On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. It undoubtedly changed the way everyone on the island continued with their so-called “normality”. There are many stories that have been told. Yet, there are many, many more to tell –it was a tragedy after all, and I will get to that in a few.
A year later, Lin-Manuel Miranda, best known for the popular musical Hamilton, released a Hamildrop solely about and for Puerto Rico and our post-Maria life. A Hamildrop is extra content for the Hamilton musical released monthly. This month, the Hamildrop consisted of the song “A Forgotten Spot (Olvidado)” and it features Puerto Rican singers De La Ghetto, Zion y Lennox, Ivy Queen, PJ Sin Suela and Lucecita Benítez. For many of us, this seems like a random mix, but it somehow manages to fit perfectly.
“YOUR SEPTIEMBRE #HAMILDROP: For the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, I cut a sample for @itsTROOKO. Then we gave the mic to legendary ?? artists: Zion & Lennox, De La Ghetto, Ivy Queen, PJ Sin Suela & Lucecita Benitez. Here’s A Forgotten Spot (Olvidado) https://t.co/VBaypfRq6r”
— Lin-Manuel Miranda via Twitter (@Lin_Manuel) September 20, 2018
The song begins with Lin-Manuel’s repetition of the phrase, “A forgotten spot in the Caribbean”, which is actually a phrase from the introduction song in the Hamilton musical, “Alexander Hamilton”. But, in this case, it refers to the island of Puerto Rico. As a hymn of hope, pride and indignation, the song alludes to the strength and determination of Puerto Ricans. The first example of this setting and feel that would go on throughout the song is De La Ghetto saying “prefiero morir luchando, que vivir la vida sin hacer na’” (I rather die fighting than live life doing nothin’) not even a minute into it. First things, first! The second being Zion y Lennox in the chorus boasting about Puerto Ricans and their fighting spirit which maintains such as a big theme in the song.
And then you hear the coquíes. The ringing of our lovable native frogs is recognizable and it’s often the sound we miss the most when we’re not in Puerto Rico. I know many ‘diasporicans’ (Diaspora + Puerto Ricans) who couldn’t sleep for weeks since there wasn’t a single coquí to lull them to sleep. Even living in a rural area, having dozens around, I instantly smiled and thought, “I can hear Puerto Rico singing”.
Ivy Queen’s verse makes reference to the high feeling of indignation. Puerto Ricans have been blinded by lies and promises. 2,900+ lives were lost in the process due to inept, unreachable services mid-crisis. Despite the song’s vivid tune, Ivy Queen does sing, “Aunque sabemos que el sol no se tapa con un dedo; el boricua es guerrero” (Even though we know the sun cannot be covered with a finger; the boricua is a warrior). The popular expression is used to represent how the country was and still is affected, how the damage can be seen to this day. There’s no denying Puerto Rico needs a lot of work despite the time passing. The point of the song is to lift spirits up towards a hopeful path. Considering the mental health of Puerto Ricans, we need a little happy boost even if it’s just for five minutes.
PJ Sin Suela sets a descriptive image of what the passing of the hurricane was like. He spoke about the howling rainfall to the mental health decline in Puerto Rico. He also spoke about how there were around 3,000 deaths, which were swept aside by Trump. This brings me to Lucecita Benítez, who describes an orange, despicable person that lacks courage who tossed rolls paper towels mid-crisis. Sound familiar? Benítez mentions the feelings of being abandoned and disrespected that many of us have felt since that 20th. Remembering once again the death and destruction the hurricane caused, the song goes back to Lin-Manuel repeating, “A forgotten spot in the Caribbean” and Benítez, repeating as well, “Yo estuve aquí, y sigo aquí” (I was here, I’m still here).
Like I mentioned before, there are many narratives, so it’s possible the song won’t cater to everyone’s thoughts. Yet, in the light of a year of many struggles, a lot of Puerto Ricans can agree something has been wrong in the way we’ve attempted getting back up as a whole. The song’s hope and strength is a beautiful thing to keep in mind when things keep getting ugly over and over again. It validates our indignation (not that validation is needed, but it’s good it’s portrayed in a public light). Is it a miracle solution to all of Puerto Rico’s post-Maria problems? No. Does it treat PTSD, fix schools or provide housing? Sadly, no, but it is being used to promote the donation to the Hispanic Federation (“or the non-profit of your choice” said Lin-Manuel himself). Think of the song like a flyer that gives you reasons to do something. It serves as one of our many voices, expressing some of our many thoughts in a brilliant manner.
That makes it pre-tty good.
You can listen to the song in the streaming services here.