A reflective mood during the pandemic has influenced the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter’s music. She hopes people will vote with conscience this week.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Singer-songwriter iLe (Ileana Cabra) has experienced the uncertainty brought upon by the pandemic and the upcoming elections, but while in lockdown, she found freedom in music.
One of the songs she composed is “Donde nadie más respira” (Where no one else breathes), her new single released October 28th. It confronts abuses of power and expresses hope for change.
iLe said people are beginning to understand that abusive governments and relationships do not have to be tolerated. Puerto Rico is facing a historic election—following Verano del 19, which culminated in the resignation of former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló—and dealing with multiple cases of government corruption.
“I think we are precisely at that moment when we are realizing things are not as we understood them,” iLe told The Americano.
“Even though we’ve been used to living a certain way for so long, I think we’re realizing we don’t have to continue tolerating things that hurt, humiliate, or mistreat us,” iLe said.
The artist began her career at age 16, as part of a collective with brothers René Pérez (aka Residente) and Eduardo Cabra (aka Visitante) of the internationally known Puerto Rican hip-hop group Calle 13. She was known as PG-13 at the beginning of her career. iLe has released two solo albums since then, Ilevitable and Almadura.
The singer said the lockdown has been good for her writing process, but she sometimes needed to escape to a different place, which was difficult because of the pandemic.
“You seek to reflect on what you’re going through by writing and releasing through words all of the confused and uncertain emotions we are all feeling now,” iLe said.
Some of these emotions stem from the turbulent political climate. “We are tired of false promises,” iLe said. “Sometimes it frustrates me that we give so much trust to these American presidents who have shown no interest in Puerto Rico. I have never felt any respect from the United States government for Puerto Rico.”
Her brother Residente and rapper Bad Bunny are some of the artists who are encouraging people to vote outside of traditional party lines in Puerto Rico.
iLe sees her new single “Donde nadie más respira” as part of the contribution that artists can make to express their points of view.
“I like to express myself through art. Communicate in a simple way that we should not be afraid of politics,” iLe said. “We must know how to inform ourselves as much as we can, so we do not continue with the governmental abuse of power we’ve been in for so long.”
On Tuesday, iLe endorsed Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana (MVC) candidates Alexandra Lúgaro for governor and Manuel Natal for mayor of San Juan. She did so by tweeting a play on words using the last names of the candidates.
Lúgaro is the only woman candidate for governor of Puerto Rico. She has been the target of strong criticism.
iLe said machismo is present even in casual conversations in Puerto Rican society and alluded to the wave of femicide and missing women that has raised flags on the island in recent months.
“There is a lot of social ignorance,” the singer-songwriter said. “We have to keep fighting until the patriarchy and bullies disappear from the world. What we are living as women is very hard, very difficult, and actually horrible—we are literally being killed for being women. Every bit of news I read about this hurts me, and I can’t even imagine how many cases don’t even appear in newspapers. Somehow, we must give a voice to the women who are no longer with us and fight for justice.