Latin America: An Institutional and Cultural Survey

Asynchronous Blog Post on La Playa D.C. or Black in Latin America: Cuba

Asynchronous Blog Post


1. Rent the film La Playa D.C.  (Juan Andrés Arango, 2013) or watch the documentary Black in Latin America: Cuba (Henry Louis Gates, 2011).

2. Pick ONE of the following options and respond in the comment section down below. The deadline is 10/28 before the class.


“What makes hip-hop unique among popular musical genres is the way it relates to everyday life. In reflecting on poverty, inequality, exclusion, and discrimination; claiming a positive identity based on these conditions; and offering musical, linguistic, and corporal tools for commenting on them, it transcends the bounded sites where it is practiced and participates in a symbolic network that circulates globally. However, hip-hop is also markedly local, in that lived experience is rearticulated in the contents of rap lyrics, which speak to the daily concerns of its practitioners; and in graffiti and breakdancing, which occupy and resignify the streets and neighborhoods where they are performed. (Page 121)

-Arlene B. Tickner, “Aquí en el Ghetto: Hip Hop in Colombia, Cuba, and Mexico”

Reflecting on the film through this quote from Tickner’s essay, examine how Tomás and his brothers in La Playa D.C. participate from hip hop’s “symbolic networks” in Bogotá, rearticulating practices in their impoverished neighborhood.

*Remember to think about hip hop beyond music and rap lyrics.*


Tickner defines “vernaculization” as “the modes of cultural production  [that] are re-inscribed in diverse contexts, where they acquire new meaning. Although a series of underlying themes define hip-hop as a global commodity, the way it is appropriated in different settings are intimately linked to how specific social actors, primarily marginal youth, experience the world and the places they occupy in it.” (Page 122)

Reflecting on the last section of the documentary through this quote from Tickner’s essay, elaborate on the processes of hip hop “vernaculization” in Cuba and how musicians and rappers have been using the genre to expose a critique of institutional notions of racial equality.


Thinking of Hip Hop as a lyrical art, write a reflection poem about your takeaways from La Playa D.C or Black in Latin America: Cuba.


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about La Playa D.C or Black in Latin America: Cuba, do you want to bring into the discussion?

27 thoughts on “Asynchronous Blog Post on La Playa D.C. or Black in Latin America: Cuba”

  1. Option 2 : Tickner defines “vernaculization” as “the modes of cultural production [that] are re-inscribed in diverse contexts, where they acquire new meaning. Although a series of underlying themes define hip-hop as a global commodity, the way it is appropriated in different settings are intimately linked to how specific social actors, primarily marginal youth, experience the world and the places they occupy in it.” (Page 122)

    Elaborate on the processes of hip hop “vernaculization” in Cuba and how musicians and rappers have been using the genre to expose a critique of institutional notions of racial equality.

    Hip hop first started as a spontaneous form of cultural expression in afro American, Puerto Rican, and afro Caribbean neighborhoods there is spread through by the music industry to the rest of the world. Eventually, it reaches Cuba where it becomes its own thing from the U.S where it adapts to its cultures, language, and environment. In Cuba, Hip hop was used to eliminate division there from the Latino and the afro music. It was also utilized to talk about problems in Cuba like racism through the lyrics and they would do this in for example the Havana festival where foreign press reporters were there and once they listen to it would write something about as they would talk about racial discrimination and class difference. While they cannot do this directly as it would be considered a sign of protest and discontent would usually get you killed. They had no other choice but to have it interpreted by foreigners.

  2. Option 2:
    The term hip hop originated in New York when drastic economic changes led to the birth of hip hop. However, “hip hop” was already created by the African Americans in Cuba, Brazil, and Haiti shown in the documentary (Gates, 2011) at 2:30. Their form of hip hop has a cultural meaning. It is to celebrate and respect their common God, which has different names in different countries. I agree with Tickner’s definition of vernacularization. When people heard the term hip hop, they would think about singing and dancing. However, it is also about words and body language. Rappers would write about experiences in, “marginality, poverty, violence, and discrimination,” (Tickner 124). As the popularity of hip hop grew, people also became more aware of the situation many African Americans are in and this can lead to a change in their behaviors towards African Americans.


