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Despacito: The Latin American Track Touching Billions

We explore the cultural relevance of Luis Fonsi and Justin Bieber’s latin smash ‘Despacito.'

27th Jun 2017

Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Despacito has taken the world by storm, not only hitting number one in the Latin-Billboard charts, but crossing over to the US billboard charts at number 1, with the incorporation of Justin Bieber’s vocals in both English and Spanish onto the track.

Luis Alfonso Rodríguez López-Cepero more commonly known as Luis Fonsi, has given an insight into Latin American, more specifically, Puerto Rican music and culture that the Anglophone and the rest of the world can’t get enough of.

In the iconic music video, that has reached 1.6 bn views on Youtube. The viewers are taken on a tour through to La Perla, the notorious ghetto of Puerto Rico. With Luis Fonsi and the former winner of Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera walking on the rocky beach looking out to the beautiful ocean that surrounds their island. The visuals of this music video, from the location, and to the dancers, show the aim of Fonsi to teach the viewer more about his home country Puerto Rico, the people that live there whilst showing us an unfiltered view of his home. Not only are we astounded by the beauty of the island, but we can see the the diversity of Puerto Rican peoples through his dancers made up of three races, the Spanish Conquistador, the Taino Indian, and the African, and their part to play in the musical culture of the island.

What I love most about the song is that Fonsi incorporates two traditional Puerto Rican music genres. The cuatro (Puerto Rican guitar) is used during the introduction of the song, which is the national instrument of the island that has been present in the musical culture of the island for almost 400 years. This choice to begin his song, creates an effort by Fonsi to present to all listeners around the world the heart of his island, his culture and his people.

However, after the introduction the song transitions to the genre of Reggaeton. A genre with originates from hip-hop coming from the U.S., dancehall based out of Jamaica, and a type of music called reggae en español from Panama. The classification of this song as Reggaeton is solidified with the Fonsi’s collaboration with the hit Reggaetonero, Daddy Yankee more commonly known for his world-wide success Gasolina in 2004. By using both important genres to the Puerto Rican people, Fonsi takes us through the evolution of Puerto Rican music from the despacito rhythms of the cuatro, to the up-beat and infectious beat of the Perreo genre, Reggaeton.

As a fans of Luis Fonsi before Despacito, I feel extremely proud of him. He has proven to the world the beauty and power of Latin American culture, but most importantly he has made everyone feel and understand, exactly how I feel after learning the language and immersing myself in Hispanic culture. More interestingly, I believe that ‘Despacito’ has also gone on to cementing the influence of the Latino Community in the United States. Ironically, with the increase in racial attacks against black and ethnic minority communities in the states, and an increasing resentment towards the Latino Community and Spanish speakers in general in the country. Fonsi has cemented that the United States is a bilingual country, and that the Latino community, with their distinct culture and connection to the Spanish language, are visible, but more importantly are here to stay.

However, the success of this song does make me ask myself, if Despacito is a fluke? Can another Spanish language song reach the heights of success that Fonsi has been able to achieve? Only time will tell.

Watch the iconic video for ‘Despacito’ below:

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Latin Pop