Ever since Selena in the ’90s, Latin music has continuously been gaining mainstream popularity in the United States. Today, newer Latin musicians are front and center, such as Bad Bunny, J Balvin, and Maluma with Top 100 Billboard hits and collaborations with other famous artists such as Cardi B. But, with the emergence of the next generation of Latin musicians, many are wondering if listeners are appreciating the cultural elements and background that the artists display.
In recent years, Latinx issues have been brought to light, especially in the current state of politics. The current president began his campaign by describing Mexicans as rapists and criminals. Migrant children are being placed in overcrowded and abusive detention centers along the southern border. ICE raids and calls for a border wall have created distress for many in the Latinx community.
However, during a large portion of the presidency, a majority of whites still approved of Trump, making many question whether mainstream America values Latin culture only in the form of entertainment and fails to reflect on the issues affecting those of similar backgrounds as the musicians they love.
However, certain strides are being made to ensure that elements of Latinx culture are being introduced to the younger generations who listen to newer Latin music. Last year, the Texas education board approved a new ethnic studies course specifically on Mexican heritage in the United States. Though some consider such courses to be divisive, ethnic and cultural studies actually improve academic performance.
In Arizona, Tucson High’s Mexican American Studies Program saw 93% of students graduating, despite a national high school drop out rate of 48% for Mexican American students. The program inspires students in the classroom to study more about their heritage and, in turn, made them more committed and engaged members of their community.
Another consideration is that many within the Latin music industry are actually worried that the new genre of Latin music, reggaeton, and pop, may hurt the spread of Latin culture. Many consider the new music to have repetitive beats and focus solely on the younger generations, instead of older generations. This type of Latin music is also very male-dominated, and other concerns about misogyny and sexism in the lyrics have many older members of the industry skeptical of whether it is having a positive impact on the culture.
Time will tell if the rise in popularity of Latin music will inspire mainstream American audiences to value Latin voices and experiences outside the realm of entertainment. Many are looking to the youngest generation to solve major issues such as climate change and income inequality, and as the torch is being passed, we will see if issues for Latinx are alleviated and how much it has to do with inspiration from music.