Villana Santiago Pacheco, known by her stage name, Villano Antillano, has been one of the pioneers of the queer movement within the urban genre in Puerto Rico. Born in Bayamón, Villano Antillano considers herself a transfemme person whose approach to music is as challenging and irreverent as she is magnetic and revolutionary.
“I’m not a role model, I’m a role villain”, says the Puerto Rican rapper Villano Antillano, when asked about their fearless persona and what their dissidence as an openly bisexual and non-binary MC has meant to the LGBTQ community on the island.
As an audiovisual artist, she is working on projects that encapsulate the beauty and horror of growing up as a queer person in the Caribbean, including her first album titled La Sustancia X.
Here at WPGM, we are immensely proud of Villana’s self expression, musical lyricism, and defiant attitude. We can’t get enough of her radiant light and candid personality. She is warm, approachable and fiercely unapologetic. I have been following Villana along for her journey, cheering her on with tender love. She has always managed to express herself through her music and through the representation of self.
For the last two years, I have worked closely with Villana’s team to produce coverage that highlights the nuance of Villana’s journey. Recently, we sat down with Villana and interviewed her on a number of subjects; from her Spotify Radar, to the launching of her album La Sustancia X.
We also discus her collaboration with another Puerto Rican legend, iLe, on the track “Mujer” (Spanish for woman), the many iterations of healing the inner chamaquita (Spanish for child), the harms of queerbaiting in the industry, and more! We are honored to share the works and the profound thoughts of Villana in our latest editorial feature.
When my friend/collaborator Eduardo & I first interviewed Villana for Galore Magazine, she identified as non binary. It was evident in her lyricism that she was in a pre-transition stage. Now she is defiant against all odds and identifies as female.
When Eduardo interviewed her again to highlight her new album La Sustancia X, he mentioned how he would always be the one to share Villana’s music to his queer friends in Madrid. With the release of her new album, his friends are going around asking, “OMG, have you heard this new album!” In response to this, Villana laughed and stated;
“It’s super funny what you tell me about this marked difference from when you recommended my music to your friends when I was on another wave, even pre-transition. A lot of people can’t even love that it’s the same person, and while that trips me up a lot, it also makes me feel like, ‘I did it the way I wanted to do it.’
That makes me feel super good, but I also think that there is some truth in that, there is something very powerful within that great development that you feel, and it is very powerful to find your identity and be able to say ‘I am this person and I’m not going to hide anymore’, and whoever can’t see shouldn’t see.
I think that all the liberation that comes with that, which was mine and personal, was embodied in everything I’ve done, and people feel it and that’s very rich.”
It was sweet to share a moment of laughter with Villana. At the same time, there’s a level of growth from our initial interview two years ago to this recent interview. She continues to dig deep and discover more of what lies within herself. It is an honor for us to continue to experience her evolution and growth with her.
Villana has been very intentional about her healing journey and how she reveals her truth to her audience. When prompted to speak about her healing journey from the time she released tracks like “Benedettismo”, “Manifesto Mecanismos”, and “Culo”, to her current album, Villana shared;
“It really feels that way a lot. At that time I was very young, and I was dealing with very strong situations like the end of the world, being kicked out of your house, having to find a life out there, and that is very strong, and I was in a very dark and with a lot of rancor.
But eventually I did the work, and I’m 27 now, and that transition also of being an adult and becoming an adult is also part of that healing to understand all those things that happened to me.
Because everyone has traumas, but the way in which one heals is important; and although I still wouldn’t say I’m 100% healed, I’ve done most of it and I feel like I’m at a stage where I can enjoy myself and I know that nothing is going to fuck with me, and that definitely reflects in the music.”
Her vulnerability is something not to take for granted. It takes a lot to be candid about deep seeded traumas imposed onto us by society, but like a butterfly freeing herself from a cocoon, Villana spreads her wings and allows her to journey on with her in her healing process. Now 27 years old, Villana shares that she has worked through the darkness and healed the inner chamaquita, Spanish for inner child.
Changing the subject a bit, Villana was asked about a topic she conveys in her music. Her song “Mujer” (Spanish for woman) with iLe is a very powerful song. iLe is a singer, composer and vocalist from Hato Rey, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Two years ago, Ileana Cabra aka iLe found herself adrift, floating in an emotional abyss. The COVID-19 pandemic had just begun to radically transform the planet, and a sense of perpetual uncertainty weighed heavy on her. Those first months of quarantine warped time and space, twisting the days into a ceaseless, indistinguishable drag. iLe turned to music, seeking some form of respite.
“I felt like I was in this state of emotional madness: confused, lost. I had to let myself go without knowing what I was going to do or write. I was confused and lost, but at the same time, songs kept coming out of me. I kept writing. I kept composing.”
The result was her album Nacarile, an album filled with melodic experimentation. Lyrically, Nacarile explores how the personal and the political intersect. There are searing feminist protest songs (“ALGO BONITO”), condemnations of colonization and imperialism (“donde nadie más Respira”), and reflections on the scars of patriarchal love (“traguito”).
It is no wonder that these two empowered women joined to create the song “Mujer” (Spanish for woman) on Villana’s album La Sustancia X.
On the track “Mujer”, Villana has a line that says “todos quieren rainbow, todos quieren de mi prisma” (translation: everyone wants rainbow, everyone wants my prism), which Eduardo and I interpreted to be about those who take advantage of queerness as a means to make a profit out “pink money” as they say.
Since Eduardo and I are collaborating closely on this feature, he asked Villana “Do you feel that this continues to happen with you or do you think that you can control it within your position?” Villana responded with her sincere opinions on queerbaiting:
“I feel like at this point, I don’t necessarily deal with it, because I’m at a level where I don’t have to laugh to thank anyone. So I’m on my own, quiet, doing my thing, and I work with who I want to work with. I think that in a bigger sense, what I intend to say there is about queerbaiting that does exist even though people deny it, and nobody owes you any performance art and there are a thousand ways to be queer.”
Although Villana is currently at a point in her life where she has full autonomy of the work she produces and who she enters collaborations with, it would be amiss of her to not be critical of the ways in which the industry works. Villana continues to talk about queerbaiting in the industry based on her experiences and understanding.
“I think (and it is my opinion based on my experience that does not mean that I am the owner of the truth) that it is something that does exist, there is a market for queer, and there is a way to take advantage of it to a certain extent, be something controversial or push some ideology or reality that you don’t really live.
I think that this is a problem and that there are people who are hypocritically not aligned with certain values, or who do not understand anything at all about gender ideology, identities and sexual orientations. I know that there are kids who see us and think ‘this is a good opportunity, so let’s take advantage of it and do business’.
That’s what I mean, like, how subversive and how powerful that attitude can be. For example, now everyone wants to put a feature, everyone wants to be around. At the end of the day it’s rap and it’s about snoring and feeling empowered, that’s why I said that, because I think it’s very real.”
Villana acknowledges that there are businesses that want to flip a profit off of the queer community because their expression and found liberation is marketable and trendy. This is harmful to those of us in the queer community, because it places queerness as a narrative invented by those who do not belong to the community. We are grateful that Villana continues to be a “role villain” and a spokesperson for the queer community.
Listen to her new album La Sustancia X below and stream it everywhere else here, and keep tabs on Villana on Instagram.
Written, translated and edited by Shirley Reynozo // Interviewed and transcribed by Eduardo Rolle