    In Cuba, music has been a method for Cubans to express themselves and embrace their African origins and ancestors. For example, son music was illegal because of its black elements, but now Cuba embodies the sound and roots of this music. However, racial issues continued to be censored in the arts and pushed aside. Now, the youth are utilizing hip-hop to talk about their experiences with racism and critique the government’s silence. Hip-Hop artists like Sue Andres are writing songs about racism in Cuba. Despite his music being banned, he and other rappers continue to persist. They refuse to push racial discrimination aside as it has been for years, and instead, they will continue to write music to keep racism in the consciousness of their generation in the hope more people will speak up.

    1. I agree with you, Laura. We can’t forget how the cultures between Haitians and the Cubans interacted with each other. In a way, they even blended together. They picked the music and dancing to survive slavery and “escape for a moment”. Black in Latin America expresses Castro in Cuba and how he believed “socialism will put an end to the racism”. Cubans expressed their “soul” through music, some even included powerful lyrics on what Cuba is like. The documentary explains that it was not legal 84 years ago even in Havana. The “mestizo” heritage started here the concept of blended culture and background. Playing an important role nowadays since we see more and more cultures blend together. Cuban mixed their guitar/trumpet skills with African drums and built a new era of music. Despite the risk, these artists took they continued to express themselves.

  4. Option 2
    Musicians and rappers use “Vernacularization” in Cuba. They go through the process by using the hip hop genre. Their music exposes the racial inequality that they experience living in Cuba as black people. They are the voice for the black people in Cuba who face racial inequality as well. Hip Hop musicians are fighting to have their voices heard. Speaking out about these inequalities is a risk for the musicians. Cuban authorities don’t approve of the topics that the rappers are so vocal about. The musicians take the risk because they want to be sure the public is aware of the problem. They want to highlight the seriousness of the issue.

    One of the rappers states, in time stamps 50:37-50:46, “When you accept your reality, at least you have the courage to face what is happening and at least you can begin working on how to fix it”. The musicians take this brave stance because they want for their situation to change. They want equality for all black people in Cuba. They want real significant change to happen. They want to be seen as equal, treated as equal, and for their culture to be accepted. Ultimately, hip hop musicians are using their art to achieve racial equality.

  5. In Cuba many rappers and kinds of hip-hop artist used their art to shine light on the racial inequality in Cuba, as well as using hip-hop as a way to integrate their African culture into the cuban society. Many cuban artist have been wrongfully silenced by the government. Those that try to “discredit” or “disrespecting” the governments corruptness are being banned from speaking up and bringing awareness to the injustices going on in their country.
    The internal racism in Cuba grew after the Cuban Missile Crises as well as other wars Cuba fought in, it only divided the country in farther (race wise)and left most of the country in poverty.Most of the white cubans that left during the revolution were now living in America, and helping those back home. The rest of the cubans who didn’t have anyone to help financially were left to fend for themselves. These were this issues many rappers and hip-hop artist were expressing through the music that was unfortunately silenced. Them wanting to bring awareness to their countries poverty and struggles but were silenced instead of helped. This gave the artist something more to add on to their music, their ignorance of the situation.

  6. Option 2

    Son cubano was a popular genre of music, which consisted of European and African aspects. African drums were used, along with European guitars. For a long time, this style of music was prohibited in Cuba because it had something to do with Africans. If the police found out that type of music was being played, everyone would have been taken to the police station. It wasn’t allowed until Cuban president Gerardo Machado supported it and made it okay. Racial issues were also censored in Cuba. Things like paintings, music, and even television were censored. Rappers were determined to stop racial discrimination through their music. In the document, Soandres is introduced as a hip-hop song writer that already had 2 of his songs banned. Even though Soandres and his team will get in a lot of trouble for creating more songs, he wants hip-hop to continue and wants the rap movement to continue as well. Soandres and other rappers are determined to continue fighting against Cuba’s racist attitudes.

  7. Option 2
    Hip Hop went through the process of vernaculization in Cuba because in Cuba hip-hop is more then just a genre a music to sing and dance along to like it is for various parts of the world . Hip-hop has a cultural meaning attached to it and is a way for these singers and rappers to embrace their African roots and culture. Furthermore, hip-hop is also being used as a means to sing about racism and specifically it’s prevalence in Cuba. Son Andres is actually one of the most popular hip-hop artists in Cuba and has two songs talking about racism in Cuba that were actually banned for even stating that racism exists. Also, the government didn’t even allow the documentary to film Andres at one of his upcoming performances showing just how tense and censored the topic of racism and critiques of Cuba’s handling of racism is. This is precisely why Andres says the hip-hop and rap movement is so important right not, to highlight the problems Cuba has because who knows for how long him and other artists will still be around to talk about these things.

