Sara Corbett continues the Times continuing and recent fascination with reggaeton with her profile of San Juan superstar Daddy Yankee for the Sunday Times Magazine. The story follows DY on his return to Puerto Rico after a tour. I was left with the impression that the Times had a reporter interview a Spanish-speaking star, in Puerto Rico, in ENGLISH. The Times– makes the point that English is his second language:
“Two years ago he couldn’t hold a conversation in English,” says Edwin Prado, Yankee’s San Juan-based attorney and business manager. “But the kid is disciplined. He learned it quick.”According to Prado, Yankee asks him to practice media interviews in English during the three-hour-plus flights they regularly take between New York and San Juan. Perhaps as a result, Yankee comes off as polite, articulate and polished to a high gloss.
It seems that Ms. Corbett might have presented a different (less polite and polished?) Mr. Yankee had she interviewed him in his native language (the language of the island that is the story’s background and the language of a large portion of the populace of the New York region– as noted in the 1999 Times artilce,”To Talk Like New York, Sign Up for Spanish.”)
Oddly, this essay by Ms. Corbett, in which she tells of studying Spanish in Salamanca, Spain, suggests that she has learned Castellano:
On a rainy May afternoon, I stood up and gave my farewell speech in Spanish, surprised by the emotion that welled up in me, the powerful gratitude I felt toward my teachers and fellow students. I’d love to tell you what I said to them, but I can hardly remember it. The words just poured out of me.
Journalists working in the Spanish-speaking world do not HAVE to be fluent Spanish speakers– and they certaintly do not need be Latinos. Nevertheless, I suspect that Times readers would have read a more thorough story had the Magazine assigned a reporter more fluent with Puerto Rico’s language and culture.
Some notes on reggaeton’s rise to prominence:
The same politicians who were shunning reggaetón are now campaigning to it,” Rivera says. “It’s gotten that popular.” Daddy Yankee, in particular, has become an icon of Puerto Rican pride. “Until maybe two years ago, the older generations were not claiming reggaetón at all,” Rivera says. “It’s only very recently that there seems to be a consensus that reggaetón represents Puerto Ricans properly to the rest of the world.”
The music’s growth on mainland America has contributed to a mini-revolution in radio programming. Last year, Clear Channel switched four of its English-language stations in major markets like Houston and Miami to a Hispanic-urban format called Hurban, featuring reggaetón and Latin hip-hop. Univision Radio similarly has converted seven of its Spanish-language stations from more traditional Latin music like merengue and salsa to a reggaetón-driven format known as La Kalle. Reggaetón’s kinship with hip-hop seems to have helped it jump many of the regional fences traditionally dividing the Latin music market, where in the U.S., Mexican-derived music has long ruled the West Coast and Caribbean music has dominated the East. “It’s unified the Latin masses,” Daddy Yankee told me, adding that he believes reggaetón is especially popular with second-generation immigrants, even those who don’t speak Spanish. “The music makes them feel Latino,” he said. “It’s in their heart.”