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Despacito, That Sexist Yet Irrepressible Soul Of Reggaeton

Reggaeton singer Maluma on stage
Reggaeton singer Maluma on stage
Andrés Hoyos


BOGOTA "Despacito," the title of this summer's hit song by Luis Fonsi, means "slowly" in Spanish. Listening to it is like drinking an unsavory broth. Slowly.

It's my own silly fault really for being exposed to it, namely by opening a Spotify account and asking my children, aged 9 and 6, to create a list of songs for me. It's true, I wasn't expecting them to find Beethoven string quartets or Bach cello suites, Ravel's boleros, Cole Porter songs or even those by The Beatles. But you'd think they'd at least pick some of the music they've been hearing at home — Queen, Cat Stevens, Joaquín Sabina or even Mexico's Molotov.

No, they made playlists with artists whose names I had never heard of: Luis Fonsi, Maluma, Daddy Yankee, Wisin, J. Balvin, CNCO and the like. They all seem to be luminaries of the world of reggaeton, expect for a few like Katy Perry and Bruno Mars. They did, however, include a song they love by Leonard Cohen. Hallelujah! Bless him, the great Leonard.

I read that reggaeton emerged from the poor districts of Puerto Rico. I can understand that its lyrics, consequently, will not be filled with metaphors, lyricism or sophisticated allusions. But they don't really address social problems, racism or politics either. No, these songs are just about sex from the male perspective. Anything else — and there is little else — is peripheral.

The world of reggaeton is as sexist as that of the Wild West cowboys.

A little attention paid to the lyrics can help a person understand why there are so many teenage pregnancies in Latin American countries. The leitmotif in these songs — with slight variations — is: there is a big fiesta (partyyyyy...), and baby, or mami or mamita, ends up in bed with a guy! But there is no romantic breakfast the next day, just awkward stumbling to clear the bottles they've left lying about.

"What's your name?" as one song goes. "I dunno. Where did you come from? Didn't ask.."

The world of reggaeton is as sexist as that of the Wild West cowboys who stand, shoot and walk away. Surely there must be some female reggaeton singer somewhere, calling men papiand singing lyrics like "your love was like a Kleenex I threw away ..." I have yet to hear it though.

"Despacito" singer Luis Fonsi Photo: Andre Kang/El Nuevo Dia/ZUMA

But here's the thing. I will not deny that reggaeton is catchy. I sometimes wake up at night and hear Fonsi's "Despacito" echoing in my head, with its obstinate, thumping rhythm. It won't go away. The video of the three Italians mocking the song, which went viral on YouTube, was spot on. They hate the song but cannot stop singing it and moving to its infectious rhythm. It's a musical ghost from which one cannot escape.

How long will this wave of repetitive music last? How many mamis will be dragged willingly into bed by these walking testosterone bags who disappear into thin air the next morning? Quite a few, I imagine, since reggaeton has an irresistible beat perfectly suited to the perpetual excitement of adolescence. So yes, roll over Beethoven.

Could this genre benefit at all from speaking of something other than quick, easy sex? Who knows? Going back to my children, I am trying to get them to put together an "experimental" playlist. The idea is, it should contain anything but reggaeton. I'm hoping for Ed Sheeran, Queen, Adele, whatever takes their fancy. No judgment.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

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Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

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