Is Latinidad the Latest Fad for Global Artists?

Spanish singer Rosalia surrounded by brown skinned dancers

Lately, Latinidad has taken the entertainment world by storm. Artists from all corners are dancing to reggaeton, dembow, and other Latin beats.

And while this excitement has spotlighted Latin culture on the global stage, the distinction between appreciation and appropriation is becoming increasingly blurred. The sentiment of "ahora todos quieren ser Latinos" is becoming ever more evident. This raises the question: Are artists intentionally being vague about their Latinidad?

The Echoes of the Latin Explosion

Take a step back to the '90s, a time when the "Latin Explosion" dominated the global entertainment landscape. Spanish pop singer Enrique Iglesias emerged as a leading figure during this period. Even with their Spanish roots, he, along with stars like Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, rode the wave of Latin popularity, often being referred to as Latino.

There’s no doubt that the Latin fever was at an all-time high. Remember when Geri Halliwell, former Spice Girl, dropped "Mi Chico Latino" in 1999? Yep, she went full Latina mode even though she's all British. And how about Nelly Furtado? While she's Canadian with Portuguese heritage, her 2006 album "Loose" showcased distinct Latin pop beats, which often led people to mistakenly identify her as Latina. And the list goes on.

During this period, the Latine community yearned for more visibility and representation. Even if this representation was imperfect, it was a start. Yet, as time has evolved, so have our expectations and definitions of what’s Hispanic and what’s Latino.

When the infectious beats of "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee broke records in 2017, it opened the floodgates for Latin collaborations, a phenomenon sometimes dubbed “The Despacito Effect.” Reggaeton, once frowned upon, deemed lower-class, and closely associated with the Afro-Latine community, now finds itself in the mainstream, looking significantly paler.

Several English-speaking artists jumped on the reggaeton bandwagon, including Justin Bieber with his "Despacito" remix, where he sang in Spanish (or at least imitated the language), Beyonce teaming up with J Balvin for “Mi Gente,” Madonna collaborating with Maluma on “Medellín,” and Drake pairing with Bad Bunny for “MIA.”

Many artists, like Justin Bieber, Drake, and Madonna, choose to sing in Spanish, albeit phonetically, when featuring on a Latin track, but may not consistently integrate the language into their music. While we’re all for embracing multilingualism, there's a difference between a genuine appreciation and understanding of the language and occasional use solely for commercial advantage.

Meanwhile, Spaniards like Rosalía, despite their European roots, have basked in the spotlight of being mislabeled a "Latina," taking home Latin Grammys and thriving on a legacy of colonial exploitation of native Latin-American cultures.

But beyond individual choices, the inner workings of the entertainment industry are deeply entrenched in biases. It's not only about artists like Rosalía and Enrique Iglesias navigating ambiguous cultural boundaries; it's about an industry with a longstanding inclination to put a "whitewashed" face on predominantly Black artistic expressions.

Cultural Crossroads: Appreciation or Appropriation?

The Latine community's internal struggles with colorism and anti-Blackness cast a long shadow. This ingrained prejudice creates a platform where artists like J Balvin, not of Afro-Latino descent, earn accolades in categories rooted in Black Latin heritage. Meanwhile, true torchbearers of the genre, like Ivy Queen and Tego Calderon, despite their monumental contributions, remain unsung heroes.

Despite the rich tapestry of Afro-Latin culture and music, the entertainment industry often sidelines its key contributors. The vibrant rhythms of salsa, merengue, and reggaeton are deeply rooted in the African diaspora, tracing back to centuries of cultural exchange between indigenous communities, African slaves, and Spanish colonizers in the Caribbean and South America. Yet, the narrative that's been presented in mainstream media often whitewashes this historical context, erasing black faces from the spotlight and rendering their contributions invisible.

Mislabeling artists like Enrique Iglesias and Rosalía as "Latino" may seem innocuous, but it has profound implications. There's a distinction between "Latino" (referring to individuals from Latin America), "Hispanic" (those from Spanish-speaking countries), and "Spanish" (referring to Spain). By not understanding or respecting these nuances, the industry overlooks the vast diversity of the Latine community and risks perpetuating colonialist narratives.

Furthermore, the frequent mislabeling further obscures the contributions of Afro-Latine artists, who not only hail from Latin America but also play instrumental roles in developing the music genres we know and love today. Recognizing these artists for their groundbreaking work is a step towards rectifying centuries of erasure and misunderstanding.

