Alumnae/i Feature

Researching the Music of Marginalized Communities with Adaliz Cruz '20MS

Adaliz Cruz ’20MS wasn’t interested in the traditional subjects of music research.

“Many music researchers focus on classical music of the western canon,” says Cruz, who holds a bachelor’s degree in music. “Conversations in the library field had shifted to diversifying collections, and I noticed a gap in coverage in music libraries regarding non-English-sung popular music.”

Cruz completed class projects relating to Puerto Rican music during her time at the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS). Known as el género urbano, “urban genres,” her research was published in Acceso in November 2020.

But getting there wasn’t easy. “Urban music really was a challenge to research. The genres are still evolving, and they are not typically regarded as scholarly subjects. I decided to challenge that notion.”

What she uncovered under the “urban genre” term is valuable to the history of marginalized communities. “Latin American urban genres encompass many genres that have been historically repressed, censored, and criminalized.” Now, these genres have soared in popularity, even crossing over to the American music charts. But this wasn’t always the case. “The history of el género urbano does not exist in a vacuum but speaks to the history of marginalized and othered communities in Puerto Rico and Latin America.”

Cruz notes how urban genres have been regarded in the music industry. “Historically, they did not receive as much airplay in radio stations, due to their associations with marginalized communities within the lower classes, the LGBTQ+ community, and Black folk.”

These genres were often products of underground subcultures. “The musical genre that is now known as reggaetón was once called underground: mixtapes were recorded in living rooms, self-distributed, and marketed by word of mouth. Since then, the genre has evolved into more of a pop, radio-friendly sound by blending with other more mainstream genres and, to some extent, whitewashing.”

There are also concerns about using “urban genres” as an umbrella term that lumps many genres under one category — conversations surrounding this topic and its effects are taking place between artists, pop culture critics, and scholars. Says Cruz, “It addresses the way the Latin music industry has historically whitewashed the genres and is part of a larger conversation regarding racism, colorism, and Anti-Blackness in Latin America.”

Cruz is now an Information Services Specialist for Bain & Company, a global management consulting firm. “I conduct and synthesize research on a diverse range of industries to support client work. I’m also part of the team that manages our internal catalog and collection.”

While not currently working in a music library, Cruz still has much to contribute to the field. She is presenting on a panel, “Guiding Aspiring Allies: The Self-Advocate/Ally Relationship & Learning from those with Lived Experience,” at the Music Library Association & Theatre Library Association 2021 Conference, held virtually in March. “Professional organizations have great networking opportunities,” she says. “It may seem daunting at first, but most organizations will be more than happy to have a new person.”

As a SLIS student, Cruz was president of Special Library Association Student Chapter ([email protected]) and a member of a few professional organizations, including NEMLA (the New England Chapter of the Music Library Association), REFORMA (the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking), and the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Librarians (ASDAL).

“I was commonly misidentified as an extrovert,” she recalls. “My classmates and prospective students would ask me for advice on how to network, so I wrote them down and submitted it to the Simmons SLIS blog.”

Cruz went on to write more blog posts based on her experiences during her time at SLIS. Check out her lasting legacy and more in “Simmons Snippets: A window into the daily life and thoughts of SLIS students.”

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