By Ibtasam Elmaliki
Rosalía, the Spanish singer and international sensation, caused headlines after her win with J Balvin, Latino reggaeton singer, at the recent MTV Video Music Awards. Rosalía’s win under the Latino category brings criticism because she’s not Latina but from Spain. The controversy opens a discussion on what constitutes being Latinx.
When Rosalía first dived into the music industry her music consisted of modern takes of Spanish flamenco music. Her first wave of controversy occurred when people accused her of appropriating music from Andulasians, also known as Gitanos, a minority group in Spain.
Despite the early accusations, Rosalía continued her career and gained massive international success after taking on a new Latinx style in her music. Her collaborations with popular Latino artists exposed her into the Latino music scene, earning her a cover on Vogue Mexico where they labeled her as a Latina Artist. Her win at the VMAS with J Balvin under the Latino category was the cherry on top to set fans off.
Rebeca Pineda-Burgos, a Spanish professor at CCNY and researcher of Venezuelan Literature, Culture and Literary Theory, finds the whole controversy interesting because it makes people really think what it means to be Latino. “It’s a super important question and the answer is changing all the time,”
Pineda-Burgos says. “I know that it constitutes a super interesting problem when it comes to identity because of the diversity involved,” she says. “For example a Latino person is not necessarily someone who is familiar with spanish. There’s a lot of misconceptions but I think the key thing is if someone is related culturally with the heritage from Latin America and it can be in terms of language, it can not be in terms of language, there are other approaches to culture such as if your family has an origin from there.”
“It’s an issue that can have a lot of different explanations but what I think is really important is someone’s experience.”
Jonny Mejía, a Dominican student, sees Latino as more of a definite identity. “Latino is either nationality wise or ethnicity wise. So an example is someone could have African parents but still be Latino if they’re born in Mexico,” Mejía says. In the same breath, Rosalía’s win doesn’t bother him at all. “It’s true she is not Latina but she is Hispanic. I believe that she deserves all the success considering that Latinos and Hispanics have to work extra hard to make it on the new American market. Not only in music but as well as in Hollywood.”
According to HipLatina, in an Interview with The Fader, Rosalía addressed her identity and her place in the music industry. “If Latin music is music made in Spanish, then my music is part of Latin music,” Rosalía says. “But I do know that if I say I’m a Latina artist, that’s not correct, is it? I’m part of a generation that’s making music in Spanish. So, I don’t know—in that sense, I’d prefer for others to decide if I’m included in that, no?”
Her personal statement is a mixture between both Pineda-Burgos and Mejía’s thoughts on the situation, not identifying as Latina but still feeling her place in the scene because the connection she has with the language.
“Maybe the award show made a mistake but what I found the most interesting about these types of controversies and debates is…
the struggle, the struggle of someone who is Latino and the identity issue of what is Latino and what is not,” says Pineda-Burgos. “I hope that at least controversy is creating the space for discussion.”
What is Latinx to you? Do you consider yourself to be Latinx? Tell us your thoughts and tag us @thepaperccny!