The Great Woman Singer: Gender and Voice in Puerto Rican Music
The Thinking Voice
Lucecita Benítez is, arguably, Puerto Rico’s most gifted and iconic singer, male or female, and one of the greatest of Latin American twentieth-century pop voices. While she is typically regarded as difficult or intuitive, or perpetually in the throes of multiple personal difficulties, this chapter examines her as the consummate artist that she is, as a musician’s musician. It examines how she faced demands from nearly every corner of the social spectrum in Puerto Rico, in contrast to her own relationship to the voice as the pursuit of truth or thought. In the 1960s, Lucecita was first a youth star, then a dashing auteur that rocked the Spanish-speaking world with her voice, until she became an artiste with a budding social conscience. Finally, as a 1970s disillusioned star and full-fledged socially committed artist, she was branded as notorious for her left-leaning politics. She suffered the near derailment of her career due to her blacklisting in the entertainment industry until she remade herself into her third avatar of diva in the 1980s, in a career of remarkable endurance propelled by her preternaturally beautiful voice and unbreakable musical core. While proficient in all genres, Lucecita excelled in the Latin American balada and romantic music, putting her at odds with gender normativity and identity politics (which she also challenged in her visuality).