  8. Option 2

    Tickner’s description of “vernaculization” is displayed through the efforts of musicians and rappers in Cuba to critique institutional notions of racial equality. Cuba, like Brazil, touts a unique environment where race is supposedly not a significant factor for the disparity in society. Cubans who feel that this is not true are usually ignored so they find special means to spread their message. Hip hop, which originated from America and has become a global form of music, serves as an important medium for these Cuban voices. Along the process, the music also takes a special shape through the artists, such as Soandres del Rio and Sekkou Messiah, who imbue their reality into their music, utilizing it as a means to have people confront their realities and hopefully act towards change. Their music’s impact is further cemented when the Cuban government criticizes and censors their work, trying to quell their influence. Cuba also has a sordid history of trying to discourage cultural practices and music with African roots and promoting its Spanish heritage instead. This makes the use of hip hop, which has Afro-American origins, even stronger to shine a light on the inequalities in a seemingly egalitarian nation that has a history of putting down particular groups among its own citizens.

    1. I agree with this gist of this, especially how in Cuba music helps express their culture and embrace their origins. Just because son music was illegal because of its black elements, Cuba really took it amount themselves to take action. The Youth took the responsibility of taking pride in their culture which is where hiphop is being put to use to put their problems in perspective for others. In some way, they’re the voice for their people who’ve been oppressed. In the doc, it introduces a hip-hop song writer that already had songs banned. So being in the radar of these people is already not good, they have created more and understand the fact that they will get in a lot of trouble for creating more songs. Sue Andres and other hip hop artists are using the music style differently than it has been and is taking notice by the people.

  9. Option 2

    Vernacularization is an adaptation of different cultural products to another culture or tradition. One of the examples of vernacularization is hip hop, hip hop was invented on streets of New York City by African Americans and Latino Americans in the 1970s and later was adapted in the countries of Caribbean and Latin America such as, Brazil, Cuba and Haiti. In Cuba rap and hip hop was used to fight unofficial racism, which was inherited in the hearts and minds of people rather than in government or laws. Afro Cubans wrote and sang songs about racism that they face on a daily basis in Cuba. This was their only weapon against racial discrimination in Cuba, since socialist government considered any protest illegal. In Cuba vernacularization of hip hop and rap is used to fight for the rights of the racially discriminated minorities.

    1. I agree with what you said about hip hop being a form to express there oppression and would like to add on that its important to fight for your culture especially in times like this because that’s there history that will be passed down from generation to generation. This is similar to when slavery was allowed in the south of America and many slaves use to sing by whistling to communicate to many about there oppression and inequality they were feeling. Also it’s up to the people to fight back the government for things that impede their rights so they don’t have a tyranny. In the doc we see young people who have already been in trouble for making music still make more because the day they stop is when the government wins and they lose there rights.

  10. In Cuba music is used as a way to express the racial inequality and African culture within Cuba. Music used to be considered illegal by the government as a way to silence people in Cuba for speaking out against injustices they were facing. Now it is legal ever since president Gerardo Machado approved of it and ever since then people have been creating music to express their voices. Son Andreas, a popular hip-hop artist had two of his songs banned because he shed light on racism within Cuba. Though his songs were banned he still continues to go against the government and tries to make songs about racial injustice within Cuba. Artists in Cuba use their music to state that black people want to be considered equal and be able to have their voices heard.

  11. Option 2:

    In Cuba, Afro-Cubans use Hip-Hop music to celebrate their African culture, but that is not their only reason for creating songs in that genre. Racism has existed in Cuba since the early days of when slaves were needed for plantations and it continues to exist in the present because of Cuba’s controlling government that refuses to create any changes or solutions to the inferiority that Black Cubans experience. Singers and rappers are also using Hip-Hop songs as a way to expose the racism and discrimination that they experience in Cuba. Son Andres had two of his songs about racism banned which is a clear example of how the Cuban government is silencing people from revealing the truth about the injustice in the country. Therefore music, especially Hip-Hop, is used by musicians as the one way to counter racial inequality and popularize the situation because the Cuban government censors and prohibits protests related to racism.

