VMAs kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month in worst way

As Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off, the VMAs awards Best Latin Song to an American singer, causing outrage among the Latino community.

VMAs kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month in worst way

David Rivera

Hispanic Heritage Month is an important time for the Hispanic and Latinx community, since it’s the time when we get to celebrate our history, our language, and above all, our culture and identity. 

The music industry has always been dominated by English-language artists, which makes it harder for non-English-language music and artists to be recognized and be promoted. Therefore, all of the music awards organizations have either a Latin category, such as the VMA’s, or have a Latin version of the awards like the Latin Grammys or the Billboard Latin Music Awards.

This has been done in order to recognize and appreciate Latin music by artists such Bad Bunny, who was awarded ‘Artist of the Year’ at the Billboard Latin Music Awards; Anitta, who is a Brazilian multilingual singer; or Selena Gomez, who just started her music career within the Latin American rhythms.  

The 2021 MTV Video Music Awards aired September 12. One of its Latin categories was ‘Best Latin Video’. Among its nominees was Billie Eilish & Rosalia  with ‘Lo Vas A Olvidar’, a music video that was directed by Australian-American Nabil Elderkin.

To everyone’s surprise, the “Best Latin Video” winner went to the American, Spanish, and Australian-American trio. Because a Latin American artist did not win “Best Latin Video” at a major US awards show, the Latin-American community felt angry and disrespected. This act was extremely disrespectful to the community and its art.

In the Latin America community, the song by Billie Eilish and Rosalia isn’t considered an actual Latin song because neither of the singers are Latina, even though the song is in the Spanish language. This led many people of the Latinx community to claim this song as cultural appropriation throughout social media.

Despite controversy raised by the Latinx community, neither singer clarified, apologized, or defended themselves. This made the community even more angry, due to the lack of sensitivity on behalf of these artists.

Many argue that Rosalia should be accepted as a “Latin artist” because she speaks Spanish. If the Latin awards categories only focused exclusively on Latin-American artists, then Spanish artists wouldn’t have the chance to be awarded.

However, Rosalia’s credibility was null and void when she decided to team up with an American artist, who has no Latin roots, to sing a Spanish-language song.

Many Latinx EHS students believe that instead of attempting to take over Reggaeton music, Rosalia should stick to her own music style, which is a mix of flamenco and urban music. Rosalia herself has said that she doesn’t know how to name her genre.

Many in the community are also questioning the nomination in the first place, as they believe this was a steal from the Latin community, since there were other artists who deserved the nomination. Artists like Selena Gomez, who dropped a Spanish-language project that only Latin people were involved in, from song production all the way to video production.

While this event has outraged many in the Latinx community, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Awards shows have been disrespecting the Latin community for a long time.

One of the worst cases was when the song “Despacito Remix” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber allowed the Canadian-born Bieber to sing in Spanish.

As the song rose to popularity in the United States, many outside of the Latin community credited Bieber with the success. In reality, the original version of the song topped the charts and was even praised as song of the year in 2017.

What hurts the most about occurrences like this one is the disrespect to our language. In Bieber’s case, the English-speaking artist, who speaks no Spanish at all, sang in Spanish and later, in an interview, could not recall the lyrics. Instead, he began making words up including using the name of the chips brand “Doritos” to mimic the Spanish-language lyrics. This tells us that Bieber only knew the language for the recorded version, not the live version of the song.

If, as a community, we don’t begin to call out non-Latin artists from participating in Latin-American music genres, then we would be discrediting the hard work of many Latin singers.