Oh sure, there's Shakira, Paulina, Thalia, Camila, Juanes, Marc, Ricky, and other popular poppers, God bless 'em. But ay,  bendito, the sensation of the 12th annual Latin Grammy Awards earlier this month -- as it was at the same awards in 2009 -- was the Puerto Rican duo Calle 13, nominated for ten awards, and bringing home nine, breaking Colombian singer Juanes' lifetime Latin Grammys record. This pair of 33-year-old stepbrothers, tattooed René Pérez (aka "Residente") and bearded Eduardo Cabra ("Visitante"), named the act after their family's street in the Hato Rey section of San Juan. They started becoming prominent on island radio in 2005 with their eclectic mix of hip-hop, reggaetón, and cumbia, and have become known for their social conscience and lefty politics, including a stance advocating independence for Puerto Rico.

Calle 13's big hit in '09 was La Perla, filmed in the drug-and-violence-ravaged slum of the same name next to Old San Juan and featuring an appearance by Panamanian salsa legend Rubén Blades.This time around, it was Latinoamérica, the song and eponymous album. The song's rhythmic poetry and the video's powerful images combine to weave a tapestry of Latin America that's one of the most moving I've seen in a while.

Now, as a Cuban-American, I can't say I'm thrilled with what looks like some tendencies of the Calle 13 duo, like many on the left over these many years, to play footsies around with power-hungry phonies like Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, most of whose people by now are against them. But there's no question that Latin America needs more social consciences musical and otherwise, of the kind that the legendary Mercedes Sosa used to be. So for that, and for their stirring music, Residente and Visitante deserve to be heard.

Soy, soy, lo que dejaron, 

[I am, I am what that they left]
Soy las sobras de lo que te robaron,
[I'm the leftovers from what was stolen]
Un pueblo escondido en la cima,
[A village hidden on the peak]
Mi piel es de cuero, por eso aguanta cualquier clima.
[My skin leathery, so it withstand any weather]
Soy una fábrica de humo, mano de obra campesina para tu consumo,
[I'm a factory of smoke, peasant labor for your consumption]
En el medio del verano, el amor en los tiempos de la cólera, mi hermano!
[In the middle of the summer, love in the time of cholera, my brother!]

Soy el sol que nace y el día que muere
[I'm the sun that's born and the day that dies]
Con los mejores atardeceres,
[with wonderful sunsets]
Soy el desarrollo en carne viva,
[I'm development made flesh]
Un discurso politíco sin saliva,
[A speech without saliva]
Las caras más bonitas que he conocido,
[The prettiest faces I've ever known]
Soy la fotografía de un desaparecido,
[I'm the photoraph of a disappeared one]
La sangre dentro de tus venas,
[The blood in your veins]
Soy un pedazo de tierra que vale la pena,
[I'm a piece of land which is worth it]
Una canasta con frijoles.
[A basket of beans]

Soy Maradona contra Inglaterra, anotándole dos goles,
[I'm Maradona against England, scoring two goals]
Soy lo que sostiene mi bandera, la espina dorsal de mi planeta, en mi cordillera,
[I am what holds up my flag, the spine of my planet, my mountain range]
Soy lo que me enseñó mi padre,
[I am what my father taught me]
El que no quiere a su patria no quiere a su madre.
[He who doesn't love his country doesn't love his mother]
Soy América Latina, un pueblo sin piernas pero que camina, oye!
[I am Latin America, a people legless but which walks]

Tú no puedes comprar el viento,
[You can't buy the wind]
Tú no puedes comprar el sol,
[You can't buy the sun]
Tú no puedes comprar la lluvia,
[You can't buy the rain]
Tú no puedes comprar el calor,
[You can't buy the warmth]
Tú no puedes comprar las nubes,
[You can't buy the clouds]
Tú no puedes comprar los colores
[You can't buy the colors]
Tú no puedes comprar mi alegría,
[You can't buy my happiness]
Tú no puedes comprar mis dolores.
[You can't buy my pain]

Tengo los lagos, tengo los ríos,
[I have the lakes, I have the rivers]
Tengo mis dientes pa' cuando me sonrío.
[I have my teeth for when I smile]
La nieve que maquilla mis montañas,
[The snow which powders my mountains]
Tengo la sol que me seca y la lluvia que me baña,
[I have the sun which parches me and the rain which bathes me]
Un desierto embriagado con peyote,
[A desert drunk on peyote]
Un trago de pulque para cantar con los coyotes -
[A shot of pulque to sing with the coyotes]
Todo lo que necesito!
[Everything I need]

Tengo a mis pulmones respirando azul clarito,
[I have lungs breathing thin blue air]
La altura que sofoca, soy las muelas de mi boca, masticando coca,
[The heights which suffocate, I'm my teeth chewing coca]
El otoño con sus hojas desmayadas, los versos escritos bajo las noches estrelladas,
[Autumn with its fallen leaves, verses written under starry night skies]
Una viña repleta de uvas, un cañaveral bajo el sol en Cuba.
[A vineyard full of grapes, a sugarcane field under the sun in Cuba]
Soy el mar Caribe que vigila las casitas,
[I'm the Caribbean Sea which watches the little houses]
Haciendo rituales de agua bendita,
[Performing rituals with holy water]
El viento que peina mi cabello,
[The wind which combs my hair]
Soy todos los santos que cuelgan de mi cuello.
[I'm all the saints which hang from my neck]
El jugo de mi lucha no es artificial porque el abono de mi tierra es natural.
[The juice of my struggle isn't artificial because my land's fertilizier is natural]

Trabajo bruto pero con orgullo,
[I work brutally hard but with pride]
Aquí se comparte, lo mío es tuyo,
[Here we share, what's mine is yours]
Este pueblo no se ahoga con marullos, y si se derrumba yo lo reconstruyo.
[This people doesn't drown in heavy surf, and if something collapses I rebuild it]
Tampoco pestañeo cuando te miro, para que te acuerdes de mi apellido.
[Nor do I blink an eye when I look at you, so you'll remember my name]
La operación Condor invadiendo mi nido,
[Operation Condor invading my nest]
Perdono pero nunca olvido, oye!
[Hey, I forgive but do not forget]

Vamos caminando, aquí se respira lucha,
[Let us go walking forward, here we breathe struggle]
Vamos caminando, lo canto porque se escucha.
[Let us go walking forward, I sing it because people are listening]
Vamos caminando, aquí estamos de pie,
[Let us go walking forward, here we're on our feet]
Qué viva Latinoamérica - no puedes comprar mi vida!
[Long live Latin America - you cannot buy my life]

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