Music historiographer Katelina Eccleston has ever loved reggaeton.
“I person location videos [of me] dancing to El General astatine 3 years aged successful a puffy yellowish formal and achromatic shoes,” Eccleston said, referring to the legendary Panamanian reggaeton artist. “I was calved into listening to reggae en español and reggaeton by El General.”
Raised by Panamanian parents successful Boston, Eccleston is simply a arrogant Black Latina. That pridefulness successful her practice and emotion for reggaeton inspired Eccleston to springiness Afro-Latinas the spotlight they deserve.
The historiographer and creator is the laminitis of Reggaeton Con La Gata, the archetypal femme marque and level dedicated to the intersectional investigation and past of reggaeton. In summation to its biweekly newsletter, the brand’s authoritative Twitter relationship @ReggaetonXGata spotlights Black Latinas successful Reggaeton — specified arsenic La Zista, Glory “La Gata Gangster,” Amara La Negra, and much — through curated playlists, roundups of euphony manufacture quality and conversations betwixt Eccleston, artists and euphony experts.
Created successful Eccleston’s assemblage dorm room, Reggaeton Con La Gata has been featured successful Harper’s Bazaar, Remezcla, NPR and different outlets. She’s fixed impermanent lectures astatine Harvard University and produced the Spotify podcast “Loud: the History of Reggaeton.” Eccleston is simply a pb researcher connected MTV and Paramount’s forthcoming amusement “De La Calle.” The docuseries is hosted by Nick Barili and explores the “evolution of Urbano euphony and cultures that ignited the philharmonic gyration of Hip Hop, Reggaeton, Bachata, Latin trap, Cumbia, and different sounds,” according to Deadline.
Eccelston’s philharmonic acumen and upbringing is shaped by a fusion of cultures. She spent her Sundays successful an African American Baptist church, wherever she learned however to play the piano. She attended West Indian Carnival and Dominican parties wherever the dependable of bachata beats reverberated done the walls.
“I consciousness similar passim each of that, 1 happening that has ever mattered to maine was the music,” Eccleston said. At property 11 oregon 12, she remembers making the conscious determination to “choose reggaeton.” However, listening to the genre was initially off-limits for Eccleston, whose parent categorized reggaeton successful the aforesaid container arsenic coating her nails and different “grown folk” activities.
”I retrieve going to a quinces and dancing reggaeton with a household friend, and my mom’s like, ‘You don’t creation reggaeton due to the fact that that’s for older people,’” she said. “When a spiritual parent tells you you can’t person something, you conscionable privation it each the more.”
What was erstwhile off-limits to Eccleston has catalyzed her legacy.
“I person location videos [of me] dancing to El General astatine 3 years aged successful a puffy yellowish formal and achromatic shoes. I was calved into listening to reggae en español and reggaeton by El General.”
- Katelina Eccleston
“My obsession with euphony has ever been infectious successful my societal situations,” Eccleston said.
But that pridefulness successful her practice has astatine times been analyzable by anti-Blackness wrong her communities. The 27-year-old “comunicadora social” recalled pressures arsenic a kid from radical extracurricular of her household to conform to “Latinidad” — a word that loosely translates to Latino-ness and the attributes of a shared Latino individuality — due to the fact that she is darker-skinned. She said that, fortunately, her contiguous household has ever been precise pro-Black and has raised her to disregard comments specified arsenic “pelo malo,” made successful notation to kinky oregon coily Black hair.
“To overgarment a precise circumstantial picture,” said Eccleston, recounting her childhood, “in the 3rd grade, my ain peers would inquire me, ‘Are you sitting astatine the Black array oregon the Spanish table?’ It’s comic due to the fact that astatine the Spanish table, they’re each Black Latinos. I would consciously take not to beryllium astatine either, truthful I was truthful alone.”
Growing up successful precise segregated Boston, which has a salient Dominican population, Eccleston and her cousins were often the lone Panamanians successful societal settings.
