What J-Lo and Shakira missed in their Super Bowl halftime showRoundup
tags: Super Bowl, popular culture, Latinx history, Afro Latinx History, Latinidad
Petra Rivera-Rideau is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Wellesley College and author of "Remixing Reggaetón: The Cultural Politics of Race in Puerto Rico."
Sunday may have been the most Latino Super Bowl in the history of Super Bowls. In Miami, a city that is 70 percent Latino, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira delivered a showstopping halftime show, featuring Latin urban superstars Bad Bunny and J Balvin — a memorable performance that has continued to generate buzz. Indeed, underlying the discussion of the show’s sexuality are deeply rooted stereotypes of Latinas as hypersexual, the same stereotypes that fuel xenophobic rhetoric and policies.
It was this rhetoric that J-Lo and Shakira sought to address in their performance. Before the game, the artists promised their performance would be a “message of unity” and a source of pride for Latinas, something both artists pointed out is particularly impactful in our current moment. And in many respects, they delivered. The show celebrated Latina achievement and prowess, a message that clearly resonated with many people. But their performance fell short of its goal of unity.
In recent years, the NFL has been mired in controversy due to its treatment of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose protests of anti-black racism in the United States have left him unsigned by any NFL team. In solidarity, artists Rihanna and Cardi Bi rejected offers to perform at the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta. The message of unity promoted by J-Lo and Shakira neglected to address these racial politics that have shrouded the NFL. And while their performance at moments expressed Latino pride, Shakira and Lopez missed an important opportunity to ally themselves with black communities, including Afro-Latino ones.
This omission reflects a general preference for whitening within “Latinidad,” the construction of Latino identities. In the United States, Latinos are often racialized as nonwhite. But the Latino community is a racially diverse one, and antiblackness exists within Latinidad. Many of our most successful Latin musicians embody what scholars have called the “Latin look,” characterized by dark hair, a light complexion and European features. The marginalization of Afro-Latinos in the English and Spanish language media industries perpetuates the valuing of whiteness in Latinidad. Shakira and Jennifer Lopez both embody this look, which has helped propel them to stardom in Latin America and the United States. On the other hand, artists like Miami-born Amara La Negra, who unapologetically embraces her identity as an Afro-Latina, has discussed her struggles with media industries that consider “real” Latinas to look more like J-Lo and Shakira and less like her.