Ever since his debut in 2016, Bad Bunny has consistently made Puerto Rico the focal point of his music. His full-length projects have communicated a story that is distinctively Boricua in both their concept and sound, consistently rooted in his own authenticity, flow, and community. Throughout his career, he has managed to preserve his originality and lyrical versatility while undertaking greater, riskier experimentation. With the release of his fifth album, Un Verano Sin Ti, on May 6, 2022, Bad Bunny succeeded in raising Puerto Rico’s profile once more. In this album, he explores a variety of themes; but mainly, his experiences with love and how he has navigated the highs and lows of romantic relationships. However, Un Verano Sin Ti not only addresses the singer’s personal relationships and experiences, but also draws attention to and criticizes current political and socio-economic issues on the island. The 16th song on the album, “El Apagón,” describes the hardships of Puerto Rican living, such as the continuous, large-scale blackouts that have taken place since category 5 Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in 2017, as well as the privatization of beaches and the arrival of US colonists.
“El Apagón” and the protests against LUMA :
Maldita sea, otro apagón
Vamo’ pa’ lo’ bleacher, a prender un blunt
Antes que a Pipo le dé un bofetón
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on the early morning of September 20, 2017, causing chaos and putting all 3.4 million of its residents in a dire humanitarian crisis. Most households and businesses were left without electricity for months, islandwide cell phone coverage was inconsistent, and supplies of clean water, food, medicine, and fuel were in extremely short supply. For some people, the battle to access these necessities still affects their daily lives five years later, to this day. Two months after the hurricane hit, less than half of the citizens had their electricity back and many people needed months to fully recover from the financial and emotional toll hurricane Maria caused. In June 2021, three years after the hurricane, a new electric power company, LUMA, was contracted to work alongside the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) in managing the island’s power. PREPA is now solely responsible for electricity generation, while LUMA oversees the transmission and distribution of electricity throughout the island.
The company, a partnership between Houston-based Quanta Services and the Canadian firm ATCO, was given a 15-year contract to deliver electricity and restore the island’s frail power grid, which was utterly destroyed by Hurricane Maria. However, despite the fact that LUMA’s presence was intended to assist Puerto Rico, the island is still suffering from the effects of the catastrophic hurricanes Maria and Irmaーwhich proves to show that this company has so far failed to improve life for millions of Puerto Rican residents.
With LUMA at the helm, islanders are frequently plagued with power outages and blackouts. Sometimes, these apagones may last days at a time. One particularly bad power outage occurred in the spring after a fire broke out at a major power plant in the city of Guayanilla, located in the southwest of the island. At least 500,000 residents were left without electricity in April, and three to five days without power resulted in the island’s education administration canceling classes and closing courts.
This corporation has been the target of endless riots and demonstrations due to the issue of the ongoing power outages. Celebrities and artists like Bad Bunny have joined the case against Luma in response to citizen complaints. Puerto Ricans are, once again, affected by poor management and corruption even after the government’s inability to follow through on its promise that LUMA will upgrade, rebuild, and modernize the island’s electrical system.
“El Apagón” and colonizers:
Yo no me quiero ir de aquí, no me quiero ir de aquí,
que se vayan ellos
In recent years, gentrification, the indiscriminate purchase of properties, their remodeling, and the increase in prices of the properties that surround them, displacing the original inhabitants of the communities, has devastated Puerto Rico. Law 20-22, now known as Law 60, was created by then-Governor Luis Fortuño in 2012 and exempts US citizens who move to Puerto Rico from paying taxes on income as long as they reside in the island for at least six months out of the year.
Troubled by gentrification, many Puerto Ricans are beginning to wonder how a society that depends on tax breaks for the wealthy can assist locals who can no longer afford to buy as much real estate. Puerto Ricans complain that it is no longer enough for them to remain in their houses as foreign investors are buying properties and raising prices. However, the arrival of wealthy people who must apply for residency to purchase a home in Puerto Rico within two years of moving has driven up housing costs and displaced the island’s current residents. Living in their hometowns is insufficient for them. Thousands of homes were severely damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017, which prompted many people to leave the island. As investors migrated from the metropolitan region to smaller villages and communities like Rincón, the real estate bubble that started in the island’s main city of San Juan has taken over the entire island.
With this song, Bad Bunny continues to spread awareness of the current Puerto Rican issues around the world. Besides being rooted in the spirit of protest against the island’s political administration, “El Apagón” is a call to action for change and a love letter to the Puerto Rico we so love.