Culture Can Be a Problem

Happy Monday, readers! Another day of life. Another day to help another soul on this journey. What a blessing.

As I took my mid-morning stroll around the neighborhood today, I listened to music on my iPhone, as I usually do. My music is an eclectic blend of Latin, Indian, Arabic, Christian, secular, and classical songs. The majority of the time, I listen to Christian music in English or Spanish and look around at the beautiful earth that God created. He made the bee that’s trying to stab me with its butt. He made the green grass that covers the ground, providing a cushion for my puppy’s paws. He constructed the clouds and forms them into various shapes for us. He’s pretty creative.

Since we’re made in His image, that means we’re also creative. God developed our minds to create insane things! I’m typing in a man-made language, on my laptop, while I’m connected to WiFi, as I sit on a couch in my house. All made by man. Incredible.

While I love creativity and thank God that He gave me the gift of writing, I recognize that our creativity can lead us down distorted paths to destruction. That escalated quickly. But, it’s really a problem for those of us who want to live Christ-glorifying lives. While I write words of life, another person is sitting on his/her laptop and writing erotic fiction which will channel lust in his/her readers. Some people sing worship songs that exalt Abba and others sing about sexual desires and activities they’d like to participate in with a total stranger they see on the dance floor. You see what I mean?

Now, typically it’s very easy for me to refrain from listening to sexual music. In fact, I refuse to listen to English pop songs if they have sexual undertones (which they typically do), but I’ve noticed something about my Spanish music choices. I’m half Puerto Rican which means I love Salsa and Bomba music, but I tend to enjoy my Dominican neighbors’ Bachata music as well. Listening to music in Spanish makes me feel connected to my culture and my Latino hermanos y hermanas (brothers and sisters). But, it becomes a problem when the sexual songs that the Latin music industry pumps out begin to reignite old flames of lust within me.

Let’s take a gander at this popular Latin song:

  1. The number one song in America is “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi (he sang at my mom’s friend’s wedding before he made it big #NoLie) and Daddy Yankee. Both of these Puerto Rican men are well known for their music and I was initially THRILLED to see two Rican men reach the number one spot on the charts! Yes! Representation! All good, right? Not quite.

“Despacito” infects our brains with its catchy tune and delightful rhyming, but the lyrics prove to be pretty dangerous to a person struggling with lust.

Spanish:

Despacito 
Quiero respirar tu cuello despacito 
Deja que te diga cosas al oído
Para que te acuerdes si no estás conmigo

Despacito
Quiero desnudarte a besos despacito
Firmo en las paredes de tu laberinto
Y hacer de tu cuerpo todo un manuscrito (sube, sube, sube)
(Sube, sube)

 

English:

Slowly
I want to breathe your neck slowly
Let me tell you things in your ears
So that you remember when you’re not with me
Slowly
I want to undress you with kisses slowly
Sign the walls of your labyrinth
And make your whole body a manuscript
Turn it up turn it up….. turn it up, turn it up

When a song has a catchy tune, it’s really hard to resist listening to it. It’s even harder when you feel pressured to engage in this practice because it’s ascribed to your culture. This blog post isn’t fully about the sexualization of Latin youth culture, because that would take ages to write, but I’ll touch on it here.

When you think of a Latin woman, what do you think of? Does this woman have a college degree? Is she kind, compassionate, Christ-serving, and humble? Or do you think of a curvaceous figure, a wild temper, and fiery passions? I’ll assume the latter. This stereotype occurs in our minds because of the way the worldwide media has portrayed Latinas.

We’re sexual objects. We exist for the pleasure of men. 

We may not outright say these things, but the songs we sing about Latin women say otherwise.

So, songs like “Despacito” are not just fun dance songs. They add to the painful and dangerous rhetoric that Latinas are only good for their bodies and that we enjoy being objectified in this way.

 

In addition to objectifying women, this song and countless others that are similar actually reignite old lusts that you may be trying to kill, with the help of the Holy Spirit. When you hear those sexual words, you may remember old trysts you had before you knew Christ. You may imagine dancing sexually with your crush to these songs. You may actually become physically aroused.

While walking around the neighborhood, listening to “Despacito”, “Safari”, “Propuesta Indecente”, “Solo Por Un Beso”, and “Hasta El Amanecer”, I began to slowly realize that the youth in my culture are hyper-sexualized. We are force fed these songs until we no longer need to be forced to enjoy them. We openly indulge in these sexual songs and we wonder why so many of our young girls are becoming pregnant and our young boys are becoming fathers before they turn 18. These songs have infected the culture so deeply that they are now synonymous with Latin culture. So, for a young Latina growing up in New York, I knew that to be Latina meant to be sexy, to dance, to wear tight clothes, and to be free with my sexuality, using it to emasculate men. These songs encourage that behavior. 

Because I follow Christ, the Holy Spirit in me rejects these songs and the portrayals of sexuality that they offer. Yet, breaking with them has been so difficult because they are indeed connected to my culture. Of course the Puerto Ricans of the 1960s would never have promoted a song like “Despacito”, but something has happened to the youth in these recent times. They are now dictating the future of our culture and it terrifies me.

I love culture and will always give a cultural practice the benefit of the doubt, unless it clearly goes against Scripture and human rights. We’re all different and that’s a thing to celebrate. But, my spiritual eyes have been opened to this aspect of my culture and even though it’s so enticing, I must break with it. In this respect, my culture is a problem. The Lord’s word supersedes Puerto Rican culture and I must honor Him first. I am Christian before I am Puerto Rican.

 

Blessings.

 

Gabrielle G.

 

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