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3. “Suavemente” — The Merengue War

La Brega

WNYC Studios and Futuro Studios

Podcast, Puerto, San, Historia, La, De, Vieques, Juan, Rico, Society & Culture, Levittown, Noticias, Brega

4.91K Ratings

🗓️ 9 February 2023

⏱️ 41 minutes

🧾️ Download transcript


At the end of the 1990s merengue ruled supreme on the radio and television in Puerto Rico. Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente” is perhaps the most famous example — a bonafide hit that helped popularize the genre all over the world. But how did this Puerto Rican hit become the most recognizable merengue song in a genre pioneered by Dominican musicians? The road to merengue’s ubiquity in Puerto Rico was a long and complicated one. It coincides with the rise of Dominican migration to Puerto Rico and involves a cultural battle fought in nightclubs, “fiestas patronales,” and high school proms around the archipelago. Tensions around immigration and race that developed during that time remain today. Reporter Ezequiel Rodríguez Andino tells the story of merengue’s rise in Puerto Rico, the ripple effects of this “musical war,” and what it all tells us about the relationship between Puerto Rico and the people from its sister-island: the Dominican Republic. Learn more about the voices in this episode: • Alberto “Ringo” Martinez, director and co-founder of Patrulla 15 • Richie Viera, producer and owner of Viera Discos • Edgar Nevarez, trumpet player and arranger • Andres "Velcro" Ramos, DJ, producer, and MC • Watch Glorimarie Peña Alicea’s presentation “Yolas, memorias y transgresiones: La mujer y la migración indocumentada dominicana a Puerto Rico” Our cover of “No Tienes Corazón” by Patrulla 15 is by the artists DJ Velcro and Mireya Ramos (out this April). Listen to our Spotify playlist, featuring music from this episode – and this season. We’ll keep adding to it each week as new episodes come out. Special thanks this week to Marisol Andino, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, Andy Lanset, Chiquita Brujita, Lia Camille Crockett, Amanda Alcántara, Fernanda Echávarri, Emanuel Dufrasne, Elmer Gonzalez, Francisco Perez, Andres “Cucho” Perez Camacho, Tatiana Díaz Ramos, Sujei Lugo Vazquez and Otoniel Nicolas. Additional music in this episode from Yasser Tejeda. Fact checking this season is by Istra Pacheco and María Soledad Dávila Calero. This season of La Brega is made possible by the Mellon Foundation.

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Hello? Hello, Alana. Is a Kiel. Hey, what's up? Do we do the...


Yeah, we do that, do we do a reggaeton thing?


We always do.


Okay let's do it together.


One, two, three.


I'm here with Esequiel Rodriguez Andino, our team's Human Encyclopedia,


O. G. Regadero, radio professional, history detective for stories about Puerto Rico,


and what else?


Well, I'm a pop culture like a


official another and I love music so you know just have a


merit de la de la Montevencio, you know we're singing salsa stuff and other stuff of the time yeah that's why I


think that's why when you said that we're gonna go music in La Vegas season two I'm


like okay I'm ready I'm ready and for nearly two decades


ASA was also the co-host of a radio show called Frequincias Alternes


alternate frequencies it played on radio university that and had this cult following.


A ton of Puerto Rican musicians got their start there,


particularly in the independent music scene.


So when we were getting going on this season of Laurega,


the team was pretty surprised that you wanted to dig


into one of the biggest most commercial pop hits in Puerto Rican history.


So I've been there. What I want to send you to the You know the one moment for the one moment for


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