Meet Villano Antillano, Puerto Rico’s Role Villain Who Defies Heteronormative Values Through Music
Reinaldo Santiago Pacheco, known by his stage name, Villano Antillano, has been one of the pioneers of the queer movement within the urban genre in Puerto Rico. Born in BayamÃ³n, Villano Antillano considers himself a non-binary person whose approach to music is as challenging and irreverent as it is magnetic and revolutionary. Openly bisexual and with a gender identity detached from the binary, she insists on reclaiming the space that belongs to his community. As an audio-visual artist, she is working on projects that encapsulate the beauty and horror of growing up as a queer person in the Caribbean, including a short film and her first album.
â€œIâ€™m not a role model, Iâ€™m a role villainâ€ says Puerto Rican rapper Villano Antillano when asked about their fearless persona and what their dissidence as an openly bisexual and non-binary MC has meant to the LGBTTQ community on the island. The artist gained notoriety after responding to a series of diss tracks among famous Latin Trap stars and rappers with their single â€œPato Hasta La Muerteâ€; an anthem for many who have suffered abuse and discrimination on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation and follow the urban music scene. As one of the first artists to take a stand against the blatant misogyny and LGBTTQ-phobias present in the industry, their approach to music is as revolutionary and defiant as it is conscious and lesson-packed.
Your name Villano Antillano seems to have a specific connection to the Caribbean, can you tell a bit about your name?
I think itâ€™s evolving, but initially it was just a word game, I like how both words collided with each other, it sounded interesting. It is also very masculine, and now that is definitely not what I am giving, but I still like it and I find that it is something that I would keep because it confuses people a little bit more and it makes them ask themselves, why would she have a masculine name, and it furthers our agenda of educating and separating.
What is it that you want to bring across to an audience? As an LGBTQ, female identifying rapper, you call yourself â€œLocaâ€ and â€œmaricaâ€ etc — what power does it hold to use these â€œinsultsâ€ in your music?In what ways do you combat the machismo of reggaeton?
Words are very powerful and those are words that I grew up listening to. When you are queer, itâ€™s usually very visible from an early age, and society will try to strip it out of you and mold you into something. Those were things I heard growing up all the time, and now to turn around and empower myself with all that, itâ€™s exactly what I am and I’m here and you have to deal with it. It makes people uncomfortable, cis hetero men uncomfortable, and thatâ€™s exactly what I was trying to do.
Your 2019 TiranÃa project, for example, is very different from your other songs like â€œCuloâ€ and â€œGasoleanâ€ – which is very telling of your range as an artist. How do you describe the evolution of your work?
I feel like itâ€™s very personal. Everything that I’ve been doing has been, just showcasing my identity. When I made the switch, when I did TiranÃa, I was very much in a headspace of not paying attention to all these questions I had about my identity and I was like closing a stage in my life that I needed to leave behind. It was like, bien melancÃ³lica, para mÃ era like really sad, and that was something I needed to process and when that was over, I was like okay, now itâ€™s party time.
When I went and immersed myself in to the scene in PR and in the Caribbean of like music and the queer community, and fun and drugs and all that, I discovered this other world. It also came at a time when I was ready to explore these questions of gender identity and these things I always felt because now I was strong enough to do so.
â€œKetaprincesaâ€ came along and it was very different and sonically another thing, and thatâ€™s exactly what I became, another thing.
I love how you bring us into your world to see that your evolution was shaped by your lived experience and those of your friends. That is something that is very powerful to execute in music. You are raw, vulnerable and expressive. What is it that you want to portray to your audience, apart from braking with the binaries of gender and sexual identities?
These are all things that come with what I am doing and I am just very much glad that I get to do what, to be a catalyst so to speak, to put these uncomfortable conversations on the table and force people to have them. At the end of the day I just want to make music for my people, I want my friends and my trans-femme friends to have music that they can identify with, so that they can feel good when they play it in the club, or go out. At the end of the day we donâ€™t have that, and we always have to to be educating.