For her, location was not lone a harmless haven, but a venue to stock music. In the days of Limewire and iPods, crowds of classmates would amusement up connected Eccleston’s doorstep, demanding that she big the adjacent party.
But erstwhile her begetter died by termination erstwhile she was 12, her vigor shifted.
“I was the astir depressed teenager,” Eccleston said. “I had the emo haircut. You could not get maine to halt wearing skulls, studded belts, Jordans. Around 18, I was like, ‘You cognize what? I’m alive. He’s not. I person to unrecorded my life. I don’t privation to beryllium bittersweet anymore.’ I made the conscious determination to forgive him, forgive myself for wasting my ain time, being bittersweet and being mean to myself.”
With a caller lease connected life, she sought to grow her horizons and pursued assemblage successful the Big Apple. In 2012, she started astatine the Pratt Institute, but the joys of freshman twelvemonth were curtailed by a traumatic intersexual assault. Music is what saved her, she said.
“I’m a moody listener. I’ll spell from Flyleaf and Three Days Grace to the nastiest reggaeton and backmost to Jay-Z, past backmost to the nastiest reggaeton,” laughed Eccleston. “I consciousness similar it’s the sexiest genre that’s retired there. There’s a batch of quality that comes from it — erstwhile you instrumentality isolated each of the misogyny — the volition down it and its process. I person a profound respect for it.”
In 2016, she transferred to Marymount Manhattan College to survey connection and media arts, with the extremity of becoming the adjacent Ilia Calderon, a well-known Colombian journalist. Then it dawned connected her: Eccleston didn’t privation the unit of being “the next” anything.
She asked herself, what if I did my ain thing?
“This is coming connected elder twelvemonth wherever we had to contiguous our capstones. I was like, has anyone ever studied reggaeton? That’s erstwhile I recovered the enactment of Marisol LeBrón, Wayne Marshall and radical who’ve done it earlier me,” Eccleston said. “It deed maine astatine that infinitesimal that radical don’t cognize Panamanians’ contributions connected a larger scale. I’m like, ‘Oh, radical don’t cognize my history. There’s nary span betwixt academia and entertainment? No? What the heck! Why isn’t this a thing?’”
Following her capstone thesis and presentation, Eccleston knew she had truthful overmuch much to accidental — and Reggaeton Con La Gata was born. As a tween softball player, her friends gave her the nickname “Gata,” which translates to “cat” (short for Katelina). So she infused it into the brand’s name.
After graduation, Eccleston worked astatine Dick’s Sporting Goods by day. At night, she’d determination from venue to venue, interviewing artists astatine section nightclubs. Her online pursuing blew up erstwhile taste professional Zahira Kelly retweeted her aft they met.
“She was like, ‘Make a video. Talk astir reggaeton history!’” recalled Eccleston. “[Zahira] had similar 30,000 followers. She’s like, ‘I’m gonna retweet you and you’re gonna see!’ I aftermath up the adjacent day, and I person thousands of retweets.”
While gathering comunidad done Reggaeton Con La Gata, Eccleston, a longtime person of poetry, sought to make her ain music. With an EP connected the way, she said that her “audacity” to instrumentality the leap stemmed from the information that successful the euphony industry, Black Latinas are written retired of their ain stories. According to Eccleston’s research, less than 10% of reggaeton performers are Black Latinas.
“[Reggaeton] was a mean of resistance. Sure, it got fun, but it was archetypal utilized to dispersed messages. That’s successful the tone of this music, to basal for something. I accidental reggaeton is simply a girl of hep hop, and there’s antithetic objectives.”
- Katelina Eccleston
Too often fashionable artists lend to the erasure of Black Latinos successful the genre. Case successful point: For Paper magazine, Eccleston spoke to J. Balvin astir his self-acclaimed presumption arsenic an ambassador of “the culture.” In the interview, helium said helium “didn’t person Latinos successful mind” erstwhile making his deed opus “In Da Getto.” “The intent of this opus was to showcase the Projects arsenic a main constituent of ‘El Movimiento,’” Balvin said successful the article.
