That’s the best part – how global the music community can be at SXSW. Not to get too heavy too quickly, but it is very much a music business festival in Texas, a Latino place, a state with very complicated, conservative politics. When you play in a place like that, does your music take on a different political meaning?
It is complicated. But at the same time, South by Southwest can feel like an oasis in the middle of so many critical things happening. For me, music is the best life tool to connect and to heal—even if it’s just [through] dancing or listening and enjoying being present at a show.
It can also happen with political songs that speak about realities we all go through—like where I come from in Puerto Rico—and relate to that humanity, to be empathetic and find ways to be closer to each other. It’s about finding ways to feel solidarity between us, and I feel that in spaces like SXSW, having the chance to play outside of Puerto Rico, it gives me the opportunity to connect.
It seems like Puerto Rico has visibility around the world now more than ever—through amazing talent like your collaborator Bad Bunny, but also through tragedy, like Hurricane Maria. Has that been your experience?
It definitely has changed a lot. I try to express the magnitude because a few years ago, a lot of people didn’t know that Puerto Rico existed. I remember talking to some stranger, and I told him that I was from Puerto Rico, and he was like, “What is that?” Now Puerto Rico is a conversation topic. A lot of North Americans that come to the island don’t even know that Puerto Rico was a colony. But I love that everyone is acknowledging that Puerto Rico exists and is trying to find more information about our reality and what goes on here, our struggles and our culture.
In The White Lotus, in the last season, they mention something about Puerto Rico being a colony. It’s a small moment, but it’s something we’re not used to. We’re used to feeling a little isolated from the rest of the world. It’s nice to feel that people know we exist.