Peru: Calle 13 antagonizes audience, then apologizes in its own controversial way
“Those who want to leave, they can go to hell. Those who are staying –stay and enjoy. And if there’s anybody who wants to throw a bottle, jump onstage and we’ll meet up here.” That’s what singer René “Residente” Pérez told the crowd of 20,000 Peruvians who had been waiting for him and his Latin Grammy-winning group Calle 13 for more than 5 hours. The concert on Saturday night at Universidad de San Marcos stadium in Callao, a neighbor town of Lima, was supposed to start at 9pm but Calle 13 only got on stage at 3am, playing until the sun rose well past 5:30am.
According to Peru’s El Comercio, after local band La Sarita played an extended set starting at an already late 10pm, some started tracking Twitter and found the singer excusing himself for a delay in his flight from Venezuela. “Damn, René,” answered Sebastián Prieto, a member in the audience via Twitter, “hurry up because I’ve been standing here for 3 hours now.” Local promoters announced via speakerphone Calle 13 arrived around 2am, which increased booing; the band took an extra hour to set up.
The reason for the delay was that before arriving in Peru, Calle 13 performed that same night at the CECAL conference in Caracas alongside the Simón Bolívar Youth Symphony Orchestra (reprising their joint Latin Grammys performance). On stage in Caracas, Residente lamented that his native Puerto Rico was not invited to participate in the CELAC meeting since the island is a U.S. territory. "For next time, they should invite those who believe that Puerto Rico should be free... because we are also Latin Americans," said Residente. "Don't forget that this colony [Puerto Rico], came over here to remind you how beautiful this continent is, how beautiful Latin America is."
Once in Peru at the concert, an exasperated Residente explained to the disgruntled audience that their delay was due to their duty to represent Puerto Rico before Latin America. But Peruvians were not having it. "What bothered me the most was that they confronted the audience with those excuses," said Alex Freundt, a photographer who was present at the San Marcos concert. "I understand their political position and that they arrived in Peru all worked up, but they should've just said they were sorry, instead of feeding the fire and cursing at people."
After starting with “El Baile de los Pobres” (Dance of the Poor), a bottle from the audience hit Pérez. The incident provoked Pérez’s rant, and the band was booed at and cheered at intermittently during the more than 2 hours show.
But after the performance was over, Pérez’s sister Ileana Cabra, a backup singer for the group, had a different assessment, posting on Facebook: “Finishing the night and starting the day on a higher note with a performance filled with very powerful energy, in Lima, Peru, until the sun rose at 5:30am! Long live a free Puerto Rico and may they all acknowledge us as Latin Americans!”
Residente sent two further apologies over Twitter: “Thanks Lima Peru for the energy. Thanks for understanding we don’t control planes or meteorology. Thanks for singing ‘Latinoamerica’!” read the first. “My apologies to Peru in the name of the plane’s pilot and of the weather, that we don’t control. Hugs!” read the second.
“Such a huge scam!” wrote in her Facebook account Milagros Salazar, a Peruvian journalist and musician referring to the Calle 13 incident. “Demagogy sells tickets and wins Grammy Awards,” also wrote Juan Carlos Cabrera, a local music editor. “It’s such a shame that people let influence themselves by a couple of clowns disguised as revolution and change.”
Nuria Net contributed reporting.