Deborah Pacini Hernandez

Deborah Pacini Hernandez, Professor of Anthropology, Tufts University, is author of Oye Como Va!: Hybridity and Identity in Latin/o Popular Music; Bachata: A Social History of a Dominican Popular Music; and co-editor of Reggaeton (Duke University Press); and Rockin’ Las Americas: The Global Politics of Rock in Latin/o America.



"Bachata, New York style"

Dominican bachata, a guitar-based genre characterized by melodramatic love songs, a unique dance style, and its association with the country’s poorest and most marginalized citizens, was rejected as crude and vulgar by the country’s elites for decades after it coalesced as a style in the 1970s. With massive numbers of Dominicans migrating to New York City in the 1980s and 90s, however, homesick immigrants of all social classes embraced the genre precisely because its expressions of loss and longing and its earthy simplicity.

By the new millennium bachata’s popularity was spreading beyond its Dominican fan base, first among Latinos of different national backgrounds, subsequently to Latin America, and then to Europe, Asia and beyond. Transnational theory provides some explanation for bachata’s changing circulation patterns, but there is no doubt that bachata’s global popularity has been propelled by the enormous success of the “Dominican York” group Aventura. Aventura retained bachata’s signature guitar arpeggios and the singers’ emotional vulnerability, but their music was clearly marked by the hip hop and r & b infusing the New York soundscapes in which Aventura had come of age; their bilingual lyrics and videos similarly located the music unequivocally in New York. Bachata dancing, in contrast, has become unmoored from the Dominican York experience and taken on a life of its own in bachata dance festivals and conferences held in cities throughout the globe.

My paper analyzes bachata’s New York sound, and its travels to such unlikely places as Belarus, Oman and India.

My Speakers Sessions

Sunday, March 25

2:15pm EDT