Revered Puerto Rican singer-songwriter MIMA has returned to the spotlight with the biting, poignant melancholy of her new single “El Arca de MIMA.” The atmospheric electro-folk track reflects on the institutional structures that hold Boricuas captive within an unbreakable cycle of colonial strip mining. MIMA unpacks these complicated concepts through poetic and dreamlike wordplay, at one point switching gears into a Sesame Street-style tribute to Puerto Rico’s delectable agricultural wealth. But make no mistake, “El Arca de MIMA” is a tale of defiance and grief—both for humans and treasured resources—closing on a meditation that foretells a day when Puerto Ricans will harvest fruit other than sorrow.
“El Arca de MIMA” was produced alongside Eduardo Cabra after a fortuitous turn of events shook up MIMA’s suffocating pandemic rut. “I’ve known Eduardo for close to twenty years,” she tells Remezcla via e-mail. “We formally coincided during the Mandinga Times sessions when Rita Indiana invited me to sing on “The Heist.” This was at the height of quarantine and I had lots of technical limitations trying to record something decent from home, so I ended up coming into the studio to lay down my vocals. During that process I learned about his production techniques, experiences and work habits. We discussed the possibility of collaborating so I showed him the demo for ‘El Arca…’ and he decided to embark on this project with me.”
“El Arca de MIMA” debuted this weekend as part of Macha Colón’s (a.k.a. Gisela Rosario Ramos) feature length film Perfume de Gardenias, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. While the song was not created specifically for the film, its roots in Jibaro classics and the biblical telling of the Great Flood echoed on-screen themes of loneliness, displacement and spiritual crises.
“I’d been working on the song for some time but still didn’t know how to play or sing it freely,” adds MIMA. “Then I thought it could work for the film, and when Gisela heard the song her reaction was very emotional. She said the song was important because it crystalised the argument of her film. The next day I was sweating bullets in front of the camera as I performed the song for the first time in front of Carmen Nydia Velázquez, Sharon Riley, Flor Joglar, Luz María Rondón and the whole entourage.”
“El Arca de MIMA” is a testament to the unwavering collaborative spirit championed by Puerto Rican artists. The song’s lyric video was conceived by Noelia Quintero and Rita Indiana’s production company HQ Storytelling, while the single’s cover art was designed by Macha Colón. Far from her first rodeo, MIMA has been a fixture of the Puerto Rican music scene for nearly two decades, singing backup for Cultura Profética at the beginning of her career and teaming up with ÌFÉ and International Dub Ambassadors in recent years. Plus, to hear MIMA tell it, the advent of social media and pandemic restlessness promise to have an enduring motivating impact on the next generation of Boricua musicians.
“There is definitely a larger offering of spaces and avenues,” she muses. “Much more access to studios, equipment, technology, and more visibility and resonance of voices that used to go unnoticed. Multidisciplinary artistic expressions are also blossoming among younger generations who’ve faced historic challenges and are forging our future with urgent conversations that force us to take a hard look at ourselves, to listen, to take new positions and to cede spaces. Through their work I perceive vulnerable and valiant hearts.”