  12. Option 2:

    Black music was seen as vulgar and needed to be repressed but the people of Cuba weren’t letting that repression happen. Son was eventually allowed to come up from the underground and become a legal form of music. The music of hip hop was used to show racial inequalities that afro-Cubans experienced in Cuba. “…these hip hop artist are determined to use there music to keep racial discrimination in the consciences of there geeration hoping to eradicate it from Cuban society forever.” Sue Andres and other hip hop artists are using the music style to talk about racism and discrimination afro-cubanos are still face to this day. This allows for discussion to happen potentially leading to change in the future. Even though they are being banned by the government these artists aren’t letting it stop their music which isn’t stopping other Cubans to go to their shows and listen to their music/message. Though discrimination in Cuba is illegal racism still exist so the fight for equality is still going on till this day so hopefully future generations of citizens, activist and musicians will continue to tear down the divide, fight for change, fight for acceptance and fight for equality for all.

  13. Option 2:
    Music is Cuba was always a sensitive area, especially genres that involved African music or instruments. The government tried to suppress such music from rising into society but failed because it was adapted by people all over the streets. Son music is a genre composed of African and Spanish elements that is later recognized because President Machado allowed songs from the genre to be played at his birthday celebration. Had he not authorized this event, Son music might still be banned in Cuba. Racial issues were censored from any form of speech and expression in Cuba so activists couldn’t address issues to the public through rap music, paintings, and television. Soandres, a hip-hop artist who was restricted from performing his two songs about racism expresses his inability to freely sing them to the audience without causing trouble for the rap movement. Performing to the public about racial issues would end any chance that the rap movement has in causing change in Cuban society and acquiring racial equality. During this time, the hip-pop genre was re-written for the movement and rappers strived for a more meaningful purpose to persist despite the criticism and backlash from the authorities as well as non-minorities. Instead of pushing aside their reality and issues, they used music to convey their messages and continue on the legacy.

  14. Option 2:
    Hip hop was invented by African Americans. Hip hop was first originated in New York and then spread around the world, and it spread to Cuba. Cuba vernaculization hip hop, which means Cuba has assimilated hip hop into their lives. Racism is a constant problem in Cuba. Many musicians and rappers express their views on racism and inequality through hip hop. And through hip hop, they criticize the government for its indifference to racism. But some music that about racist has been forbidden by the government. The Cuban government wants to suppress hip hop because the government sees it as a form of protest against them. But even though the government cracked down on hip hop, it didn’t make hip hop disappear but made hip hop more popular. Hip Hop not only expresses ideas about racial discrimination but also conveys a lot about African culture. Hip hop makes people more aware of the situation and ideas of black people. And hip Hop has revealed many truths about racism. Hip hop is an important weapon for Cubans to fight for equality because hip hop has made more people aware of the fate and experience of black people.

  15. Option 2

    Hip hop is more than just singing and dancing in some parts of the world, in Cuba it went through vernaculization. Hip hop was used in so many ways, rappers used the art of music to embrace their African roots, culture, etc. Hip hop was also used to shine light on poverty and the racial inequality endured in Cuba, as artist wanted the world/ people to realize the situation Africans were, if not still are, experiencing. Unfortunately some of these songs have been banned, and artist have been silenced by the Cuban government because they (the government) sees this as a form of protest. for example, Son Andreas, who had two of his songs banned. This just gives him more of a reason to continue to bring sbout the issues in Cuba. Although the governments overall goal was to silence the issues presented by these artists, it back fired, and more light was shining on their origins of African culture, etc.

  16. Option 2:
    Vernaculization as defined by Tickner refers to the adaptation of music originating in one country into another country’s culture and could hold a complete different meaning in said country than the country of origin. Through Tickner’s definition, vernaculization could be applied to Cuba in the early 20th centuries and even until now through the music genre of Hip Hop. Originating in New York City, hip hop quickly took North America by storm and was quickly vernaculized by the people of Cuba who saw it as an opportunity to expose racism in Cuba; a major problem at the time. To do so, musicians incorporated culture into their hip hop musical pieces, indirectly showing the inequalities and racial discrimination in Cuba. This form of culture incorporation quickly became popular and not very long after, many artists began to indirectly expose the racial discrimination on Cuba. Despite suppression from the Cuban government, the hip hop in Cuba quickly became a global window to the discriminatory notion of Cuba, allowing the world to see the inequalities of the country. This effect as a result quickly catalyzed the resolutions of racial issues throughout Cuba and incorporated hip hop into Latin and Black cultures.


