Cuban Reggaeton and the Marginalization of Black Music

Rebecca Bodenheimer SAVE THIS

Gente de Zona (Facebook).

Reggaeton has been the soundtrack of Cuban daily life for over a decade, spilling out of homes, cars, and bici-taxis all over the island. Cubaton, as it’s sometimes referred to, is the preferred genre of Cuban youth, displacing the Cuban dance genre called timba (a late 20th-century Cuban form of salsa), and redefining the latter as music for tembas, middle-aged people. However, a new state cultural policy adopted last year, Decreto 349, essentially censors artistic expression with an implicit understanding that the main target is the “vulgar” lyrics of reggaeton. In this sense, reggaeton represents a new cultural battleground in late socialist Cuba that is linked to the historic marginalization of Black popular cultural expression.

Cubaton’s profile has risen steadily in the past decade, as groups like Gente de Zona achieve international recognition by recording collaborations with Latin pop stars. In 2014, the…

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