#RickyRenunciado: How Bad Bunny and Other Latin Artists Used Their Platform to Force Roselló Out of Office

BY JULIA WESTBROOK

Latin trap star Bad Bunny left his Europe tour last month to protest alongside hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, demanding the resignation of corrupt Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Roselló — a movement which followed the scandalous leak of his allegedly sexist, racist, and homophobic group chat.

PHOTO: Bad Bunny /  Instagram

PHOTO: Bad Bunny / Instagram

We are living in a time where pop culture and music seem to blend into the world of politics and government. Stars often claim the title of “activist” along with their creative reputation. With a former reality TV star as President of the United States, it’s no wonder that other public figures are starting to take the stage for positive societal change, and not just on Twitter. Most recently, Bad Bunny returned home to publicly oppose and ultimately take down his governor.

The recent massive mobilization of the Puerto Rican people was catalyzed by an infamous scandal now referred to as “Telegramgate.” A group chat between the governor and several aides and members of his cabinet was leaked from the messaging app Telegram and published by local news outlets on July 8, 2019. Subsequently Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published around 900 pages of the private group chat. The leaked chat included sexist and homophobic insults, and even targeted victims of the devastating Hurricane María — a disaster the island is still recovering from.

Upon release of this chat, the people of Puerto Rico and diaspora populations came together to protest the immoral leadership of Roselló. Telegramgate protestors utilized various methods of protest, including internet and social media activism, graffiti, and protest art. Massive street protests arose, reaching up to 1 million people at a single event on July 17. That same day, Puerto Rican artists Bad Bunny, Residente, and iLe collaborated to release a surprise track titled “Afilando los Cuchillos,” in English “Sharpening the Knives,” in support of the protests.

Bad Bunny’s verse in the song held strong words for Roselló with a tone likely much different than when he and fellow star Residente showed up unannounced for morning coffee to the Governor’s mansion in San Juan, La Fortaleza, only six months before to politely discuss their qualms with the island’s rate of violent crime. In verse 2 of “Afilando los Cuchillos” Bad Bunny bravely calls out the corruption and lies that the people of Puerto Rico endured.

The Latinx artists’ words became the rallying cry of the Puerto Rican leadership crisis. Protestors continued to symbolically sharpen their own knives and didn’t give up.

The next day, on July 18, Bad Bunny posted photos on Instagram from the protests in front of La Fortaleza, with the caption, “Yesterday marked me forever. I had never felt so much pride in my life! However, the fight continues PUERTO RICO!” The post received over 1 million likes and an overflow of comments from his fans and Latinx activists.

Part of the protestors’ demands were accomplished early on when several of Rosselló’s staff resigned in the immediate aftermath of the leak. Rosselló, however, put up a good fight and initially refused to resign as governor. On July 21st, the tenth consecutive day of street protests, he resigned from one of his lesser positions as the president of the governing pro-statehood New Progressive Party. Rosselló also released a statement saying that he would not seek re-election in the 2020 Puerto Rico gubernatorial election.

The fight continued, amplified by the calls for change by Bad Bunny and the influential Latinx artist community. Less than one week after the massive protest and release of “Afilando los Cuchillos,” on July 22 upwards of 1 million protesters shut down a massive highway in Puerto Rico, calling international attention to their demands and weakening the resolve of the corrupt government.

Throughout the protests and re-ordering of the Puerto Rican government, protestors have been fueled by the support and bolstering of their demands on celebrities’ Instagrams and Twitter accounts.

On July 24, Rosselló finally announced that he would resign from his position as governor of Puerto Rico the following week on August 2, becoming the first elected governor to resign the post. Since his resignation, the island government has sworn in and kicked out yet another corrupt governor and has settled on the previous Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez Garced, who originally refused the position.

While the new reluctant governor of the island gets settled into her new position, she’ll know she’s under the watchful eye of the Puerto Rican people, including the influential diasporans. Bad Bunny has warned the new leadership of the island and the colonized world, “Welcome the generation of: ‘I will not let you take advantage of me.’”

Lead Image Credit: Bad Bunny / Instagram