looking down on Boricuas and Dominicans.
I have even seen some of us perform at the Clemente Soto Velez Center downtown, a place Puerto Ricans fought to establish, and then 20 minutes later, stand outside trashing Boricuas.
That’s just not cool. So two things: First of all, I’d like to hear people’s thoughts on this (so feel free to comment.) I want to know—why? Is it insecurity? Ignorance? Racism because in Latin America there’s still that “white is right” mentality—and it’s no secret Caribbean Latinos carry plenty of ’mancha de platano’?
Second of all: Can we open our minds? In case ignorance is the problem, we at Remezcla have made a commitment to expanding our coverage of Nuyo-Caribbean alternative culture even more in the coming months. Caribeños are not only represented by the Copacabana and Marc Anthony, just like mexicanos aren’t just represented by RBD. There’s a thriving underground and has been for decades. Google any of these: Pedro Pietri, Ricanstruction, Julia de Burgos, the Welfare Poets, Pa’ Lo Monte, Ricky Flores, Edwin Torres, Flaco Navaja, Circo, Superaquello, MiMa, Fiel a La Vega, La Secta…the list goes on and on. Then check out their shows, for those of them who are current. Maybe you’ll come to realize, like the poet Willie Perdomo says (and I’m about to misquote the hell out of him because it’s 12:30 a.m. and I can’t find his book in my apt., but anyway, its something like this): (Puerto Ricans were) “the first to come in planes, not ships, with a one-way ticket to sold out dreams.” Thanks for paving the way, ’manito, much appreciated.