Sunday, May 11, 2014

Calle 13: Street of Controversy

Ready for Plaza Bolívar? Calle 13 performing in Venezuela. (Photo: Wikipedia)
When Canal Capital contracted the Puerto Rican pop music group Calle 13 to play on Plaza Bolivar on May 14, they hoped only to get some positive publicity.

And they've gotten more publicity than they planned on - along with lots of controversy. Ten conservative city council members, vigilant to protect Bogotanos' morals, want the concert cancelled. They say that Calle 13's music promotes drug use, violence, sexual promiscuity and insults women.

Calle 13 member René Perez in 2009 in a shirt calling
Alvaro Uribe a paramilitary.
Interestingly, Marco Fidel Ramírez, leader of the council members denouncing the morals of Calle 13, which has won numerous awards for its music, was recently the object of scandal himself. Reporters looking at Ramírez's Twitter account discovered that he was following several pornographic feeds, including one offering nude photos of teenage girls. Ramírez, who is an evangelical minister, first said that he must have signed up for the feeds by accident, and then changed his story to saying that someone must have hacked his Twitter account.

This is not Calle 13's first controversy. In 2011, the government of the Dominican Republic banned nine of the group's songs for supposedly promoting violence and drug use.

On the other hand, Calle 13, which is politically very leftist, is also known for social and political commentary in its music. One wonders, in fact, whether some of the criticism of Calle 13 could be linked to an incident in 2009 in which band member René Perez appeared on TV wearing a t-shirt calling then-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe a 'paramilitary'.

Unrelated to Calle 13's lyrics and politics, one can also question whether paying for a pop concert is really the best way for a city-owned television station to promote itself and serve the public. And, while censorship is a bad solution, particularly in the age of the Internet, that doesn't mean that the city should be in the business of promoting music which teaches questionable lessons.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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