    Tickner’s example of “vernaculization” is portrayed through showing the adaptation of inspired rappers in Cuba that got influenced by hip pop. Hip pop, particularly rap- was created by African Americans, and has had a big impact on Black individuals in Cuba since the uprise in hip pop.
    Vernaculization, is the affect of the adaptation of music from one culture to the next. Vernaculization has derived from Cuba solely because of Hip Hop. Cubans contributed to the adaption of hip pop by using the music genre to shine light on the not well known racism and colorism that is spread by Cuban’s in Cuba. Hip pop trending in Cuba has made a huge impact on the racism and colorism that many Latin American countries have ingrained in the culture for many years, being “anti-black” was seen as less culturally acceptable due to the affects of hip pop.

  18. Option 2:
    Hip-hop is a cultural expression invented by the Afro-Caribbean, American blacks, and Puerto Rico. Later, hip-hop spread to Cuba. Cuban musicians and rappers use hip-hop to express the racial inequality they face as blacks. The government doesn’t like people discussed this topic, but the singers still took the risk to hope that everyone would be aware of the issue of racial discrimination.Only by facing this topic can let more people realize the seriousness of the problem and strive for change and equality together.

  19. The term hip hop began in in New York when mant different people wanted to express how they truly felt with words.Rap was mainly used by the African Americans and Hispanic or Latino people. Rap can come in many different shapes in sizes and the topics are not limited to one specific category. The way it is describes in the piece is that dance was used to incorporate singing or rap.Rappers would mostly always use their personal experiences or hardships to write something meaningful to them.

  20. Option 2
    Music was a way to demonstrate one’s culture. In Cuba, hip-hop was a form of music that was used in order to spread their African culture as well as to spread knowledge of and expose racial injustice. The way Tickner defined vernacularization is a great example of how hip-hop and music were being used in Cuba in order to spread these ideals even though at the time it was not allowed and not tolerated. Over time, the influence of hip-hop in Cuba expanded and the meaning behind their music was being spread.

  21. Tickner defines “vernaculization” as “the modes of cultural production [that] are re-inscribed in diverse contexts, where they acquire new meaning. Although a series of underlying themes define hip-hop as a global commodity, the way it is appropriated in different settings are intimately linked to how specific social actors, primarily marginal youth, experience the world and the places they occupy in it.” (Page 122)

    Reflecting on the last section of the documentary through this quote from Tickner’s essay, elaborate on the processes of hip hop “vernaculization” in Cuba and how musicians and rappers have been using the genre to expose a critique of institutional notions of racial equality

    In Cuba, musicians and rappers have been using the genre to expose a critique of institutional notions of racial equality in a different form of communication to express their feelings regarding racial equality. Hip-hop is used to express what words can’t say. Sometimes, people can’t put what they feel into words, therefore, they use beats and flows to convey their feelings. Cuba has been dealing with racial discrimination since the Haitian Revolution left a shortage of sugar, because of this there were thousands of slaves imported. When Africans settled in Cuba, multiple people were against it. They didn’t like the idea that black people were a part of Cuba, but that didn’t stop black people from neglecting their roots.

  22. Option 2:
    Afro-cubans have struggled for racial equality and black music was even considered vulgar. For example the music style of son was illegal just because where it was derived from. In the documentary they meet a Hip-Hop artist Sue Andres who has a group in which they try to bring awareness to the oppression by writing songs about the hardships faced. However the issue is that these songs are cencored. The group however continues to keep writing about these problems because they know their music is meant to help inspire and help eradicate racism from Cuban society.

  23. Many rappers and other hip-hop artists in Cuba utilized their work to draw attention to racial inequalities in the country, as well as to incorporate their African culture into Cuban society. The government has unfairly suppressed several Cuban artists. Those who attempt to “discredit” or “disrespect” the government’s corruption are barred from speaking out and drawing attention to the injustices occurring in their nation.
    Internal racism in Cuba arose as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis and subsequent conflicts in which Cuba participated, further dividing the country (race-wise) and impoverishing the majority of the population.
    The majority of the white Cubans who fled after the revolution were now residing in America and assisting those who remained in Cuba. The rest of the Cubans who lacked financial support were left to fend for themselves. Hip hop not only displays racial prejudice but also reveals a great deal about African culture. Hip hop raises public awareness of black people’s plight and beliefs. Hip hop has also uncovered numerous racist facts. Hip hop has made more people aware of the destiny and experience of black people, making it a crucial tool for Cubans in their battle for equality.

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