Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reggaeton and censorship, Dominican Republic

(Si prefieres leer en español, ve a mi columna de hoy, 29 de agosto, en El Diario / La Prensa titulada "La censura en calzoncillos" haciendo click aquí.)

There's a saying in Spanish about hypocritical folks preaching morality in their underwear. Well, here we have them at it once again.

For the last week, Spanish-language headlines have been reporting on the newest attempts to censor reggaeton in the Dominican Republic. (See El País, El Diario, Hoy.)

My reaction has been: O.k. here we go with the same sterile debate. Again.

The dissemination of reggaeton songs that "promote the consumption and traffic of drugs" has been described as "criminal actions" by none other than the president of the National Department of Drug Control (Dirección Nacional de Control de Drogas), Rafael Radhamés Ramírez Ferreira, and the Attorney General, Radhamés Jiménez Peña. Both have made it clear that their intent is NOT to prohibit reggaeton as a whole, but just certain songs.

And how do they propose to "control," "regulate," or identify these certain songs? The officials have said they still don't have the answer and are studying the facts to then determine how to proceed. Meanwhile, they ask radio stations and even artists to collaborate with them by not promoting music that is "harmful" to young people.

Newspaper El País reported that Jiménez Peña described the “rhythm of Puerto Rican origin” as “‘propaganda’ turned music that threatens the buenas costumbres and morality of Dominicans.”

What a flashback! That was exactly what was heard so many times in Puerto Rico around 1995. Back then, the genre known as "underground" was accused of being a foreign genre, based on U.S. rap and Jamaican reggae, that was corrupting the Island's youth and musical traditions.

A decade later, underground's baby boy, now known as reggaeton, is described by many as native to Puerto Rico and is accused of corrupting Dominicans.

It's always someone else's fault. Right? Adults blame youth. Dominicans blame Puerto Ricans. Puerto Ricans blame the U.S. and Jamaican ghettoes where rap and reggae where born.

Folks: If young people live gangster realities and/or purchase gangster fantasies... we are all at fault—particularly those hypocritical, corrupt, gangsterish governments that love to preach morality (and censorship) in their underwear.

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