From Rosalía to Pérez Siquier or how culture is always old and new at the same time

The figure of a Sevillian woman above the television, a crocheted rug, summer blue, white facades covered with flower pots. With just these four elements, an entire universe is outlined in the mind of any Spaniard. If you invoke trucks with silhouettes of naked girls on their mud flaps, cheap apartment blocks with green awnings or hotels on the seafront, another edge, somewhat more sordid, of that same imaginary is outlined. It is Cañí Spain, one of the most powerful representations of the collective unconscious that has been used both in its idyllic facet and in its dark face by all kinds of national artists.

The perfect current example is Rosalía. The Catalan combines tradition and modernity, adapting the ideas that populate this paradigm to her style, since it is something that crosses popular culture; from photography to music, passing through the cinema. "In Spain we have a certain tendency towards kinky movies, the realism of the slums with their dose of social criticism," explains Jorge Latorre, professor of Art History at the Rey Juan Carlos University of Madrid (URJC), to point out that she, with her latest single, Despecha, what she has done is leave the critical component to put together a video clip with those songs. "It's a realistic reportage of a popular beach," he says.

In Latorre's eyes, that is what is unexpected and novel in Rosalía's universe. "In Despechá, with lyrics like the one it has, an exaggerated video was expected, of poses and bikers and trucks —as it did with Malamente— and, however, we find a familiar, natural video that takes us back to the current of realism", observes the academic.

It is a current that, throughout different periods, has been very successful on the national scene, as evidenced by the trail left by the Afal group: a photographic movement born in Almería that began a process of photographic renewal in the middle of the last century. Carlos Pérez Siquier (1930-2021) belonged to them, considered one of the pioneers of the avant-garde in Spain and of whom, the professor assures, there is a palpable influence on the latest Rosalía.

Siquier was one of the first to abandon black and white and adopt color to portray, in one of his most famous series, the beach and tourism on the Mediterranean coast. A beach like the Mallorcan one that stars in the dance of a Rosalía in a bikini, accompanied by large women who play cards and Parcheesi or plump men who give themselves sun cream. "She is, without a doubt, Pérez Siquier or even Antonio López", insists Latorre, "she is someone who comes out to reality and paints it and rediscovers us. What she is doing does not leave people", he underlines. When reading the comments on the video on YouTube, nostalgia predominates: many write that it reminds them of family vacations or their childhood.

For Mariano Urraco, doctor in sociology at the Distance University of Madrid (UDIMA), everything that surrounds Rosalía's work can be much simpler since, in his opinion, you don't have to know a trend to be influenced by it. . "She may know Siquier or Antonio López, or she may not, but that doesn't matter, because she is making use of a common archetype that we all know, even if we don't know how to name it," comments the sociologist, pointing out that "individuals, During our socialization, we have been receiving a series of influences that permeate us both consciously and unconsciously".

One of the most famous theses of the philosopher and anthropologist Paul Ricoeur is the one that refers to the paradox of the story to life: stories are told, life is lived and both converge, so narrative identity "constructs us". This means that we do not stop reinterpreting the narrative identity that constitutes us in light of the stories that our culture proposes to us. We are not original, in artistic creation all times and places are repeated and intermingled with the experiences of the present, thus giving rise to works that, being the result of that previous legacy, are capable of generating a relatively new one.

There are issues that are collective, general, that everyone who belongs to a certain society knows in greater or lesser depth. The same thing happens here, "we think of cañí and associate a series of images and, within those images, we see the elements that, later, the different artists will be able to appropriate or recycle to connect with the public's imagination," Urraco develops. Then there is the marketing.

In this way, following the precepts of communicative theory; a message is as successful or more successful the closer it is to the world of the receiver. "If you speak to people in terms that they do not understand or with images that are not within their general universe, you will have less communicative success than if you handle references that are massively shared. And this is a good example of it ", completes Urraco. Despechá went straight into the Spotify Global Top 7 when it was released in late July.

