La Brega

1. “Preciosa” — The Other Anthem

For over a century, Puerto Rican musicians have been influential across the hemisphere. From the Harlem Hellfighters of WWI who helped develop jazz to the reggaetoneros who dominate today’s charts, Puerto Rican music is everywhere. We start the season with the island’s most celebrated composer Rafael Hernandez, who wrote beloved songs like “Lamento Borincano,” “Ahora Seremos Felices,” and “Perfume de Gardenias” – and one of the island’s unofficial anthems, “Preciosa.” It’s a love song written for Puerto Rico that praises the island’s beauty and, remarkably, also calls out the forces that oppress it.

When Bad Bunny exploded onto the scene and became the most-streamed artist in the history of the world, it became undeniable that Puerto Rican lyrics – the poetry of what people sing about, the bregas in every chorus – resonate all over the hemisphere. In September, he put out a music video for his hit “El Apagón,” (“The Blackout,”) which then turned into a mini-documentary about gentrification – the way people from the states are taking advantage of tax benefits and displacing Boricuas. It’s called “Aqui Vive Gente" ("People Live Here").

“El Apagón,” has become somewhat of an anthem – an installment in the long tradition of Puerto Ricans singing about home, longing and belonging, popularized by Rafael Hernandez. But Bad Bunny isn’t singing about yearning for Puerto Rico – his music is often about never even leaving in the first place. It’s about staying, and creating a future for Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico. If the video’s Youtube comments – declarations of solidarity – are any indication, his music has touched on something deeply relatable across Latin America.

Learn more about the voices in this episode:• Myzo, the singer from the plane• Bobby Sanabria, Grammy-nominated bandleader and educator• Elena Martínez, folklorist at City Lore and the Bronx Music Heritage Center• Watch Marc Anthony’s performance of “Preciosa”• Watch Bianca Graulau’s documentary “Aquí Vive Gente” (“People Live Here”)

Our cover of “Preciosa” is by the artist Xenia Rubinos (out in March).

Listen to our Spotify playlist, featuring music from this episode – and this season. We’ll keep adding to it each week as new episodes come out.

Special thanks to Yarimar Bonilla, Tracie Hunte, Lidia Hernandez, Diego Lanao, Marissé Masís Solano, Pedro Andrade, María Luz Nóchez and Ana Reyes. Fact checking this season is by Istra Pacheco and Maria Soledad.