Originally released last year, Lucas Sugo’s Cinco Minutos y Nada Mas was the song of 2014 in Uruguay. Whenever I said the words “cinco minutos”–hard to avoid in ordinary conversation–people would break out into the song. A catchy tune indeed, I heard it more often than anything by major pan-Latin artists like Romeo Santos, Enrique Iglesias, and Prince Royce, etc. But outside Uruguay’s borders, ask someone about Lucas Sugo and you’ll fall on deaf ears. Herein lies yet another case of the strength of localism and the limits of the internal market in Uruguay.
Recently, Sugo teamed up with Indias Film to produce a new music video of Cinco Minutos y Nada Mas, with the goal of disseminating beyond Uruguay to achieve success in the much wider Latin market. The new version was shot in San Ramón, a town I passed through dozens of times. Over a hundred locals served as extras. A mom kissing her young son playing a toy guitar on a doorstep. An old lady happily moving to Lucas in a local pub. Kids playing soccer in the street. Two mustached men in sweaters drinking whiskey and playing cards.
Local geography figures prominently. San Ramón may only be an hour and a half from Montevideo, but it is firmly rural. In the video, you see the simple wooden sign for a farm, La Granja Doña Alba. Lucas’s Corvette traverses a landscape of open skies and new wind farms. It crosses the bridge over the Santa Lucia River. The Hotel where he and his love interest meet is a simple inn. Next to it is a barbershop. Below is an almacén. The dance scenes take place in the Club Social San Ramón where Lucas often plays when he comes to town for a raid or other type of dance.
In the twilight, he crosses paths with produce trucks sending in their daily shipment from the Canelones breadbasket to the markets in Montevideo. Lucas shows up to an ANCAP (the state-run petrol station) with posters advertising actual shows where Lucas Sugo is playing superimposed on a free gas sweepstakes poster. A younger Lucas with guitar and suitcase in hand walks along the decaying train tracks next to the AFE Station–Uruguayans refer to the railway system not as “the train”, but by the three letter acronym for the state-owned railway company”.
Lucas was driving a nice Corvette, but it’s not some sexy car he pulled out of thin air. You see mechanics working on it in the local tire shop, Gomeria Toyo. Instead of being about his relationship with his mother–as in the original–this new video was about his relationship with a former Miss Uruguay, Stephany Ortega. But even this model wasn’t scantily clad. The scenes were about the development of a genuine relationship in the context of a normal life in a normal town, from adolescence to adulthood. There’s a lot more puppy love than shaking of asses.
Lucas Sugo and his rural world of cumbia romantica is not a make believe land full of wealth, perfectly bronzed women, beaches, yachts, and open bars. It’s about the struggle for love amidst a reality that listeners can identify with, and even form the backdrop for. The article in Uruguay’s largest daily El Pais about the new video was called “Lucas Sugo for Export”. I would say it’s more exportable than the original version–the drinks come in highballs, not gourds–but it’s still distinctly Uruguayan. Not since Mayonesa by Chocolate of the cumbia tropical genre in 2000 has an Uruguayan track made it big in the rest of Latin America. For the sake of Uruguay’s image abroad, let’s hope Lucas can make it big too.