Date of Award

5-2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Music

Major

Music

Major Professor

Rachel May Golden

Committee Members

Nathan Fleshner, Jacqueline Avila

Abstract

In the summer of 2017, reggaeton took the world by storm, topping popular music charts globally with the song “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, and leading to a short-lived surge in Puerto Rican tourism. The term boricua holds strong connections to reggaeton and generally expresses a call to indigenous and Spanish heritage. While music videos and the general popularization of reggaeton created an image of Puerto Rico as a desired destination, the conditions of the island’s environment swiftly changed due to the destructive effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria in August and September of 2017. In light of these events, I embarked upon a journey to further understand the connections among reggaeton, boricua identity, and this climate-caused disaster. This undertaking involved my employment of ethnographic methods, primarily conducting fieldwork in the southeastern United States and San Juan, Puerto Rico. In this fieldwork, I conducted interviews, took photographs and videos, made soundscape recordings, translated song lyrics, and analyzed how globalized reggaeton impacts local scenes. Through key interviews and observations, my ethnography shows that boricuas have inscribed their places after hurricane Maria through reggaeton. Further, I demonstrate that reggaeton interacts in multifaceted ways with Puerto Rican politics, socioeconomic conditions, environmentalism, cultural representation, and expressions of place. Intriguingly, this music now plays a large role in ecotourism for Puerto Rico. This thesis shows how reggaeton demonstrates a local understanding of boricua identity and environment after the tragedies of hurricane Maria. I argue that boricuas create a sense of cultural sustainability through reggaeton as they cope with the effects of hurricane Maria. This sustainability occurs in global and local examples, both on the island and within the southeastern United States diaspora.

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