For Tokischa’s part, she seems to not have considered how the concept—built on a metaphor inspired by a sexual encounter—would be perceived once shown in the video. Paulus defended the clip by saying it only scans as offensive when removed from its original context. “Our creative process never aimed to promote racism or misogyny,” he told Rolling Stone. “The Dominican Republic is a country where most of the population is Black and our Blackness is predominant in underground scenes, where the filming took place, and which was the subject of the video’s inspiration. ‘Perra’ was a video filmed in the neighborhood, with people from the neighborhood, and the use of people of color in ‘Perra’ was nothing more than the participation of our people in it.”
Anti-Blackness in the Latin music industry
The “Perra” video also exists in the context of ubiquitous anti-Blackness in Latin American media. The clip and its backlash were merely a symptom of the way that Black people are marginalized throughout the diaspora. In music, that means the gatekeeping of certain genres—like dembow in the D.R., reggaetón in Puerto Rico, baile funk in Brazil—to suppress the voices of the people that make and listen to it. Institutionally, the most visible manifestation of this is at the Latin Grammys, itself an otherized offshoot of the biggest event in English-language music. For years, the Latin Grammys boxed out and marginalized urbano music, lifting up white pop stars and rock en español. When genres like reggaetón and Latin trap became too big to ignore, this music pioneered by Black artists was represented almost exclusively by white stars and typically excluded from the “big four” awards. Even as the Grammys make attempts at equitable representation—by introducing the Best Música Urbana Album category for 2022, by celebrating Cuban protest anthem “Patria y Vida” at this year’s Latin ceremony—they continue to take steps backward (not one Black nominee for that urbano award?). There’s no single person to blame here; everyone with power and influence is complicit. From the Recording Academy board that continues to marginalize Black artists, to the politicians who use urbano as a talking point to win the conservative electorate, to the media outlets that pretend Latin America looks as white in real life as it does on television, to the culture-vulture artists co-opting Black culture on the way to millions in sales and sponsorships, nothing will substantially change until everyone does.
If that sounds bleak, it’s because it is. But it’s not all doom and gloom: One of the industry’s bright spots this year has been the rising voice of historian and cultural critic Katelina Eccleston (the creator of “Reggaetón con la Gata”), who has continued to carve out space for Black perspectives on the community now known as “el movimiento,” both on her own social channels as well as mainstream outlets. Her viral videos for BuzzFeed helped contextualize reggaetón’s roots in the African diaspora for the young and terminally online. And “LOUD,” the Ivy Queen-narrated Spotify/Futuro Studios podcast she helped …….