The Webnography of Reggaeton Faultlines

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gleaned lots of what I know ’bout the narratives swirling ’round reggaeton via the web, especially via the messageboard debates that flare up into all sorts of contested, conflicting accounts and claims. In that sense, I’ve maybe learned less about reggaeton’s history this way, per se, than about how people frame and claim reggaeton to (re)draw the lines of community. (Not that any such thing as “reggaeton history” can be abstracted from any and all of this narrativizing.)

Perhaps it simply speaks to the genre’s popularity that reggaeton can serve as a bridge or a wedge, but it may say something also about its multivalence and, especially, its address (where you at?), especially of late — not to mention the memory of what things once were/seemed/meant in another time and place.

One illustrative example of what I’ve found to be an invaluable source for reading reggaeton is a relatively innocent post by abstractdynamic and nowadays sporadic blogger, Abe Burmeister. Back in August 04, upon hearing reggaeton all around NYC and finding relatively little about it on the net, Abe went searching for information about the genre, to little avail. This prompted him to write

I don’t know enough about Reggaeton and neither it seems does the internet.

You’d never know it the occupied zones of Manhattan, but Reggaeton just might be the biggest music in New York right now. Its certainly the fastest growing. Like hip hop before it (and salsa too I suspect) its evolving isolated from the outoftowners and media forces that think they define New York. One wonders if they’ll pimp it world wide when they finally wake up, or are they perhaps too scared to wake to the spanish?

Tellingly, the Google search link he provides in his post now returns almost 10 million hits for ‘reggaeton.’ [Update: as of 1/09, it was up to 14 million.]

But more important, Abe’s post served unwittingly to launch a fierce, if disjointed, debate about the genre’s national identity and about the increasing presence of Latinos in the US. Strongly worded statements, history lessons, and derogatory language alternate with promotional spam, love letters to reggaetoneros, and requests such as this one —

can some1 sent mei a good azz pic of don omar. he iz so fine

Posted by: brenda | August 30, 2004 06:35 PM

A selection of certain comments — from among the HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS posted — provides an illuminating if painful look at the contours of these rather fraught debates, including Puerto Rican, Mexican, Panamanian, pan-Latino, and Jamaican claims to the genre, calls for black, brown, Latino, and Caribbean unity, as well as some intense stereotype slurring among Latinos and between Latinos and (African-)Americans. The back&forth gets pretty down&dirty at a certain point, so be warned. But it offers a revealing portrait of reggaeton under construction and in contest —

Damn people realize that reggaeton doenst just belong to the panas or the boricuas shit its pa todos mis latinos, mexicanos and shit dont fucken be ignorant just beacuse its coming out strong from one area doesnt me its ur music . shit i know how this shit got started but just because it started there doenst mean it stays there. I live in Californoia, Orange County and i list en to this shit and i support al the reggaeton artist i even throw reggaeton clubs and parties in La and Oc to help get the music out there I do it because i love the music and i aint from panama or puerto rico im from MEXICO shit and damn proud . theirs even mexican reggaeton artist too. so for the record shit its nit boricua music its not panama music its latino music!!! . . .

Posted by: Evilone_714_Aftermath_ent.. Krew | October 30, 2004 08:33 PM



Posted by: ?????? | November 3, 2004 08:01 PM

Yoo “El Boricua” mira nene.. yo soy cubana y a mi me encanta el wus the big fukkin deal?.. everybody is allowed to like reggaeton papa!! me oyes.. tu no eres el jefe de nadie.. y no importa quien lo esta escuchando mientras se este bendiendo..

Posted by: DaDdYsLiLMaMa | November 11, 2004 10:43 AM

para los que aun les gusta discriminar con sus propias raices……..hater!!!!

bueno primero que nada los BORICUAS no queremos ser mayatez…we are mayates.somo mezcla INDIA !!!!! ESPANOL!!! Y AFRICANA !!!
de donde creen que vino tanta poderosa percusion……de AFRICA….”no vino de mongolia”
la genmte que no sabe de las raizes de los demas,estudien o cayen que por eso nosotros los latinos estamos abajo,por eso es que ARNOLD SWATCHENAGER o como se llame es governador y no un latino. “tenemos que unirnos no separanos con racismo” racismo entre latinos que poca verguenza es esa y falta de respeto a vuestros antecedente!!!!!!

es como si les dijieran “esos mexicans just wanna be latinos” thats called an oximoron.
no tiene sentido decir tan absurda verbla ingnoracia.

Posted by: black!!!! not an option | November 11, 2004 05:26 PM

Latinos SHUT UP. Get back on the boat that brought your ass over here. COUNTRY NIGGA WHUT.

Posted by: Genocyde | November 22, 2004 05:02 PM

this is to COUNTRY NIGGA , u need to go back to Africa. U also need to stop talking shit about latinos. U are just jelous u can’t get no latin girls. You Monkey!!!! Ha Ha


Posted by: lili | November 22, 2004 08:29 PM

reggaeton is alright honestly jamican reggae is much much better, im not hating or anything like that because my mother is of jamaican-latin descent and i listen to reggaeton as well as hip hop r&b and REAL reggae. it pisses me off when noreaga and nina sky makes a oye mi canto song and not show the jamaican flag because the whole world knows us jamaicans started it all. its kind of like a fraud but at the same time adorable.

