October 20, 2009
Calle 13 to the Colombian Foreign Ministry
At the recent MTV Latin America awards ceremony, 'Residente', of the Puerto Rican group Calle 13, showed up in a shirt that read "Uribe Para Bases Militares" (Uribe, Stop the Military Bases). The design of the shirt offered a double meaning: "Uribe Paramilitar" (Uribe: Paramilitary).
While it's not sure which meaning was more offensive to the Colombian government, as either express equally damning truths about the regime, the Foreign Ministry felt compelled to issue a statement on the rock star's t-shirt: "The message presents offensive content against the president of Colombians."
(He also said Chavez should be nominated for the 'best pop star' award, and demanded Honduran coup government leader Micheletti "leave power".)
We've translated below the response of 'Residente', within which there are no apologies for expressing an opinion and a fact lived by too many in Colombia, as well as in the artist's native Puerto Rico. Adelante, Calle 13!
October 20, 2009
San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Open letter to the Colombian foreign ministry,
I write this letter to let you to know how I feel from the bottom of my heart. I love Colombia, and that’s why I’m worried about the establishment of foreign military bases in the country. As a Puerto Rican, I have lived this reality in my heart and soul, and I wouldn’t like what happens in my country to happen in yours.
According to your statement, I have insulted your president through the text on my t-shirt. On that shirt there was a play on words, a double meaning. You can interpret it however you like. I read it clearly: Uribe, Stop the Military Bases. A clear and direct message.
Through Twitter, the people created the concept of my shirts. The Colombia shirt was made by a Colombian, the Venezuela shirt by a Venezuelan, and so on.
The idea behind the shirts was to give voice to the people, those who, in general, aren’t listened to. Instead of wearing a nice tie, I decided to send a message. The message didn’t come from me but from someone who breathes the same air breathed in Colombia everyday.
My struggle is not against the president but against everything that promotes war, such as the military bases. The text of the t-shirt represents the feelings of many young people in your country, those who like any other human being with feelings I share completely. In this century, it can’t be that there are still those who lack the ability to understand the right artists have to express what we feel at every level. Censorship shouldn’t be the business of government. Whoever doesn’t want to listen to me should simply not go to my concerts. That would be the most valid and legitimate way to censor me. With all due respect to Mr. Uribe, the president of Colombia isn’t Colombia. Colombia is much more than a president. As Rubén Blades says, “patriotism is not defined by those who suppress a people.”
With these words, I sign off. But before I do so, I send a kiss to all the places I have visited in Colombia, such as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Palenque, San Jacinto, Maicao, Cali, Medellín, Bogotá, Valledupar, Cúcuta, Bucaramanga, Barranquilla, Cartagena, and all the places that I haven’t been.
René Perez Joglar.