In the 1960’s, a series of protests erupted at the various campuses of the University of Puerto Rico. Students demanded that the ROTC be taken off campus, motivated by the recent draft for the Vietnam War that forced thousands of Puerto Ricans into the battlefield. The protests would soon turn violent. In 1969, the ROTC building was burned down. Twice afterwards, the riot squad entered campus and chased away socialists and independentistas.
Throughout the protests, Roy Brown emerged as a leader in nueva trova: a musical movement from Cuba that combined folk music with progressive lyrics that spoke against racism, American capitalism and colonialism. Roy Brown’s first two albums (Yo protesto and Ya basta… revolución, linked here) became an anthem for university students’ protests. For example, the first song in Ya basta… revolución, titled Antonia murió de un balazo, tells the story of Antonia Martínez, a student who was shot down by a police officer in one of the protests. Brown relates the death to similar events in Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela, and other countries in Latin America.
Analyzing the history through music (particularly those in the broader nueva canción movement) has been done in the past (such as in this MIT thesis on movements in Cuba and Chile), but never in the context of Puerto Rico. My paper will focus on the role of nueva trova music, especially Roy Brown’s, in the protests of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Furthermore, I will attempt to link past movements with the newer progressive hip hop and reggaton of artists like Tego Calderón and Calle 13, which is not addressed in the linked material.