Bad Bunny is one of the biggest stars in the world right now with his latest album reaching number one on the Billboard 100 charts and he plays a villain to Brad Pitt in the new movie release “Bullet Train.”
Bad Bunny, whose real name is Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, also is a champion of Puerto Rico and has not been afraid to criticize the government there. People on the island have struggled with power and water outages even before Hurricane Maria hit in 2017.
This month Bad Bunny booked El Choli, San Juan’s largest indoor arena, for three nights straight, to kick off the tour for his latest album, Un Verano Sin Ti.
“LUMA pal el carajo,” he said at the concert, telling the electric company to go to hell.
He also had some choice expletives for Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi and other politicians.
Then he told cheering fans, “El país es de nosotros.Y nosotros somos l’ que tenemos el control. (The country is ours. And we are the ones who have control.)”
Bad Bunny has addressed the power outages in his song, “El Apagón,” or “The Blackout.”
There’s been a recent privatization of the electric company and huge rate increases, which led to residents protesting this summer in San Juan. There also are concerns about gentrification of the island with mainlanders coming in and buying up property.
At the same time, there is debate in the U.S. Congress about the future of the island and whether Puerto Ricans will vote in a plebiscite in fall 2023 to become a state, independent or keep the current status or a version of it.
Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but many feel as if they are treated as second class citizens.
I went to Puerto Rico this summer and experienced some of the infrastructure failures. In the house where I stayed, the water went out twice and there was a boil water order the entire week. I also was stuck in a 2.5 hour traffic jam to go three miles in Old San Juan when police shut down the streets for a festival with no plan to get traffic in and out of the area.
I tried to ask a police officer if we could be allowed to pass through a street to get to our lodgings as I was traveling with my 85-year-old mother. “You can walk,” he said.
These are minor inconveniences compared to what people on the island live with daily. There is federal funding to work on the electric grid but much debate about how to spend it.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has allotted $9.4 billion to restore and protect Puerto Rico’s failing power network. Activists want to put solar panels on the roofs of every home and say that green energy is the future of Puerto Rico. But they face opposition from some elected officials.
“Energy must be understood as a common good and a human right, rather than imposing a privatization model based on market forces,” argues Queremos Sol, one of the activist groups.
Residents on the island pay more than double for electricity than the average mainland home.
Activists also want to revoke the contract of LUMA, owned by Canada’s ATCO group and U.S.-based Quanta Services. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee is investigating the electric grid problems in Puerto Rico.
Bad Bunny told fans that Puerto Rico is the only place he plays where he has to install his own electric system.
“It’s crazy that I tour the whole world, and what I’m going to tell you now is not a joke, the only place where I show up, and I have to put like 15 industrial power plants it’s here…because I can’t trust Puerto Rico’s electrical system,” the performer said at a recent concert.
Maybe this artist can rally the people of Puerto Rico and garner enough worldwide attention to change the system in Puerto Rico.