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Latinx Files: Bad Bunny shows up again for Puerto Rico

Flooded homes on Salinas Beach, satellite image of  Fiona, outline of Puerto Rico
Homes are flooded on Salinas Beach after the passing of Hurricane Fiona in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.
(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times; AP Photo/Alejandro Granadillo, NOAA)

On Sept. 16, Bad Bunny released the music video for “El Apagón.” Like the song, the nearly 23-minute short film serves as a love letter to the island that made him.

And like the song, it documents the many indignities and gringaderas long endured by Puerto Ricans, punctuated and outlined by the mini-documentary by independent journalist Bianca Graulau embedded in the music video.

Graulau’s reporting touches on the ongoing exploitation of Puerto Rico by various entities, whether it be a Canadian-American energy company that took over the power grid after Hurricane Maria hit five years ago, or wealthy U.S. citizens who have moved to the island to take advantage of tax benefits not available to those who live there. The result has been gentrification and displacement, the restriction of public beaches, and frequent blackouts despite high energy bills.

The failures of the recovery post-Maria came to roost on Sunday when Hurricane Fiona struck Puerto Rico and the island once again found itself plunged into darkness without power.

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What makes “El Apagón” stand out — besides the fact that the world’s biggest artist is producing journalism — is that it feels like a warning. The music video offers a snapshot of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Maria, which could very well be what the island looks like after Fiona.

Credit to my fellow journalists for their reporting on Puerto Rico — I particularly appreciated this New York Times piece about residents banding together and not waiting on government help — but much of the coverage has been reactionary, and it pales in comparison to the coverage that the death of Queen Elizabeth II received.

Against my will, I know more about the line of succession than any normal person should.

Kudos to Bad Bunny for using his massive platform to raise awareness about what’s going on in Puerto Rico (as of this writing, the music video has amassed more than 6.5 million views on YouTube), and for giving Graulau’s invaluable reporting much needed visibility.

But it shouldn’t fall on Bad Bunny to make us look and care.

Want to help Puerto Rico but don’t know how? My colleague Karen Garcia has put together this handy guide of grassroots organizations taking donations.

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Things we read this week that we think you should read

—Back in January, I wrote about the work that Graulau has been doing in Puerto Rico. You can find that here.

— For the Atlantic, Jaquira Díaz wrote an essay advocating for Puerto Rico’s independence. And while I don’t feel qualified to comment on what should be the fate of Puerto Rico, this part felt particularly true:

“There is no benevolent American savior coming to help Puerto Rico. Every day, people see that there is only them, doing everything for themselves. Every day, more of them come to understand that Puerto Rico has always stood on its own.”

— I suspect I’ll be devoting space in next week’s newsletter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ cruel and heartless political stunt of flying Venezuelan asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard, especially now that a lawsuit against DeSantis and other state officials has been filed, but I did want to draw attention to this Miami Herald story about the reaction to the news by the Venezuelan diaspora in South Florida.

—The folks over at Vox have launched “The power and potential of Latino voters,” a series of stories that explore and examine the political power and influence of the Latinx electorate ahead of the midterms. The series covers topics like misinformation, as well as profiles of politicians like Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego.

—In case you missed it: L.A. Times Food has put together a comprehensive package on classic Cal-Mex restaurants, which includes a stirring defense of the cuisine by columnist Gustavo Arellano, a behind-the-scene look at how Tito’s Tacos makes its hard shell tacos, and a map of favorite Cal-Mex restaurants across Los Angeles.

—Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías is once again having a tremendous season. For Column One, sports writer Jorge Castillo headed down to Culiacán to learn more about the Mexican phenom’s origin story.

— On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of making the Blackwell School in Marfa, Texas, a national park site. In February, my former colleague Molly Hennessy-Fiske reported on the history of the segregated school, where for decades Mexican American students were paddled for speaking Spanish.

— What are you doing on Sept. 27? If your answer is “nothing,” then you should absolutely join the L.A. Times Book Club as it hosts a conversation with author Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who will be discussing her latest novel “The Daughter of Doctor Moreau” with Times editor Steve Padilla. The event is virtual and you can sign up here.

— The Los Angeles Times is bringing back the Dia de Muertos altar. I’ll share more details shortly, but in the meantime, our podcast team has asked me to put out a callout to readers who would like to record an audio ofrenda. If this is you, call ‪(619) 800-0717‬ and leave us a voicemail telling us who you are, where you live, and an anecdote about your lost loved one that you’d like to share.


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