Flow and Power: Reggaeton in Cuba

Recognition and reggaeton for El Toque Cuba

The El Toque Cuba platform has been recognised at the Online Journalism Awards, 2019 with the Best Explanatory Reporting Award. The award was for the dossier “La Cuba que viene…” (The Cuba that comes…), a major interactive project created to increase public awareness and understanding of the constitutional reforms that took place in Cuba between July 2018 and February 2019. And the award comes just as El Toque launches its next big interactive dossier – this time focusing on the Cuban cultural phenomenon that is reggaeton.

El Toque Cuba was originally developed and supported by RNW Media’s Latin America department in the Netherlands. Following a change in organisational strategy in 2016, El Toque transitioned to become fully independent in 2017. The platform has gone from strength to strength since then and is now one of Cuba’s largest independent media outlets. The Online Journalism Awards, launched in May 2000 by the Online News Association of the United States, honour excellence and innovation in digital journalism around the world—with awards for data journalism, visual digital storytelling, investigative journalism, public service, technical innovation and general excellence.

Collaborative effort
“La Cuba que viene…” combines resources, debates, articles and stories focusing on the constitutional reforms that were Cuba’s most important political process in recent years. A collaborative effort involving journalists, researchers, jurists, political analysts, software developers and visual designers, the aim was to present complex theoretical information in ways that were accessible and engaging for a broad audience. To reach as many people as possible, the project also included two offline debates between experts and citizens, framed as safe places for political exchange in Cuba’s polarised environment. These events were filmed and shared on social media and via Cuba’s offline El Paquette distribution system using USB sticks.  The project is also available in an offline version for use on desktop computers and on the El Toque mobile app.

More than just music
The award came as El Toque was celebrating the premier of its newest interactive dossier “Flow y poder: el reguetón en Cuba” (Flow and power: reggaeton in Cuba). Reggaeton is an eclectic musical mix of salsa, hip-hop and electronica and blasts from shops, cars, bike taxis and clubs across Cuba. It’s more than just a musical genre, though, according to El Toque:

Reggaeton impacts Cuban society musically, economically, politically, socially and symbolically, even linguistically. It is sexist, it promotes the desire to acquire material wealth and normally resorts to vulgar and rude expressions; but at the same time, it is also impossible to suppress, shape, even though tensions to keep it “at bay” haven’t ceased. It is present because reggaeton is an effect and not a cause, it’s the expression of wishes, values and the aspiration of important sectors of Cuban society in the 21st century. 

Official disapproval
The Cuban authorities disapprove deeply of reggaeton and it was officially banned in 2012. While restrictions have eased since then, reggaeton artists are still banned from appearing on most State-run TV and radio or recording in State-run studios. Despite Government censorship, the genre has continued to grow in popularity–using the same El Paquette grassroots distribution system that El Toque makes use of. The multimedia ‘Flow and power’ project brings together a database of more than 650 songs that were hits between 2010 and 2018, along with in-depth reporting about all aspects of the musical phenomenon. There’s even a video game with a reggaeton soundtrack.

This video is a compilation of highlights from Flow and power: reggaeton in Cuba


The El Toque Cuba team is committed to creating high quality multi-media content that explores every aspect of Cuban life – this means not only in-depth political reporting but also exploring the social and cultural movements that shape the country. And reggaeton, they say,

 … won’t be defeated by decree. It grows and adapts to new conditions, it resists. Its power proves that it is overcoming the limits that the Government wants to impose, the controversy and debates, attempts to regulate it and bans and concert cancellations. It is a successful business because it doesn’t create needs but meets them instead.   

Experience Flow y poder: el reggaetón en Cuba

Read more about the power of reggaeton in this (English language) article by El Toque in The Havana Times

Read more about El Toque Cuba and how it achieved independence from RNW Media