Lost in Translation: The Latin Grammys' Decision to Move to Spain

Spanish singer David Bisbal at the 2014 Latin Grammys

The Latin Grammys have made headlines once again, this time for their decision to take the awards show out of the United States for the first time in its history. The announcement that Spain will be the host country for several events over the next three years has sparked a wide range of reactions on social media.

The irony of the decision isn’t lost on many people, who are questioning why the Latin Grammys would choose to hold their event in a country that isn’t typically associated with Latin music. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that this decision is a deliberate snub to Latin America and the Caribbean, which would seem like more natural choices for the awards show.

The Latin Grammy Awards have long been controversial and debated, with critics accusing the Academy of highlighting non-Latino artists during their ceremony. The issue at hand is the very definition of what it means to be Latino, which is someone from a Latin American country or region, and not from the country of Spain.

While all the countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean land in this classification, Spain does not. Spain is considered a Hispanic country in Europe due to the fact that the Spanish are "hispanohablantes," or Spanish-language speakers.

However, the history behind the Spanish language is complex, with colonization forcing it onto our ancestors, who learned it out of survival and coercion. And today, the regional distinction is more important than ever. Spanish people are not Latinos, yet the Academy has a different idea.

And the public has been quick to remind everyone of how Spanish in Latin America came to be.

Despite being reminded of this time and time again, the Academy has continued to award non-Latino artists with Latin Grammys, most notably Rosalia, a Spanish artist. The controversy reached new heights when Rosalia's “Motomami” won Album of the Year at the Latin Grammys, beating Bad Bunny's “Un Verano Sin Ti.”

According to The Latin Recording Academy, Latin music is defined as music in Spanish or Portuguese, encompassing songs released in Latin America, Spain, Portugal, and the Latino United States. To qualify for a Latin Grammy, works must have been recorded in Spanish or Portuguese and released in Ibero-America, which would include Latin America, Spain, Portugal, and the Latino community in Canada and the United States. The Latin Grammy Awards are not just limited to Spanish and Portuguese. Products recorded in languages, dialects, or idiomatic expressions recognized in Ibero-America, such as Catalan, Basque, Galician, Valencian, Nahuatl, Guarani, Quechua, or Mayan, may also be accepted by a majority vote.

Yet, with artists like Billie Eilish and The Weekend receiving nominations for the Latin Grammy Awards due to their collaborations with Rosalia, the issue of inclusivity in the Latin music industry has been thrust into the spotlight. As social media erupted with opinions on the increasing presence of Ibero-Europeans and non-Latinos at the Latin Grammy Awards, questions were raised about what it truly means to be a Latino artist.

The Latin Grammys claim to “celebrate, honor, and elevate Latin music and its creators.” Still, with the evolving nature of Latinidad, some people are questioning the very definition of the term "Latin." Is it simply a matter of where you're from, or is there more to it than that? As the industry continues to grapple with these questions, one thing is clear: the Latin Grammys have a lot of soul-searching to do if they want to truly live up to their name and their audience.

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