Bad Bunny is breaking records, barriers, and even into academia. This semester, Vanessa Díaz, assistant professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies in the LMU Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, is teaching the course “Bad Bunny and Resistance in Puerto Rico.”
Benito Martínez Ocasio has the longest-running Spanish-language album at the top of the Billboard chart; his album, “Un Verano Sin Ti,” (A Summer without You) is the first all-Spanish album to earn a Grammy nomination for album of the year; in 2022 he became the only artist in history to stage two separate $100 million-grossing tours in less than 12 months; and he’s one of the top 10 most-streamed artists of all time. While most would agree that Bad Bunny has taken the music world by storm, some might still wonder why it is important to study Bad Bunny.
For Díaz, an interdisciplinary ethnographer, filmmaker, and journalist, it is important to study cultural phenomena like Bad Bunny. “Bad Bunny is a serious cultural figure, and we need to understand the gravity of his influence,” said Díaz. “From his language politics to his gender presentation and sexual fluidity, he is setting an example that we are always evolving as people, and it is OK to be unapologetically who you are.”
Nearly 30 students are enrolled in the course. Some are die-hard stans – overzealous fans – while others are interested in Puerto Rican history and politics, and all are eager to be taking a course on a contemporary artist who promotes activism and inclusivity. When students walk into Díaz’s classroom, Bad Bunny music is blasting. This is because course material for each week is centered around a Bad Bunny song. Through film, popular media, and interdisciplinary texts, students are learning about protests and ongoing struggles in Puerto Rico, reggaeton and political critique, as well as the politics of race, gender, and queerness.
“Even though his music is recent, he is speaking to longer-term historical issues and political issues, specifically as they pertain to Puerto Rico. But they are issues that have global impact,” said Díaz. “Bad Bunny’s music is really an entry point to talk about really serious issues around Latinadad, U.S. colonialism and Puerto Rican politics, racism, and sexuality, all of which he addresses so poignantly through his artistry.”
Students will also have opportunities to engage with journalists who have covered Bad Bunny. Carina del Valle Schorske, who wrote a long-form essay on his evolution for the New York Times, will join the class virtually. The journalist Angely Mercado will also join the class virtually to discuss what Bad Bunny’s music conveys about environmental activism, gentrification, and displacement in Puerto Rico.
In addition to studying history in real time, Díaz is helping students to understand that they are also a part of it. Because this is one of the first courses to be taught on Bad Bunny, they are using video, photos, and multimedia projects to document their class meetings and work.
Bianca Valentín ’24, a double major in international relations and Chicana/o and Latina/o studies, is from New York and of Puerto Rican decent, and she has been interested in the history of the island her whole life. For Valentín, this is a dream course. “Díaz is the first and only Puerto Rican professor I have had, and I also work closely with her as the work study assistant for the Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies Department,” said Valentín. “It really means a lot that she is teaching this course and not only shining a light on the issues facing Puerto Rico right now, but really deepening our understanding of them.”
Díaz hopes to continue offering the course for as long as students are interested. For Bad Bunny fans beyond the bluff, she has launched the Bad Bunny Syllabus with Petra Rivera-Rideau, associate professor of American Studies at Wellesley College. Bad Bunny Syllabus is the beginning of a larger archive, and an open educational project that provides accessible resources for other professors and fans from around the world. It can be found online at www.badbunnysyllabus.com.
“I think this course is really drawing students in and demonstrating to them that you can take the things you love and engage with every day and turn that into really important research,” said Díaz.