calle 13

Calle 13 : Interview with Barbara Stamatelatos

Barbara is a Puerto Rican and Grecian drummer and student of musical culture living in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, who performs at the local jam session at Bruekelen Coffee House  2nd and 4th Tuesdays. I asked her about her musical influences and political inspiration for her music. Calle 13, a Puerto Rican hip hop fusion group, is an outstanding example of creative individuality combined with a Pan-Latin unification influence. In order to understand the context of any musical genre, it is imperative to look at the socio-historical context of the geography and culture.

The History of Puerto Rico as a Commonwealth of the United States has long been a source of controversial identity within Puerto Rican culture. Barbara is studying under Professor Velez- Torres in Puerto Rican studies at Hunter College, who teaches that “Commonwealth is euphemism for colony”. In Vieques, the indigenous population has suffered a dramatic decrease due to chemicals from U.S. Army presence as well as sterilization practices documented in the film “La Operacion” (translated to “The Operation”). The industrialized and factory labor was a hard reality for many Puerto Ricans, including Barbara’s mother. Though P.R. has a representative in Congress, they do not receive a vote. 

Calle 13 is not the first band to bring recognition to these political and identity issues. Also is the famed Fania Orchestra and Ismael Rivera, an influential representative of Black Puerto Rican culture. Contemporaries of Calle 13, such as Cultura Profetica and Tego Calderon, bring awareness to new generations of Latinos.

Calle 13 stands out, as they have made an effort to merge musical styles and include and perform with musicians from Peru to Africa, as well as to connect the generations by performances with Rueben Blades.  “Vamo’ portanos mal“,  a song appropriate for some Occupy Wall Street protestors,  is an example of musical ingenuity combining meringue and ska.


  1. mary ellen sanger says

    Even if you don’t speak Spanish, I think this video and music might be compelling… One of the recent hits of Calle 13 (also performed at Latin Grammys with Gustavo Dudamel).

    It is basically a “I am from…” poem!

    Some beautiful faces and scenes.