By María José Castro Martínez – International Relations Student

Most of us do not know, but there was a time when not every song on the radio -since at that time Spotify did not exist- had to do with reggaeton. Each genre had its own particular rhythm and the same with the singers and songwriters. There was a time when Marc Anthony was dedicated to salsa, or when Black Eyed Peas just produced electropop, nothing related to reggaeton. However, as we already know, that is no longer the case, American mainstream artists yearn to collaborate with Bad Bunny or J Balvin, among other reggaeton avant-garde artists (Fuenmayor, 2019). So, since reggaeton is constantly present in our lives, how does this affect our identity and lifestyles?

Latin American music has been historically marked by two influences: indigenous and European (conquest) (Castillo, 2017). However, from the 1980s onwards, a new genre began to consolidate. Its geographical origin is still not clear, since there is the believe that it began in Panama when the Jamaicans who worked on the Panama Canal sped up their records to make the music more danceable. Others believe it started in Puerto Rico (BBC, 2014). As a pioneer "El General" and its anthem "Muévelo" from the mid-eighties was the first considerable reggaeton hit. During the following decade, it would ultimately consolidate itself as an international musical movement in Puerto Rico. Artists such as Daddy Yankee would emerge, who popularized the genre by including rap instrumentals in their recordings. Daddy Yankee would later become an aircraft carrier for reggaeton with his album "Barrio Fino" in 2004: it was an international hit in Latin America and some unlikely countries such as Japan. (Fuenmayor, 2019)

Since the 2000s, reggaeton has expanded very fast and has had an impressive success with the population, that is to say, this genre has managed to not only reach its target audience, but its demand is so great that artists of other types of music (salsa, cumbia, even opera) have resorted to collaborations with those of this type. However, this also means that people, mainly teenagers, have been impacted. The taste for reggaeton has a lot to do with the culture of each person or the environment in which they grew up. It is important to create consciousness about the lyrics of reggaeton, and the message that the “reggaetoneros” want to transmit. Criticism of reggaeton abounds for obvious reasons. The genre musicalizes in a simplistic and banal way a series of anti-values such as commodity fetishism, pomposity, objectification of women, vice, machismo, superficiality and so many other harmful cultural elements (Fuenmayor, 2019).

Criticism of reggaeton is not only reasonable, but absolutely necessary. Music makes culture. It is capable of challenging the values of entire societies, as Elvis did in his time, crossing previously insurmountable racial barriers, or of permanently transforming the lives of thousands of individuals worldwide for decades, as happened with the hippie movement and the popularization of rock music. Examples like these abound: to understand music as a mere cultural product without social repercussions is to grossly underestimate the effects it has on the population.


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  • BBC. (2014). Reggaetón: el último ritmo latino. BBC Mundo.
  • Castillo Calvo, D. A. (2017). Una reflexión desde la historiografía de la composición musical en América Latina, realidad de los (as) compositores (as). InterSedes, 18(37).
  • Fuenmayor, E. A. (2020, 15 abril). El reggaetón, un fenómeno musical que afecta la cultura. Háblame24.