By Julissa Catalan
Calle 13the Puerto Rican Latin Grammywinning band known for its socially conscious lyrics and activismwas honored last week by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (the first Latina to serve in this role) for “igniting minds, imaginations, and conversations around the world.”
This came a day before Calle 13 front man Residente (Ren Prez) led the Puerto Rican Day Parade as this year’s King.
Perez used that platform as an opportunity to call for the liberation of nationalist Oscar Lpez Rivera, who fought for Puerto Rico’s independence until his incarceration.
Lpez Rivera led the Chicago wing of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (better known as FALN, Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacin Nacional)a Puerto Rican separatist organizationin politically motivated violent protests in the 1970s and included the 1980 takeover of both Jimmy Carter’s and George Bush’s campaign offices.
Since his conviction, Lpez Rivera, who is now 71 years old, has served 32 years in prison.
Many of his supporters, including multiple politicians, argue that he is no longer a threat and should be able to rejoin society.
“They say that this is the country of freedom and human rights,” Prez told The Huffington Post. “But if this were happening in another country, like Venezuela or China, people would say, ‘That’s a dictatorship.'”
Prez went on to reference President Obama’s visit to South African President Nelson Mandela’s jail cell, saying, “You’ve got a political prisoner in your own country.”
Prez has demonstrated on Lopez Rivera’s behalf for some time now. Last year the musician/activistalong with baseball player Carlos Delgado and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yuln Cruzheld a demonstration in which he locked himself up in a model cell to symbolize Lpez Rivera’s imprisonment.
Calle 13 is well known in the Latino community, not only for its musicwhich often incorporates folkloric elements with contemporary genres and thought-provoking lyricsbut also for bringing social awareness.
Prez is typically seen sporting a T-shirt with some sort of social messagehe wore a shirt with Lpez Rivera’s image while being honored by Mayor de Blasioand is known to shun teleprompters to go on activist-type rants.
Most recently, the group made headlines for its song “Multi-Viral,” which featured a spoken part by whistleblower and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
While speaking at Gracie Mansion, Councilwoman Mark-Viverito said, “We [the Puerto Rican Day Parade’s new leadership] have added responsibility to raise our voice, and that is what Calle 13 does.”
She added, “Their efforts and the efforts of a community that is demanding accountability are bringing this parade back to its roots.”