Must watch: ‘El Apagón – Aquí Vive Gente’ sheds light on the gentrification of Puerto Rico

Bad Bunny poses in front of the camera in a leather jacket and sunglasses.
The music video for Bad Bunny’s song “El Apagón” also serves as a documentary on gentrification in Puerto Rico. (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Puerto Rico is a second home to me. Growing up, I used to spend two weeks of my summer in Puerto Rico and three weeks in the Dominican Republic visiting my family and learning the culture of both Islands. My childhood was filled with cafe con leche y pan for breakfast, trips to the rio to swim and play with the fishes in the afternoon and dancing the night away to Daddy Yankee, Ivy Queen and Eddie Santiago.

Bad Bunny, one of the hottest reggaeton artists to come out of Puerto Rico right now, recently released a music video to his song “El Apagón” in collaboration with grassroots Puerto Rican journalist Bianca Graulau and her documentary “Aqui Vive Gente” to showcase the impact of new investors in Puerto Rico on Puerto Ricans. The part-documentary and part-music video is hard-hitting and important because it showcases the perspective of low-income Puerto Rican residences after the passage of 2012 act about investors in Puerto Rico.

The documentary itself has an explosive start, pun intended, highlighting the amazing culture of Puerto Rico; the initial scenes play footage of the explosion at the LUMA electrical substation last June, knocking out power for schools, hospitals and homes on the island for months. This is nothing new for Puerto Rico; the last time I was able to visit the island was in 2018, after Hurricane Maria ravished the island and displaced some of my family to Florida. That trip to Puerto Rico was different from past visits. There were houses all along the beach aligned with the same “For Sale” signs, “Se fue la luz!” every few hours or so and a bleak overall feeling from a once vibrant and vivacious Island.

Hurricane Maria highlighted an underlying issue on the island that Bad Bunny and Bianca Graulau were able to bring to the forefront in Bad Bunny’s new “El Apagón – Aquí Vive Gente” documentary/music video: the modern day colonization and displacement of Puerto Rico and Boricuas.

On Jan. 17, 2012, Puerto Rico passed Act 22, dubbed the “Individual Investors Act,” which exempts new residents of the island from certain taxes. This act was meant to “fix” Puerto Rico’s economy by incentivizing investors to invest in Puerto Rico, and it is working — but not in the way Boricuas would enjoy.

The documentary highlighted the story of Maricusa Hernádez, an elder Dominican who moved to Puerto Rico in the 90s and lived in an apartment in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Santurce is one of the most densely populated and diverse areas of Puerto Rico, and after almost 26 years, Hernàdez and the rest of her apartment complex neighbors were given 30 days to evacuate when a new Act 22 investor bought her building.

With the property having been bought by Act 22 investors, the island is being transformed from the loving and welcoming community it once was to a segregated tourist attraction. Jorge Luis González’s story was also highlighted in the documentary as, for the last four generations, his family had been living in Puerta de Tierra, a middle-class to lower-class residential neighborhood outside of old San Juan. González wanted to live and die in Puerta de Tierra, but was forced to leave after new building owners destroyed public housing and replaced it with private housing.

“I have lived here. For 54 years, I lived on that corner,” González tells Graulau. “Look at it now: a new housing project for the rich. I was born there, and I can’t go in there … and it is not fair to be displaced by economic interests. They want us to leave. No, we were born here. They are the ones that should leave.”

Puerto Rico is unique in that all beaches must have public access. This is because the beaches are owned by the people of Puerto Rico. However, the documentary calls attention to the way that, in Dorado, one of the more luxurious areas in Puerto Rico, entrances to “West Beach” have been closed due to private beachside housing built on the island. Access to the beach comes with a $18 million dollar price tag on housing or walking 1.3 miles across dangerous rocks.

Puerto Rico is the birthplace of reggaeton, home of the native tainos and origin of famous celebrities like mi amor Bad Bunny. The forced relocation of Boricuas on the Island highlighted in Bad Bunny and Bianca Graulau’s documentary showcases the unjust mistreatment of native Puerto Ricans on the island.

As a descendant of Puerto Rico, it hurts to see the island I once viewed as a home being transformed by outsiders. Logan Paul, one of the most well-known celebrities that moved to Puerto Rico, continuously preaches how much he and his brother love Puerto Rico, while showing no respect for Puerto Rico’s culture, values or way of life.

As the documentary highlights, Puerto Ricans are fine with gringos on the island, but not fine with gringos controlling and changing the island. Boricuas will continue to fight for our island because just as Bad Bunny said, “This is my beach, this is my sun / This is my land, this is me.”

Giana Gerardino CM ’24 is from Brooklyn, NY. She likes Bad Bunny, skincare and binge-watching bad reality TV shows.

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