On Monday (July 22), hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Puerto Rico to march in part of a national protest demanding governor Ricardo Rosselló's resignation.
The massive demonstrations are the latest since nearly 900 pages of a chat between Rosselló and 11 of his closest aides were released, exposing discussions of politics and public policy interspersed with misogynistic and homophobic references to opposition leaders, journalists and public figures.
The chat, which veers from serious policy discussions to what sometimes reads like drunken banter, even takes aim at Puerto Rican native Ricky Martin. "Nothing says patriarchal oppression like Ricky Martin," wrote Christian Sobrino Vega, who was Puerto Rico's chief fiscal officer at the time and has since resigned in the scandal’s wake. "Ricky Martin is such a male chauvinist that he f---s men because women don't measure up. Pure patriarchy."
The outrageous comments have been met with outrage from the artistic community, in what may be an unprecedented united front that is demanding swift political change and achieving visible results.
Martin and his fellow musician compatriots Residente and Bad Bunny have been at the forefront of a veritable artistic revolution asking Rosselló to step down from his post. And it hasn’t been limited to social media posts, though those have been abundant, forceful and detailed. Instead, the trio -- joined by a slew of other artists, including Ednita Nazario, ILe, Domino Saints and Kany Garcia among others -- have led the call to take to the streets of Puerto Rico in Monday's march and others last week. Their commitment is so strong that Bad Bunny traveled to Puerto Rico last week in the middle of touring Spain, then flew back the next day to fulfill his contractual obligations to play four more concerts.
“I am pausing my career,” he said in an Instagram video posted Friday. “After [my concerts] my agenda was to fly back to Miami. But I’m canceling everything. I’m pausing my career because I don't have the heart or mind to do music […] I’m going to Puerto Rico. I’m not going to turn my back on you. We have to continue taking the streets.”
On his end, an angry Martin also posted on Instagram Sunday demanding a start to impeachment proceedings if Rosselló did not resign. “I’m getting on a plane and I’ll be [in Puerto Rico] at 7 a.m. [to march],” he said. “I want to feel the power of the people. Come demonstrate with us.”
And Residente, in addition to multiple social media posts, has released a track titled “Afilando los cuchillos” (Sharpening the Knives) with Bad Bunny and Ile.
To be clear, Rosselló is not being asked to resign simply because members of his cabinet made homophobic remarks or because he insulted opposition leaders using vulgar language. Those are a small part of the chat, which in itself was the last straw for many Puerto Ricans who have long been very critical of the governor. But the very vocal vitriol from artists has no doubt amplified and stoked the community sentiment. Martin’s words have resonated around the world: in Spain, crowds at Bad Bunny’s concerts can be seen chanting “que renuncie” (resign!) and waving Puerto Rican flags, while media worldwide has reported on Residente’s Instagram posts. As a result, thousands who would have otherwise never known -- or cared -- about the crisis in Puerto Rico are now vested in it, for one reason or another.
Of course this is not the first time Latin artists have attempted to affect politics, but while in most instances calls for change are focused on more global themes like peace, immigration rights and international aid, this time it's singularly focused on the resignation of an unpopular leader of an island with a population of less than 4 million. The artists asking for change have skin in the game; they’re Puerto Rican, many of them have homes on the island and Puerto Rico’s well-being affects them at a personal level. In other words, this call for action is particularly concentrated and effective because it’s regarded as being rooted in something immediate, tangible and real -- not simply pandering to fans.
As of now, Rosselló has said he will not run for reelection, but he will not resign either. Regardless of the outcome, these performers’ intervention in the island’s most massive protests in recent memory underscore a new level of political and social clout for artists in Puerto Rico. These are not merely opinions or calls to action; this is change.