Photo Credits – @WCU_CESW on Twitter.
On Thursday, Sept. 29, the 14th annual WCU Latinx Communities Conference commenced at Sykes Student Union. The day’s main event was keynote speaker, Kat Lazo, a producer, host, internet personality and proud Peruvian-Columbian New Yorker.
Lazo became known from her work on the Mitú YouTube Channel, which had caused a ‘disruption’ on the platform. She said that had received hateful comments on her videos, but the comments had been left by her own community. She referred to these commenters as her ‘primos,’ her cousins. As a result, she created a new show titled “Kat Call” in which she addressed these comments by debunking Latinx taboos and educating her audience on relevant issues, including fatphobia and colorism. Since then, Lazo has been working on other projects including a MTV documentary about the music genre — reggaeton.
The keynote speech focused heavily on Reggaeton, which had originated in Puerto Rico, and took influence from other regions including Jamaica, Panama and genres including hip-hop. Lazo Said that her speech had been significantly changed since just last week when Puerto Rico had been hit by Hurricane Fiona, which had subsequently caused a blackout on the island. Kat said that she has family, friends and community on the island, and therefore she felt impacted by the event.
Her message then became an address- or even a callout about how disrespected Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans are because of tourism, white savior ideology and the erasure of culture and cultural origins. Lazo remarked, “This island has birthed so much culture. Folks visit this island as if it’s their own playground. I think it’s important to respect what this island has given you, like the music and beaches, but also respect the people who live on the island.”
Reggaeton has become a major music genre globally, with one of the biggest names out there, Bad Bunny, being at the forefront. Lazo reflected how the popularization of reggaeton and erasure of its origins has caused people to forget, or not even be familiar with the roots of the genre. Puerto Rico had been the birthplace of Reggaeton, where it was also eventually criminalized by the “Iron Fist.” Police and SWAT teams had been attempting to go after “criminals and drug lords,” and so listening to reggaeton would be considered a threat. However since then, reggaeton has become popular on a major scale.
Lazo referenced Bad Bunny’s music video-documentary, titled El Apagon (power-cut) as a callout to really “[force] people to respect the island, not just what it gives you.” While it features the upbeat reggaeton style of music, it is also pieced together with clips that show the spirit, as well as the fight, of Puerto Rican people, as they face economic, social and physical hardships.
Lazo then went on to describe how the spirit of the Puerto Rican community was the backbone of hope when rebuilding the island. She then showed a video following the hurricane in which we see the hope that the Puerto Ricans had for their community to be rebuilt. She also rejected the idea of “white saviors,” and said that the best way to help the people of Puerto Rico was to donate to the services and the people who are already on the island.
Dr. Johannes, one of the organizers of this event also touched on the embodiment of community in her speech about this year’s conference theme, Intergenerational Relations. She said, “Intergenerations connects us to our future through the children in our community, through the teaching and learning that we do as educators, it also connects us to our past and our history through the stories we hear from our parents and their parents… Living a life where we can cultivate intergenerations is a great privilege and one that we don’t take for granted as a Latinx community.”
As a final remark, Lazo said, “Love reggaeton with as much love as you have for the people.” An important reminder of being thoughtful of cultural origins and the communities met with hardships whose culture you are celebrating.
More information about Kat Lazo can be found at her website, https://katlazo.com/
Kelly Wallace is a second-year Media & Culture major with a minor in Journalism. KW978394@wcupa.edu