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November 2013
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The New Man, Fraud and Reggaeton

The New Man, Fraud and Reggaeton / Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro
Posted on November 6, 2013

HAVANA, Cuba, October, – A teenager, a wannabe to the
”reggaeton fashion,” succeeds in paying for his Spanish Language exam
grades on a regular basis: “In my high school you can do business,
provided that you are willing to pay well.” The young man, whose name I
was not permitted to disclose, aims to get through the remainder of his
high school years in the same manner. “My older sister supports me
since, “jineteando” [prostituting herself], she met a Yuma [foreigner]
loaded with “baro” [money] and “got her claws into him.”

He aspires to attain fame in that musical genre, very popular in Cuba.
Because, in his own words “it is very lucrative, faster than going to
school and getting a degree or going to a trade school.” When I asked
him what he’ll do once reggaeton is over, he looks at me incredulous:
“That’s never going to happen”. Then he slowly looks at my long hair and
says: “And you guys, the “frikis” (rockers in the popular jargon),
nobody sees you guys in the radio or TV. But reggaeton everyone supports
it, from the Communist party to Lucas on television”.

Lucas, for those who don’t know, is a national television program that
transmits musical video clips produced locally. In the absence of
internet or other means, this program, directed by Orlando Cruzata, is
taken like a barometer of the musical popularity in the island. Everyone
knows that the burgeoning producer PMM is the Lord and Mistress of this
television program. I try to clarify this last detail to the kid, but he
doesn’t even flinch: “Of course, dude, the people with the most money
are the reggaeton musicians; look at Daddy Yankee’s last musical video,
he has a tremendous Lamborghini.”

Then he explains his point of view about what he considers to be a
promising future: “As soon as I finish 12th grade, if I don’t buy a
diploma beforehand; my sister is going to give me the money so I can
start my own musical group and buy the entry to a musical company… Then,
I make a couple of hit songs so they stick (so they are popular) and I
film a hot video clip like Chacal & Yakarta. They’ll censor it, I become
famous like Osmani Garcia and then I go to Miami.”

I listen to him, and think about that chant that we repeated
singsong-like in elementary school: “Pioneers for Communism…” or the
other one that would add: “Where a communist is born, difficulties die.”
Right after, the kid feels comfortable enough and improvises what in his
view will be his first super hit on the “Lucasnómetro weekly.”

I am in a town on the periphery of the capital, Guanabacoa. It is
Sunday, the day is boring and the week depressing. After this
instructive conversation with the “new man of the”, I conclude that the paleontologists of the
future will have a lot to talk about.

I go out to walk the streets. I observe the overwhelmed faces of the few
that challenge the mid-afternoon sun. I am sweating and the smell of the
accumulated garbage piles (“in each block a committee…”) keep me company
the rest of the way. I see a sign that looks like no one has been able
to erase it. It is pretty offensive and I take a picture for you
readers. Then I see others with “spectacular” spelling errors and I do
the same. Then I understand why the “owners of the estate” [the Castro
brothers] want to start a battle with the teachers that tutor students

Let’s remember that in medieval times, reading and writing were
privileges for the high classes. As was access to the universities. The
children of the nomenklatura will always have their home tutors. There
is and always will be, as is always been, schools for the ordinary Cuban
and schools for the children of the generals in charge.

As I am heading back, I stumble upon the “reggeaton superstar”. I show
him the pictures and ask him if he sees anything wrong. He looks at them
for a few minutes, he gives me the camera back and says: “Dude,
everything is cool”.

Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro, From Cubanet, 24 October 2013

Translated by LYD

Source: “The New Man, Fraud and Reggaeton / Camilo Ernesto Olivera
Peidro | Translating Cuba” –

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