"Los latinos hemos hecho historia esta noche."
These powerful words from Super Bowl LIV Halftime show performer and world class Colombian artist, Shakira, resonated deeply with me in a way that I wasn’t expecting.
While I was excited to watch the game, I was particularly interested in seeing what my fellow Latinos would have to offer for the halftime show. I knew right off the bat there would be something of a spectacle – after all, it was Miami and the headliners, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, were both Latino.
Growing up, I spent most of my summers in Miami, specifically Hialeah, so I expected the wildness that surprised so many across the country. Of course, if you haven’t been exposed to the culture throughout your life, it’s understandable this would seem overtly sexual and icky in all the wrong ways.
For me, it was an amazing experience to see two of the biggest Latin artists on stage and performing the songs that shaped such a big part of my childhood. It was a unique experience and coincidentally the first time Latin artists co-headlined this event. All in all, it was an unprecedented performance.
Mostly, there was a sense of nostalgia for me and most of the Latinos I’ve talked to about the performance. The spectacle of the “sensual” dancing, JLo’s pole dancing and the over-the-top costumes; all of this, while understandably shocking to some, is not far from normal in our culture. With a budget of $13 million for this show, it was expected there would be pizzazz.
Along with the nostalgia of Shakira and JLo performing, there were two newer supporting artists whose music shaped the latter half of my teenage life.
Unfortunately, both J Balvin and Bad Bunny (both of whom are adored by most young Latinos, including myself) were outshone by their female counterparts. It would have been awesome for them to get more of a moment to shine, but it was clear that this halftime show was all about the ladies in Latin pop.
Overall, while I loved all the performances and enjoyed the music of my childhood and my teenage years, the adult in me was most provoked by the subtle political statements made throughout the show.
The show specifically focused on issues that affect the Latino community in various parts of the United States. First, there was an allusion to the border crisis that has been a hot topic in the United States for decades but has been at the forefront of American politics more so in the past few years. The set featured young children donning white clothing in glowing cages which, more than likely, is meant to remind the audience that even amidst all the fun and joy of the Super Bowl, there are many children in Migrant Detention Centers who have been separated from their parents.
Quickly after this, JLo and her daughter sing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA,’ while JLo held up a flag coat with the American flag on one side and the Puerto Rican flag on the other, calling attention to the plight of another group of Latinos in the United States. It was symbolic to perform this song while she held up the Puerto Rican flag. It was a small way to remind the country not to forget that Puerto Rico is still very much a part of the United States.
Puerto Rico, officially known as an unincorporated United States territory, has suffered from multiple major earthquakes since the beginning of 2020. Its people have struggled to regain stability due to the swarm of earthquakes as well as its own local government, which poorly distributed resources to the islands during Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Overall, this territory of the United States has faced a number of arduous challenges in the past few years with little to nothing being done to truly facilitate the recuperation of the island.
The demonstration of the Puerto Rican flag was a nod to them to stay strong through these challenges as well as a reminder to the audience that, again, there is still immense suffering experienced by Latinos in the United States.
On the whole, this was the overall message of the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Where many only saw two Latinas shaking their butts and having a good time, there were profound messages of perseverance, joy and unity. So yes, with the first two Latina co-headliners putting on a show like this with earnest messages, Latinos truly have made history.