By Morgane Van R., 9th Grade
The Puerto Rican singer Benito Antonio, better known as Bad Bunny, released a 23-minute video musical titled “El apagón” or The Blackout, in which he criticizes and protests the frequent blackouts on the island of Puerto Rico. Residents who have been dealing with an overaged power grid even before the devastation caused by Hurricanes Maria, and now Fiona, and have been extremely critical of price increases and rolling blackouts since the LUMA energy company took over Puerto Rico’s energy transmission and distribution system. Puerto Ricans exposed issues with energy services on the island and the privatization of the company that provides them, but it also denounces the fact that many private companies and individuals have purchased buildings and schools, and have taken control of the P.R. beaches and energy system. Many investors purchase homes with the intention of reselling them at a higher price or converting them into short-term holiday rentals, transforming entire neighborhoods into Airbnb zones and causing a lack of inventory for residents.
“El Apagón” tells several stories, including one of a 68-year-old woman who was expelled from a building where she had lived for 26 years because her apartment was sold to a woman who specializes in the purchase and sale of real estate. They gave the woman 30 days to leave the place, and so we see comparable stories with different protagonists from residents of Puerta Tierra, another place in Puerto Rico where communities have banded together to save their homes, schools, and childhood memories from being disrupted. These sales take place under the rules of Law 22, which excludes foreigners from paying certain taxes when they relocate to the United States for the purpose of selling real estate. Another issue is that access to Dorado beach has been restricted, making entry impossible for residents, and yet in Puerto Rico, all beaches are considered public.
Rene Perez, a local, claims to be one of the very few global musicians who has been very vocal and purposeful about Puerto Rico’s independence or the possibility of independence. There was a time when the radio stations and music industry, in general, did not play Rene’s music because the governor saw it as if he was doing something wrong and was just talking about freedom for people who felt that if they depended on someone all of their lives, they would not grow. In order to grow, you must be free.
Pedro Pierluisi the actual governor of P.R. promised the people last year that there would be fewer power outages in the future, and then, on April 7, 2022, a fire broke out at the Costa Sur energy plant, leaving thousands without power. The schools were forced to close, and the intensive care unit of a medical center was briefly without power. LUMA stated its service would be better than the government-run Electrical Authority. Nonetheless, power outages have lasted longer, and citizens have had to face seven straight price hikes on their bills, while LUMA officials have earned big salaries. According to the video, Puerto Ricans are fed up, and there was a series of protests in late August demanding the cancellation of the LUMA contract that looked to have the same vigor as the ones in 2019. 43% of Puerto Ricans live below the federal poverty line. P.R is a colony, a nation country that is governed without the consent of the governed which is the case here as the U.S. Congress rules over it.