Urban band Calle 13’s “Latinoamérica” video, which premiered last week, starts out with an announcer’s greeting in Spanish. It quickly switches to another language; unintelligible to me, but clearly one of the many languages spoken in Latin America. Then, Residente* and Visitante** appear, say a word in that language, and go on to sing their beautiful song.
The video intertwines the different faces, lifestyles and geographies of Latin America, in one linear action. It’s a wonderful exhibition of the diversity in that cultural and political space, and at the same time a declaration of solidarity and unity. Even the video’s production was a potpourri of different nationalities, put together for a common end result. The song was written and principally performed by Puerto Ricans, with the chorus sung by a Peruvian, a Colombian and a Brazilian. The director and producers are Peruvian; and there were crew members from Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Spain, and Puerto Rico.
The song itself is pure poetry. The first verse describes everything that a certain “yo” (“I”) is, and I don’t think it refers exclusively to the songwriter. Among other things, this yo is what’s left of what was stolen, a political discourse without saliva, and Maradona versus England scoring two goals. It constantly goes from the tragic to the ironic to the beautiful.
Rene Pérez, the band’s principal songwriter, describes the song as having “a strong denunciation, between energetic and humorous, against poverty in Latin America. This is an honest song, and that’s a double edged sword that sometimes helps you and other times not”.
A cynical interpretation of the lyrics and the video can’t be absent, and some are already pointing out the irony that it is someone from Puerto Rico — a territory that can hardly be considered Latin American in a political sense — that penned the song. Nevertheless, I believe in most people’s minds this will be a heartfelt effort to inspire unity among very different groups of people, with interrelated histories, similar struggles, and a common hope.
*Residente is the stage name René Pérez Joglar.
**Visitante is the stage name of Eduardo José Cabra Martínez.
(The photo is by Libertinus — Libertinus Yomango of Montevideo, Uruguay and with Montecruz Foto — via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. To see Calle 13’s “Latinoamérica” video, please check below.)