As global consumers of music, it's essential to be vigilant and demand accuracy, authenticity, and inclusivity. By holding the industry accountable, there's hope for a future where Latine and Afro-Latine artists are not just a footnote, but are celebrated and acknowledged for the rich cultural legacy they've crafted.

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Women in Texas at the National Women's March, rallying against deadly abortion restrictions.
Lucy Flores

The landscape of abortion rights in the United States has become more restrictive than ever in recent history, particularly in Arizona and Florida, where recent developments represent a major setback for women’s reproductive rights. On April 9, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in a 4-to-2 decision to uphold an 1864 law banning abortion from the moment of conception. The only exception is saving the mother’s life, but there are no exceptions for rape or incest under this law.

Just a few days earlier, on April 1, the Florida Supreme Court also ruled in favor of upholding a 6-week abortion ban, which will take effect on May 1. This further reduced the legal threshold for abortions in Florida, which used to be 24 weeks of pregnancy before Republicans passed a law in 2022 banning abortions after 15 weeks. Both of these rulings have sparked intense debate and outrage about their impact on women’s rights.

Overview of the Near-Total Abortion Ban in Arizona

The Arizona Supreme Court voted to uphold an 1864 law, a law passed even before the state officially was a part of the United States of America, that makes all types of abortion illegal, including medication abortion, from the moment of conception. Though there are exceptions in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, the ban makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest and imposes severe penalties, including imprisonment, on medical professionals performing abortions.

Medical professionals have spoken out about how dire the situation will become for women with this near-total abortion ban. Dr. Jill Gibson, chief medical director of Planned Parenthood in Arizona, told CNN that this ruling will have “absolutely unbelievable consequences for the patients in our community.” She continued by saying, “Providers need to be able to take care of their patients without fear of legal repercussions and criminalization.”

Representatives from Arizona and other states across the country have also spoken up against this near-total abortion ban.

Video by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramVideo by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Image by Rub\u00e9n Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Until this Arizona Supreme Court decision, abortion had been legal in the state up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. The right to abortion via Roe v. Wade prevented the enforcement of the near-total abortion ban, but since a majority vote in the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe, those opposed to abortion rights had been fighting to enforce the 160-year-old 1864 law.

This new abortion ban in Arizona is not effective immediately as the court has paused its ruling for 14 days until additional arguments are heard in a lower court about how constitutional the law is. However, the law will likely come into effect in May, a few weeks from now. Planned Parenthood Arizona, the largest abortion provider in the state, will continue serving the community until the ban is enforced.

An Overview of Florida's Six-Week Abortion Ban

The landscape of abortion in Florida has also undergone a significant change with the enforcement of a 6-week abortion ban, replacing the previous 15-week limit. This ban, similar to Arizona's, severely restricts access to abortion care and poses a significant challenge to reproductive rights in the state. Providers are bracing for a public health crisis due to the increased demand for abortion and limited options for patients.

Practically speaking, a 6-week abortion ban is a near-total abortion ban because pregnant people often don’t even realize they could be pregnant by this early stage. Combined with Florida’s strict abortion requirements, which include mandatory in-person doctor visits with a 24-hour waiting period, it’s nearly impossible for those who may want an abortion to be able to access it before 6 weeks. Not to mention that fulfilling the requirements is particularly challenging for low-income individuals.

Video by theluncheonlawyer on InstagramVideo by theluncheonlawyer on Instagram

Moreover, this Florida law also restricts telemedicine for abortion and requires that medication be provided in person, effectively eliminating mail-order options for abortion pills. While exceptions for rape and incest exist in Florida, the requirements are also strict, asking victims to provide police records or medical records. For victims who don’t always report sexual violence for many different reasons, these exceptions don’t make a difference.

The consequences of Florida’s ban extend to neighboring states with more restrictive abortion laws. For instance, residents of Alabama, facing a total ban on abortion, and Georgia, with its own 6-week abortion ban, have relied on Florida for abortion services. That will no longer be an option, further limiting care alternatives.

The Road Ahead

These recent abortion bans in Arizona and Florida are a major setback for women's rights, particularly impacting Latina women who already face barriers to accessing quality healthcare. These bans not only restrict women’s reproductive freedom but also endanger their lives.

Efforts to challenge these bans through legal means and ballot measures are ongoing, but the road ahead is uncertain. While there’s hope for overturning these abortion bans, the challenges of conservative laws and legal battles are formidable. The November ballot in both states will be crucial in determining the future of abortion rights and access for all.

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