Like rap in the United States, bachata began as a music of the poor and dispossessed. Originating in the shantytowns of the Dominican Republic, it reflects the social and economic dislocation of the poorest Dominicans.
Derived from the Latin American tradition of guitar music, bachata emerged in the 1960s only to be denigrated by the media, mainstream musicians, and middle- and upper-class Dominicans, mainly because the lyricsoften about hard drinking, women troubles, illicit sex, and male bravado-were considered vulgar and worthless. While popular radio filled the air waves with merengue and salsa, bachata musicians were forced to develop their own system of producing and distributing their music. Not until Juan Luis Guerra won a Grammy in 1992 for his album Bachata Rosa did bachata gain legitimacy and international recognition.
Deborah Pacini Hernandez traces the impact of political upheaval and rural migrations on the development of bachata and the Dominican music industry. Her multi-disciplinary study analyzes the changing attitudes about bachata and its principal musical competitor, merengue. She considers issues of sex and gender as perceived and expressed by bachata's mostly male musicians, especially in the context of changing patterns of marriage. Exploring how bachatalike rapbecame respectable and even fashionable, Pacini Hernandez offers a unique perspective of five decades of social, economic, and political change in the Dominican Republic.