Singer and composer iLe (Ileana Cabra) began her career as a teenager, singing background vocals with her older brothers in their hip-hop group Calle 13, which earned multiple Latin Grammys. As a solo artist, iLe has always celebrated her home of Puerto Rico — with emotional ballads, Latin folk songs, and protest music. She just released her third solo album “Nacarile” — largely a reflection on power, trauma, and strength.
She pinpoints Hurricane Maria (2017) as the moment when residents felt less afraid of demonstrating in the streets and confronting the country’s problems. In the aftermath of the storm, Luma Energy privatized electricity.
“That's the worst part of when a … climate crisis happens is that you already know that the governments are going to take advantage of that. And it's so disgusting to see that, and that it's almost hard to believe that these people can get so dehumanized. … And this makes me very angry.”
She adds that for a long time, due to colonization by the U.S., Puerto Ricans felt diminished. “We have basically learned to feel that we are less, that we are not capable of doing anything on our own … and that has been very unfair for us.”
The song “donde nadie más Respira,” which means “where no one else breathes,” is about colonization and idealization that people tend to have with their oppressor, iLe describes.
“We are actually in that battle between trying to fight a big monster. … But beforehand, we weren’t as aware that the problem itself is the people that we keep idealizing. … This song speaks about that, and obviously as well, the violence that comes with the abuse of power. There are a lot of displacements … the island is very empty right now. … The only thing that gives me hope right now is … there are a lot of Puerto Ricans trying to fight back.”
iLe says she wants Puerto Rico to be fully independent.
“I feel that it’s better if we do our own thing. … The things that we have done for our own has been taken away from us, and it makes you want to believe less in yourself if what you create is taken away from you. … And I feel that I am Puerto Rican. I am not a U.S. citizen, even if my passport says so, unfortunately.”
iLe will be performing at The Miracle Theater in Inglewood on March 11, 2023.