Tight skinny jeans with waist-length, glasses, stolen cars, drugs, robberies and a pretty girl, a gang member and a neighborhood girl for whom a good boy stops being good. In the background, Derby Motoreta Burrito Cachimba singing that, if you give them a choice between you and their ideas, despite not being lost men, they stay with you. Los Chunguitos have returned, turned into a soundtrack in The Laws of the Border (Daniel Monzón, 2021), the film —based on the homonymous novel by Javier Cercas— that premiered on Netflix last October as an ode to legacy of Eloy de la Iglesia or José Antonio de la Loma; to the Pirri or the Vaquilla, classics of Spanish cinema.

It was not only the Motoreta who have returned the focus to the anthem of Los Chunguitos. That same theme, I stayed with you, was also covered by Rosalía herself in her performance at the 2019 Goya Awards. However, the proliferation of lo cañí transcends it, it goes much further. And it has a particularly pronounced presence in film and music. From El madrileño by C. Tangana —who plays the same topics as mommybut at his angle of the spectrum—until the acclaimed Thirty Coins by Álex de la Iglesia, which takes advantage of Christian mythology to create its own world without leaving the commonplaces that have the recognition of the target audience.

It is also worth remembering the work of Gonzalo García-Pelayo, key figure of the counterculture. The filmmaker and music producer, who has defended "the Andalusian" throughout his career and now premieres, on September 9, at the Cineteca in Madrid, an experiment in contemporary cinema: The Year of 10+1 Films, a work in common with Gervasio Iglesias, which consists of the recording of a trip around the globe in which they have shot seven films —and eight making of this process— that revolve around the fact of living.

Few things are random; the confluence of the works of the aforementioned artists starts from the same starting point: the latent homesickness of an era. "Here we would have to ask ourselves the million dollar question, what came before, the chicken or the egg?" jokes Urraco. "There is an inventory of possibilities and, in the end, for seasons, it comes back to it," argues the sociologist, pointing out that marketing plays a very important role in detecting and promoting certain predispositions. "This does not mean that we are going to remain seated in the cañí, perhaps the next sensitivity takes us to the future or back to the dinosaurs", he concludes.

Currently, we live in a time of marked nostalgia for the last decades of the last century, the 80s and 90s. You just have to take a look at the movie listings full of remakes or series that appeal to a specific aesthetic sensibility, such as Stranger Things. "Rosalía rides that wave of nostalgia and links vacations with that traditional photography and with a certain vindication of the simple life of the 80s," explains Urraco.

For the sociologist, it is not a question of millennials or nostalgics "who look a little out of place at the present time", and seek refuge in the futuristic with a taste of the past, such as the metaverse - which recalls the vintage living rooms of the community. virtual Habbo—, if not to something that is quite ingrained in our imagination: the idea that the 80s were a golden age. "Of course," says Urraco, "all this is covered by a patina of deliberate ingenuity that seeks to create a product taking advantage of the pre-existing sensitivity of the target audience."

From different expressions of the art world, the drive is endorsed. Farrandemora, a visual artist who has been working on cañí since its inception in the early 2000s, points out that these trends "are born and remain in the underground" and that they jump to the present when they are popularized by actors who move the masses. "All this is not new, a thousand years ago artists like Costus, Gonzalo García-Pelayo or Bigas Luna were already playing these songs", explains David Farrandemora.

He also touches them, of course, who is preparing a new exhibition -at the Toby Gallery in Lavapiés- in which he intends to "enter the sewers of Spanish pop culture" recovering the figure of Ruiz Mateos and the Nueva Rumasa scam in a piece of video art in which, according to the artist, "Rumasa ceases to be the paternalistic company of the 70s, with servile employees where the owner was more of a father or a guru than a director, to become a phenomenon that creates its own aesthetic and very powerful, almost sectarian," according to Farrandemora.

In his work, this entire scenario is dotted with a background of human misery that he defines as "impressive, where religion (Opus Dei), delinquency, family, pillage, dark plots, jealousy, envy and above all politics created a pop monster" . All this with a brutalist aesthetic conceived as if it were a video game. A pastiche.

The cañí is in fashion, it has always been in a latent way in Spanish popular culture. However, considering the sign of the times, it has currently gained special prominence. As other trends will do later, as this one will do again with variations. And again.

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