The Music of Resistance: La Brega Returns With An Album

Miguel Machado
4 min readApr 12

“En la brega.” If you’ve spent any time around Puerto Ricans, you’ve no doubt heard this or some version of this saying. Coming from the Spanish, “bregar” which means “to toil,” the saying has become short-hand across the island and its diaspora for dealing with the struggle. Historically, the island has seen many struggles. From Spanish colonialism and slavery to American invasion and mass immigration and even forced sterilization, Puerto Rican history is filled with dark episodes that see us constantly in “en la brega.” So it’s only fitting that a podcast tackling many of these issues through the lens of the Puerto Rican experience take the phrase as its name. Now, alongside its upcoming second season, “La Brega” is launching a companion album featuring Puerto Rico’s most buzzworthy up-and-coming artists. Together, the podcast and album pay homage to an integral medium Puerto Ricans have used to confront their issues head on for centuries: music.

For decades, Puerto Ricans have used music to tackle social dilemmas. The musical genre of bomba is often called “the music of resistance” for the way its songs can not only be used to detail the many challenges of daily Puerto Rican life, but as a rousing call-to-arms, its heavy drums beckoning all citizens to the batey to express themselves through song and dance. Similarly, the 2019 protests that led to the resignation of former governor Ricardo Roselló saw Puerto Ricans take to the streets with instruments, pots, and pans in hand, using music as a tool of rebellion. But more than just a tool to denounce societal ills, music has become maybe the main avenue through which Puerto Ricans export their culture and their experiences to the wider world. So it’s only fitting that with its second season, “La Brega is not only exploring the music of the island but also the stories that inspire it.

A co-production between WNYC Studios and Futuro Studios, “La Brega: El Álbum” taps a new generation of Puerto Rican talent and lets them go to work, adding their own touches and reinterpretations to classics that have challenged the status quo and helped define the Puerto Rican experience across decades. For instance, the first single, “Preciosa” was originally composed in 1937 by esteemed Afro Puerto Rican musician and native aguadillano, Rafael Hernandez Marin. A rousing…

Miguel Machado

Miguel is based out of Puerto Rico. When not on an adventure you can find him typing away.