Can Reggaeton Be Feminist?
For the past several years, music has taken a 180 degree turn in various genres and Latin America is the cradle of a new generation of women musicians whose lyrics address the human rights of women, children and sex workers; all lyrics that question the patriarchal and capitalist systems in which we are socialized. Music is definitely part of what we call the feminist revolution.
The Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres (Central American Women’s Fund-FCAM) spoke with Karla Ponce Lara, a member of the Puras Mujeres Collective (All Women’s Collective) from Honduras, and FCAM grantee partner. She told us about her experience and the challenges that they have lived through as a women’s music group.
How was the collective formed?
The group was formed in 2016. It was an initiative led by Karla Lara and Melissa Cardoza, two Honduran feminist artists that always had the idea to create a women’s music group. In March 2016 there was a memorial event marking the first anniversary of the assassination of Berta Cáceres and a number of women were invited, among them several artists. This was the first time we came together and there were several women who all wanted to form a band. At that time, we were a different group and it was not until later that we could bring the group together. I knew the pianist and the pianist knew the guitarist, and that’s how we started to form the group.
There are 6 chavas (young women) in the group, we play cumbia, reggae, salsa and other rhythms. Right now we have a new repertoire, but we still sing the songs from our last repertoire. All of us in the band listen to all kinds of music, so our repertoire is broad.
What inspires you to create your music?
All aspects of the struggle for women’s rights. People are really impacted by seeing only women on the stage. When we go out on stage, you can tell that people are surprised to see a pianist, a guitarist, a drummer, etc., but now seeing women as singers is “very normal.” We wanted to give the band feminine power. We are happy to see that now, we are not only taking ownership of musical spaces, but political spaces and all of the struggles as well.
What future plans does the collective have?
This year we have a few. Together we are working on “Las Lobas” (The Wolves), a musical production, which was made last year through the first encounter of Latin American women storytellers. This year, we were brought together to work on a joint music and storytelling project. We also have a collective creation workshop planned with COPINH, which will take place in March. We have a close relationship and alliance with the “Yo No Quiero Ser Violada”(I Don’t Want to be Raped) Movement, with the Centro de Derechos de Mujeres (Center for Women’s Rights-CDM), the Red de Defensoras (Women Defenders Network) and other organizations that promote the human rights of all women.
What challenges have you faced as a group of women singing feminist music?
The world of Honduran music is very masculine. At first we did feel underestimated, somewhat invisible. People close to us even looked down on us, especially Honduran musicians. We have had to earn our space. On December 30, 2018 we were invited to a collective concert for well known and recognized Honduran bands. We have made it into those spaces thanks to our music.
It’s heavy for me to say this: sometimes I explain to people that we are a men’s group, just made up of women. We are people that play instruments and sing. On social media many people have asked us what we do, what are we, what’s up with us. I ask myself if they ask the same questions of groups made up of men. I really don’t understand this line of questioning, if on our page it says that we are a group made up of women. Why do they insist? I struggle to understand it. One person even wrote to ask us to fake being his girlfriend, and of course, there is never a lack of sexually-charged messages, but fortunately that happens to a lesser degree. We’re pleased that the vast majority of people that write to us are women congratulating us.
How have people in Honduras reacted to your group and your music?
Generally they like it and they congratulate us, especially when we perform outside of the city – people are impressed to see a group of women, and their first impression pulls them in.
One thing that I have loved is seeing the reaction of girls, teenagers and young women because they look at us like they can’t believe what they’re seeing, it’s so lovely how they look at us. It affirms that right that women can also occupy this kind of space and that’s the best part of this for us.
I feel that in Honduras there is a lack of role models in various fields and professions for girls to look up to. Girls area only presented as sexual objects. For them, seeing women on stage that are not sexualized and that are empowered changes their vision, and their reaction is so special. Many of them ask us to take pictures after concerts.
Can reggaetón be feminist?
We think that reggaetón is a genre of music used by the industry with a misogynist purpose and the idea is to put women in the role of sex symbol. But we recognize that throughout Latin American history we have always had to create rhythms that make us move our bodies, like cumbia, salsa, bachata, etc. Women have always had the need to move our hips. For us, what the industry has done is recognize that need to within us to move, and they turn that into misogynist propaganda, but we are not the only ones nor are we the first women making feminist music and reggaetón. There are many women in the world doing it and we deserve music to dance to, that dignifies us and doesn’t demean us.
To learn more and listen to the group’s music, visit their social media pages:
Puras Mujeres Facebook: https://bit.ly/2NrdEux
Puras Mujeres Youtube: https://bit.ly/2Thern0