Katelina “La Gata” Eccleston is an internationally distinguished Black Panamanian social entrepreneur, music historian, and owner of Reggaeton Con La Gata; a platform that serves as the blueprint for being the first femme bilingual platform dedicated to the intersectional analysis & history of reggaeton. She launched Reggaeton Con La Gata in 2017 and quickly developed a reputation as an expert on the often overlooked and erased Black history of reggaeton music. Since then she has pivoted to new creative mediums including her bilingual podcast, Perreo 101, where she provides commentary on the history and evolution of the music genre and is the first of its kind. With a following on social media that’s collectively upwards of 30K, her community has not only supported her work, but they’ve inspired her to try new avenues to showcase her knowledge.
Perreo 101 stemmed from Eccleston posting her opinions openly on Twitter until a fan messaged them directly advising her to put her thoughts on a podcast. Eccleston was interested but admits she was unaware of the cultural significance and relevance that podcasts currently have that looks to only be growing. Now it’s become a haven for her to be able to dispense her knowledge and talk about topics she’s passionate about that don’t get enough coverage.
“My podcast has actually saved me in a way that I didn’t know I needed to be saved. Perreo 101 really saved my platform. It saved my dignity, it saved my voice, it saved my nuance and it secured my copyright, my trademark, in a way that I didn’t even know that it could all thanks to a stan putting that idea in my head,” Eccleston tells HipLatina.
Much less did she know the significance that the podcast would have on her career that would allow her to take on a Perreo 101 Tour. With the Perreo 101 Tour Eccleston has single-handedly brought reggaeton to renowned institutions like Google, GAP, Old Navy and Foundation Medicine, strengthening the genre’s influence and giving it the recognition it deserves. Currently, La Gata is on a college tour for the fourth semester in a row where she is bringing reggaeton to Harvard University, Boston University, New York University, Brooklyn College, and Hunter College Bad Bunny Symposium among others. This month she participated in the Colorism: Shades of Oppression, Inclusivity, and Power Panel at the 27th Annual Arturo Schomburg Symposium highlighting the ways colorism shows up in reggaeton. As a music historian, she’s not just telling these histories though, she’s advocating for the Black artists and stories in reggaeton because marrying action with words is a crucial part of her mission.
Following the success of her Perreo 101 Tour comes Season 2 of the podcast that is set to release early this year. However, Eccleston’s trail of successes in her career certainly does not stop here. Her Perreo 101 podcast led the door open for Eccleston to take on major roles like the executive associate of the LOUD Podcast on Spotify hosted by reggaeton icon Ivy Queen, considered one of the pioneers of the reggaeton genre. LOUD tells the true roots of the history of the genre that spans from Jamaica to Panama to Puerto Rico. The podcast tells the raw and often mistold history of reggaeton where Afro-Latinos stood at the forefront of its creation, but are constantly discredited due to the music industry’s efforts to whitewash the genre. LOUD stands as an educational platform for Afro-Latinxs to receive their deserved recognition. Eccleston’s participation in the podcast was a crucial factor in shedding light on its roots in Panama and the Black artists that developed the sound.
Though the podcast was certainly an indication of progress, there is still major work left in amplifying the voices of Afro-Latinx reggaeton artists. She credits the progress to Black critics like Zahira Kelly Cabrera, Dash Harris, Jennifer Mota, Lorraine Avila, etc. Those who have criticized the lack of Black representation, the tokenization of Black artists, the sexualization of Black women, and the blatant disregard of talented Black artists. These critics were an integral part of why Black Latinx visibility is increasing, she emphasizes.
“I see more Black artists being considered at the forefront of the conversation, not just an add-on. I do see more Black girls in music videos. I do see more Black artists in editorial. I do see more Black artists being included. I do see people asking for it more. That warms my heart. That gives me hope but there’s still more room for improvement. Definitely,” she shares.
The queer Afro-Caribeña has made it clear that the amplification of Afro-Latinx voices is not solely on white Latino artists. Focusing on the artists to back years of Black erasure that the music industry has perpetuated is not taking in the bigger picture. Eccleston tells us that she is “annoyingly” known as one of Bad Bunny’s harshest critics but her critiques can be misunderstood by the general public, noting Bad Bunny as someone who is a great example of a Latinx artist that uplifts Afro-Latinx artists.
“I think it’s in the industry. I feel like the responsibility is not just on artists. Like if they have Black people around them and they’re not uplifting them, that’s one thing. But it’s literally on these companies to do better. It’s literally in the media to do better. It’s on editorial to do better. I also feel like sometimes artists don’t click. I’m creating music myself and I think all the time how I love this person, but I cannot hear them on a track with me.”
Music is not the only form of media that La Gata is newly pivoting into. The reggaetonera is a consultant on the comedy series, Neon that is set to debut later this year on Netflix. It tells the story of three friends who relocate to Miami in hopes of successfully making it into the reggaeton scene. Pivoting into the world of film is still somewhat of a new venture for the reggaetonera but it is a journey that she seems unwaveringly prepared for.
“Internally, it’s just been one of the happiest experiences I’ve ever had professionally so that’s inspiring me to pivot more into film. I’m releasing music hopefully this year. And that’s just gonna be a whole different tidal wave in and of itself. So I’m excited about that. My platform will always exist but how involved I will be that’s a different question,” she says referring to her experience at Neon.
Despite pursuing new ventures, Eccleston is continuing to dive deeper into the world of podcasts. La Gata and her co-host, Dominican-American journalist, Jennifer Mota have launched a new reggaeton podcast on Apple titled, Dimelo Cantando. The podcast serves as a safe space for reggaeton artists that come from different ethnic and racial backgrounds to voice their opinions and experiences when it comes to racism, sexism, colorism, etc without the fear of getting “canceled”.
“Latin America is very conservative. Latinos are very conservative. You know, it’s not popular to talk about these things. They have consequences. We gave them the space to say whatever they want to make mistakes and not give them grief that was just harmful or just not solution oriented. It was a very hard experience filming that too. Producing that, going back to edit, hearing all these traumatic things, you know. But the project itself is beautiful and I feel like it’s one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had in my career.”
Although Eccleston’s career is expanding into newer and bigger projects, reggaeton continues to be a defining theme in all that she does. From social media, to podcasts, to films, to advocating for the genre, La Gata continues to be triumphant in every approach she uses to have reggaeton be accurately represented in the industry.
“If there’s anything I want people to understand is that history, it’s a story. It’s not always a happy one. It’s a tragic one. There’s a lot of pain there. There’s a lot of things that are not said publicly. And that if you wanna do the genre due diligence, you have to investigate more than what is the popular opinion.”