A Conversation With Katelina ‘La Gata’ Eccleston About Reggaeton, Latinidad, and the Intersection With Feminism

Photo courtesy of belatina.com
Photo courtesy of belatina.com

Music is probably the oldest language in the history of humankind. Sounds and percussion are transformed into a code that transcends geographical boundaries, mutates, and eventually becomes the most important testimony of each generation.

However, new digital platforms and the immediate consumption of information have made us overlook the genealogy of our favorite genres — reggaeton, for example.

BELatina News had the pleasure of speaking with Katelina “La Gata” Eccleston, owner of the first female platform dedicated to reggaeton’s intersectional analysis and history.

Katelina is a passionate historian of the genre who shares her insights and commentary through her website “Reggaeton con La Gata,” an empowering space that seeks to give urban Latin music a place in the annals of history.

Recently, La Gata worked as an associate producer and historian for “LOUD: The History of Reggaeton with Ivy Queen” and took time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her work.

Tell us about yourself. What encourages you to work in the music industry, specifically in the reggaeton space?

I recognize that many people think that I work in the industry. I consider myself to work around the industry. At the end of the day, no major corporation employs me. I am a freelancer for all intents and purposes. I am an entrepreneur with the start of my own company. To be honest, at this point, what’s encouraging me to stay is the support I get from the public. There have been many times where I’ve wanted to let all of this go, not because I don’t love reggaeton but because this has not been an easy path for me to embark on. But to be honest, if I didn’t create this space for myself, I wouldn’t be in this space at all, just because of gatekeepers and people who are afraid to engage with race and music in the same conversation. 

As an empowering woman historian, what has been a challenge in the reggaeton atmosphere?

A constant challenge that I face consistently is Latinidad. Latinidad is at the root of all issues that I encounter — whether it’s people who embrace Latinidad differently or align it with a certain set of white standards or others who don’t want to be involved with it at all. I constantly feel like I’m in the middle – because aside from being a reggaeton historian, I do consider myself a comunicadora social — a social commentator; not a critic, but a commentator, in the way that I like to facilitate conversations. I feel like I’m in between critics and those being critiqued. That’s pretty much my role in facilitating these types of difficult conversations in a way that arises to the point and makes sure that everyone is respected. And that’s very difficult when dealing with anti-Blackness. It’s an ongoing challenge telling the history of reggaeton in a way that centers race – as it should. 

Do you see any shifts now that mainstream performers have been changing the narrative of females in the music industry?

I feel like women in Latin American space do not have power on the same levels that men do. I feel like there are some breakthroughs, for example, Tokischa. Time will tell what this is about, but still, to this day, I’ve had conversations with critics recently when I’m like, “I can’t believe that I’m reading this flyer and that Tokischa is about to perform in this international space!” We all know it’s because of the collaboration with Rosalia, and it wouldn’t have happened otherwise, but, interestingly, they’re even opening themselves in this way. So, vamos a ver! Only time will tell. This isn’t something I’m only saying. It’s something that Ivy Queen has said too: there’s a desire and a necessity for women to have more power in the Latin space, and until that happens, machismo prevails. Women are confined into these tropes, so I’m excited for that to go away over time.

As far as Latinx collaborations, I feel it’s no longer spontaneous “crossovers” but a “marketing must.” I think that American (anglo) pop stars must collaborate with Latinx artists. What do you think about this? Is it a market procedure, or do you think it’s a norm now?

I still feel that the Latin market is a niche. Even though there are billions of streams, even though Americans know who Bad Bunny is, I still feel like it’s a niche because of the way it’s set up. There aren’t a lot of Black female artists in reggaeton in the Latin market, and the anglo market is not really messing with that. They don’t need to either because they dominate; they have all the money.  So, regarding understanding how these markets operate and dominate versus any sub-cultural groups that are going on here, I can only go by the numbers, and the numbers tell me, “yes! Latinos are growing here in the United States, yes, of course, that would increase our impact worldwide, that’s great!” I would love the money to catch up to that, eso es otra cosa. In the end, that’s all I can go by. If I feel like it’s a new norm – well, I am Latina, so I feel like I emerged in this culture, whether it’s hip hop-centered or reggaeton-centered. To be honest, I don’t see a difference between the two. I feel like minorities are getting a bigger voice, so I am very excited about that. 

What are your current projects and goals for the end of 2021? 

Very soon, “Reggaeton con La Gata” will partner with Sony Music, and we’ll be releasing a project called “Dimelo Cantando.” “Dimelo Cantando” is co-hosted by my partner-in-crime, Jennifer Mota Valdez, a dembow historian. We’ve interviewed some of the biggest artists in the industry and talked to them about race, culture and cultural appropriation, cultural appreciation. Our very first interview is with Tokischa! 

I’ll also be in the Dominican Republic in November for a couple of months, hopefully recording music and working with artists on a more first-hand basis. I will professionally be releasing music soon.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I just want to emphasize that el movimiento started with a Black woman, “La Atrevida.” And since then, Black women have had to fight for representation in music videos. And now are commodified in music videos as sexual objects, only in music videos — never in romantic videos, only the sexual ones. I am at the point where I’m over representation, and what I look forward to, and what I encourage others to do is support the Black women who are creating reggaeton right now. Support them and all of their capacity. There’s a lot of Black female talent that many people don’t pay attention to — largely because they don’t have the same backing of the industry as others. I’d like to leave it at that note: to support Black women in this space.

Do you have any top three Black reggaetoneras that you could recommend off the top of your head?

Sure. Gailen La Moyeta, Melaner, and Jenn Morel