People think that you have to do this or that, a lot of people tell me to talk about social things, and thatâ€™s cool but I also want to make music thatâ€™s fun that my community can listen to and have a really good time.
And you are also trying to speak to a Spanish speaking community, the music is all in Spanish.
Iâ€™ve delved in English as well. I definitely love it, but itâ€™s just that itâ€™s not what was going to get me noticed. If I started rapping in English everyone would have just ignored me because itâ€™s not really whatâ€™s common in Puerto Rico. I already had a lot of things stacked against me to break into, so if I would have done English it would have been ehh. But I do think I could definitely delve into that market.
I feel like there’s this sort of division within the reggaeton/Latin trap community between a group of people who openly say either sexist or LGBT-phobic comments and those who advocate for the exact opposite through either giving a full-on statement about what they think or even making a statement with their music. I feel itâ€™s important to recognize the role of people like you and many other artists within the industry, and Iâ€™m genuinely curious as to how it is like to work with people that may have completely different ideologies than you?
I feel like at the point that Iâ€™m at now, itâ€™s not something I feel a lot. Iâ€™m at a point where I feel that Iâ€™ve surrounded myself with people that believe in what I do, and want to help me. The people around me now are allies and also very willing to learn. I donâ€™t feel it as much, or maybe I just blocked it, because before it was really in my face. I didnâ€™t pay a lot of attention to it because I couldnâ€™t because if I focused on that I wasnâ€™t going to do what I had to do. If you donâ€™t like it, I donâ€™t give a f***.
I always wanted to make music for my community and if cis-hetero people are cool with it then thatâ€™s great, but thatâ€™s not what I was initially going for. I just ignore peopleâ€™s opinions about me. Being a queer person in the Caribbean and in Puerto Rico is very difficult, so other opinions donâ€™t really have an affect on my life directly. All that social media hate I donâ€™t pay attention to because Iâ€™m living my life and Iâ€™m living my dreams. Iâ€™m doing good.
I think itâ€™s also interesting to ask you about your experience of gender non-conformity nowadays, in a context where more and more, non-cis-gendered people are earning themselves representation; through shows like La Veneno, Pose, ManhÃ£s de Setembro (which is about to come out on Amazon real soon with Linn da Quebrada and Liniker) or even music like yours, Kim Petras, Arca, Sophie, etc – Whatâ€™s it like for you to be able to be part of the current wave of representation and fight for equality?
It feels beautiful, but it also seems like a lot of responsibility, but it is empowering nonetheless because, to take it little by little, when you mentioned Pose and La Veneno, those were definitely things that propelled me forward. I have a very big moment in my life and I saw Pose and I saw my stories on a massive platform like Netflix.
Not only my story but my friends, and I realized that this is something that you go through in every corner of the world. And it’s usually the same stories, and although it’s usually brutal and difficult, it felt unifying, and it gave me hope because it represented that I was not alone in this. And I knew that already because I came out, and I came out of a bunch of closets, but when I came out the first closet it was very intense, and if it wasnâ€™t for my community I probably wouldn’t even be here.Â
I needed that support system. I needed someone to show me that they had gone through that exact same thing I was going through and that I was going to be okay. When I found Pose, and the story of La Veneno, which was another big chapter in my life, it just really empowered me.
Now when I look around and I see big artists like Arca and Pabllo Vittar, and Sophie, may she rest in peace, I feel like from every corner of the world, we are grabbing what is our, and just taking it. I feel like we are no longer giving anyone a choice. If itâ€™s not me, it will be another one of my friends, or it will be someone else that comes up because itâ€™s not something that you can put off by yourself. Itâ€™s a fire que no se puede apagar, you really just canâ€™t.
Photography: Ilexander Rivera @ilexanderivera
Hair & Makeup: Vena Cava @venacava.a
Styling: Richie Moo @richiemoo
Production: AndrÃ©s Vela @andres_vela