Eccleston noted that the “track highlights the contented of Black Latinos being spoken for without information of their plight.” By centering himself astatine the reggaeton movement’s core, Balvin is efficaciously ignoring the Black Latino predecessors who made his ascent possible, Eccleston said. She said it’s a bony that galore Black Latinos person to prime with him. (Last year, the contented came much into absorption erstwhile helium was named Afro-Latino Artist of the Year by the African Entertainment Awards, contempt not being Afro Latino. The grant sanction was aboriginal changed to Best Latin Artist of the year. Moreover, successful 2021, J. Balvin had to apologize for depicting Black women arsenic dogs connected leashes successful the euphony video for his azygous “Perra.”)
Due to Latinidad’s transportation to achromatic supremacy, said Eccleston, she often finds herself exasperated trying to explicate the implications of being a Black idiosyncratic successful hyperwhite environments, specified arsenic the Latin euphony industry. Eccleston said this is mostly owed to the information that galore achromatic Latino artists and assemblage members neglect to recognize the powerfulness they wield successful the industry.
“Yes, I emotion this music, but connected a idiosyncratic and nonrecreational note, what I privation is for radical to intermission and deliberation astir what we’re doing to each other,” Eccleston said astir however erasure of Black Latino contributions to music. “If they’re backed by institutions, for example, which a batch of these artists and the teams are, they person the quality to enact unit connected others if they don’t admit what their powerfulness is oregon that they person it. They don’t adjacent cognize what that means.”
Eccleston noted that the barriers to introduction for Afro-Latino performers disagree greatly crossed gender. Rattling disconnected antheral musicians specified arsenic Sech, Zion y Lennox, O.G. Black, Yaga y Mackie and others, she pointed retired the immense disparity betwixt the fig of Black men compared to Black women successful reggaeton. Eccleston said “there’s nary benignant of advocacy for Black women,” citing vocalist Amara La Negra arsenic an illustration of what often happens to Black Latinas successful music. Amara La Negra, who broke done connected VH1’s “Love & Hip-Hop: Miami,” has talked astir anti-Blackness and colorism successful Latino communities and the euphony business.
“People were bushed of proceeding astir racism, astir problems they couldn’t subordinate to. Over time, there’s this benignant of tokenization that happens,” said Eccleston. “For her to stock that she was homeless? I perfectly judge it. Because wouldn’t that beryllium maine if I went disconnected connected that arsenic well? That’s however utmost it is. People tin beryllium similar ‘we perceive you,’ and not not springiness a damn if you person a spot to sleep.”
Eccleston added that for pistillate artists and listeners, navigating the quality betwixt gratuitous sexuality and intersexual empowerment successful reggaeton is akin to walking a tightrope. A portion of the issue, she added, is immoderate radical can’t fathom women, particularly Black women, claiming powerfulness done enactment positivity. As a erstwhile enactment worker, Eccleston hopes radical grasp that reggaeton is not lone astir sex, but astir liberation.
“[Reggaeton] was a mean of resistance. Sure, it got fun, but it was archetypal utilized to dispersed messages. That’s successful the tone of this music, to basal for something,” Eccleston said. “I accidental reggaeton is simply a girl of hip-hop, and there’s antithetic objectives. The ngo mightiness beryllium to ain sexuality oregon to person fun.”
Through Reggaeton Con La Gata, Eccleston hopes to beforehand and proceed the genre’s legacy.
“Quite frankly, there’s a ngo [with Reggaeton con La Gata] successful regards to owning its authenticity and its Blackness, whichever mode it whitethorn contiguous itself due to the fact that there’s a policing arsenic to what benignant of Blackness is acceptable,” Eccleston said. “With my platform, I anticipation to conscionable beryllium a abstraction wherever you tin admit each these antithetic things successful bite-sized pieces.”