Posted by: kinyatta | December 1, 2004 03:36 PM

And another goddamn thing i gotta say. Puerto Ricans?? We aint fucking latinos, we are fucking Caribbeans. Yo no soy latino papa yo soy caribeño, fumando un leño, y desta mierda soy el dueño.
Stoopid ass mexicans thinking they in this shit. FUCK ‘EM!

Posted by: McPaja | January 7, 2005 02:37 PM

and whats good wit all this talk against mexicanos and bein called latino.
what now, not only are ya hatin on me for my opinion but you gonna hate on others that are goin through the same stuff as us.
why wouldnt u want to be called a latino? all that really stands for is for people who speak spanish. the spanish language came from latin. so people now a days that speak spanish are latino. why wouldnt u want to rep that and be proud of that. its beautiful.
and why would you say fuck the mexicans and other spanish nations?
thats foolish.
yeah mexicans are different than us they got there own cultura, same with cubans, domonicans, y todos.
but why would u hate on others for bein different
u know that aint right.
cuz it wasnt too long ago when “negros” and “spics” (talkin bout puerto ricans) werent liked by white american. and they hated on us. and some still do today. and it didnt get them anywhere.
its not gonna get u anywhere either.
u need to recongize before u get yaself in to somethin u aint gonna be able to handle.
u cant win a war against hate with hate.
it never did work , and it aint gonna work now.
u need to grow up and recognize where respect is due to our fellow latinos.
yeah, i said latinos.
squash all that prejustice stuff
it aint sexy playa

Posted by: sheena | January 9, 2005 07:00 PM

. . . mcpaja although i agree with you with the mexican issue, i would also like to add that in that same list we should add these fake ass “nuyoricans”. . . .

Posted by: Anonymous | January 12, 2005 08:28 PM

First of all gotta give props to sheena because she is the only one who seems coherent enough to know what she is talking about. Thank you for shedding the light about where spanish reggae really originated from, (Panama). This isn’t a hate on reggae from puerto rico because i grew up listening to it but to be honest, it (reggaeton from puerto rico) wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the influences that came from panama. Reggae en nuestro pais es una cultura y forma de vida. Desde que llegaron jamaiquinos a panama nos han influenciado con su cultura y una consequencia de eso fue la de musica reggae. Y asi se han criado muchos de la juventud en panama, escuchando reggae no solo de panama pero de su pais de crianza, jamaica, y ellos incorporan ese tipo de cultura todos los dias en panama. Like i said this is not a hate on (reggaeton) as it has become now known because i lived in florida in the early 90’s and all I listened to was Playero, The Noise, Baby Rasta y Gringo, Tempo, Mexicano and other good artists but I think credit has to be given where it is deserved. To know where your going you gotta know where you come from. I think that the spanish reggae scene will soon be hearing some very good artists from El Patio(Panama)and also see what talents we’ve got. Let’s support each other in this and other music genres and keep growing as a latin community no matter where we’re from. What’s up to all my panas from Panama and PR. Que dios los bendiga a todos.

Posted by: Panama1 | January 14, 2005 04:39 PM

This boricua shall now take his hat off and recognize the mistakes hes made. I may have seemed a little harsh with some earlier comments about being latino, and i hope that all ive offended can look past my ridicolous comments. I’ve always considered Panama to be one of the closest looking cultures to Puerto Rico, and the comments Panama1 made has made me feel ashamed of what I’ve said.
I now realize that, not only reaggaeton, but also many different types of latin music are being left in the dark because of absence of public light.
We as latinos, should be walking around with our heads held high, being grateful that we have been given this sweet flavor and rythm that the world seems to enjoy. (except that TEX-MEX crap. I find that to be some straight up weak ass SHIT!)
Im not being ironic in any way, and again, all of those who ive offended im very sorry.
Dont hate, Educate.
McPaja . . .

Posted by: McPaja | January 14, 2005 05:50 PM

Clearly, despite being able to represent many things to many people and, increasingly, explicitly positioning itself — and seemingly (statistically?) heard/felt/interpreted — as a mainstream, pan-Latino genre, reggaeton still serves to draw all kinds of lines between social groups, reflecting significant underlying conflicts and incompatible ideologies of self and other. Given what can seem a tumultuous redefinition of social relationships in the wake of new migrations amidst competing projects of national and transnational (not to mention local) unity, it is of little surprise that there is so much heated debate about what reggaeton is and to whom it belongs.

Part of what motivates me to gather both facts and arguments about these big questions is that I suspect, and hope, that a more balanced telling of reggaeton’s story — one that includes the various claims people make on/for it, and why — might have something to offer the ongoing, and growing, conversation. Regardless, I’m gonna keep on reading.