Bad Bunny’s Latest Music Video Doubles as a Documentary on Gentrification in Puerto Rico
Amid Hurricane Fiona, the artist combines his music with an 18-minute film by reporter Bianca Graulau
“Maldita sea, otro apagón” (“Damn it, another blackout”) is a lyric from global reggaeton superstar Bad Bunny’s “El Apagón,” a track from his latest album, Un Verano Sin Ti. It’s also an apt description of what Puerto Ricans endured this week, as Hurricane Fiona ripped through the island and caused its power grid to fail.
Bad Bunny, who grew up in public housing in Puerto Rico’s Vega Baja, has long incorporated commentary on social and political issues in Puerto Rico—including gender inequality, transphobia, gentrification and colonialism—into his music. On Friday, just before Fiona made contact with the island, Bad Bunny released his most explicitly political work yet: a music video for “El Apagón” that transitions into an 18-minute documentary about Puerto Rico’s power grid failures, gentrification and colonialism.
“I hope people in PR can watch my video before the lights go out,” Bad Bunny posted to his Instagram story on Friday. As of this writing, the video has over six million views, which is perhaps unsurprising for the global sensation whose latest album just spent its 11th week at the top of the Billboard 200.
In the video, “El Apagón,” a song already political in its own right, is paired with breathtaking drone footage of Puerto Rico’s beaches and clips of residents dancing in the streets. About one minute in, the music is abruptly interrupted with a brief report by freelance journalist Bianca Graulau on Puerto Rico’s recurring blackouts, which, she explains, have worsened since the power grid was placed in the private hands of Luma Energy. Joyful footage of Puerto Ricans dancing at a Bad Bunny concert runs for the rest of the song.
Graulau, an independent Puerto Rican journalist who has amassed a following on social media for her independent reporting on her island’s socioeconomic and political issues, takes over again for the documentary portion of the video, which is called “Aquí Vive Gente” (“People Live Here”). She begins her report in the home of a woman named Maricusa Hernández, who is sitting at a table with two other Puerto Ricans and discussing gentrification. “They’re displacing native Puerto Ricans,” says Hernández.
The documentary tells numerous personal stories: Hernández, the viewer learns, has lived in her apartment building for 26 years, but she received a 30-day vacate notice when her building was purchased by a new owner and rent skyrocketed. Laura Mía González was a victim of the same series of events. Jorge Luis González, a longtime resident of public housing neighborhood Puerta de Tierra, has seen schools close and neighbors kicked out. “Public housing projects are the heart of Puerta de Tierra,” he says. “If they remove us, Puerta de Tierra will die.”
These personal stories of gentrification and displacement are then situated in their larger context: Incentivized by major tax breaks available to new residents, individuals and companies have been coming to Puerto Rico, buying up real estate and raising rents.
In its last seven minutes, “Aquí Vive Gente” turns its attention to the privatization of Puerto Rican beaches and protests against it. By law, Puerto Rican beaches are public property, but developers have increasingly attempted to privatize them. In Rincón, a condominium began building a private pool right next to the beach last year, which sparked protests and a legal battle. (A court eventually ruled that the development violated the law.)
The documentary ends with footage of activists demolishing the pool themselves earlier this year. As they celebrate their victory in the face of privatization and gentrification, the end of “El Apagón” plays again. “I don’t want to leave here,” Bad Bunny’s partner, Gabriela Berlingeri, sings in Spanish. “This is my beach. This is my sun. This is my land. This is me.”
After the video’s release, Graulau shared her gratitude on Instagram. “What an honor to be trusted to tell the stories of our communities, to have the opportunity to work with such a talented team of people, and to have your support to do this work,” she wrote in a post. She also thanked Bad Bunny for “sharing your platform and supporting independent journalism.”