Reinventing Enrique Iglesias: Constructing Latino whiteness in the Latin urban scene

Reinventando a Enrique Iglesias: La construcción de la blancura en la escena urbana latina

Abstract

In 2014, Enrique Iglesias shattered Latin music records with his hit song, “Bailando,” in collaboration with Afro-Cuban artists Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona, thereby firmly planting himself within the Latin urban music scene. “Bailando” ushered in a new wave of reggaetón-pop fusions that have since dominated the Latin pop market. In so doing, it follows a larger historical trajectory of white Latino artists performing Afro-Latino musical practices, in this case reggaetón. This paper examines media coverage surrounding “Bailando” alongside the song’s accompanying music video to consider how it constructs Latino whiteness. I argue that this Latino whiteness is distinct from US whiteness, but still reproduces racial hierarchies that inform dominant constructions of Latinidad.

Resumen

En 2014, Enrique Iglesias rompió los récords musicales con su éxito “Bailando”, una colaboración con los artistas afrocubanos Descemer Bueno y Gente de Zona, colocándose así firmemente en la escena musical urbana latina. “Bailando” marcó el inicio de una nueva ola de fusiones reguetón-pop que desde entonces han dominado el mercado del pop latino. Al hacerlo, da continuación a una trayectoria histórica más amplia de artistas latinos blancos que representan prácticas musicales afrolatinas, en este caso el reguetón. Este artículo examina la cobertura mediática de “Bailando” junto con el vídeo musical que acompaña la canción para analizar cómo esta construye la blancura latina. Proponemos que la blancura latina es distinta a la blancura estadounidense, pero aun así reproduce las jerarquías raciales que informan las construcciones dominantes de latinidad.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    I use “Latin mainstream” to refer to a broad mainstream audience within Latin music. Latin music encompasses several diverse genres, some of which are considered “niche,” that appeal to particular demographics. For example, reggaetón was initially affiliated with working-class, black communities but has crossed over to capture a broader audience. Thus, I consider Latin mainstream to be analogous to María Elena Cepeda’s (2010) depiction of a US mainstream associated with middle-class, white audiences (p. 57). As such, I believe that the Latin music mainstream provides an appropriate space in which to examine Latino whiteness.

  2. 2.

    For example, Dowling (2017) explores the racial classification of Mexicans as “white” at various moments in history, even if they were not treated as such. She also argues that at times Mexicans asserted their racial classification as “white” in order to avoid racial segregation. Vargas (2015) documents the circumstances under which some Latinos identify as “white” in the United States.

  3. 3.

    Enrique Iglesias’ mother, Isabel Preysler, is from an elite family that owned several businesses and properties in the Philippines. However, Iglesias’s Filipino background is rarely mentioned.

  4. 4.

    Afro-Latinos also recount the need to prove their identities to non-Latinos, given that blackness in the United States is often considered property of African Americans.

  5. 5.

    López published her article while the census was debating this shift for the 2020 Census; however, the census has since decided to maintain the separation of Hispanic/Latino origin from racial identification.

  6. 6.

    I use the term “Latino-oriented media” to refer to both Spanish and English media that target Latino audiences.

  7. 7.

    This process is, of course, not limited to Latin music. Examples abound of white US American performers also incorporating African American cultural practices and stereotypes into their performances, from the rock and roll of Elvis Presley to the twerking moves of contemporary artists like Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea.

  8. 8.

    It is important to point out that Afro-Latino musicians, including reggaetoneros, have a long history of using their music to express their Afro-Latinidad and critique antiblack racism. For more information on how reggaetón has served as a space for critiquing racism in Latin(o) America, see Rivera-Rideau (2015).

  9. 9.

    Cuba’s Agencia Cubana de Rap, or ACR, represents rap and some reggaetón groups in their commercial ventures. For more about the impact of the ACR and the role of Gente de Zona in the development of Cuban reggaetón, see Baker’s Buena Vista in the Club (2011).

  10. 10.

    The “Portuguese” label references language from Portugal, while “Brazilian” means Brazilian Portuguese. The Portuguese version can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkBMWBI6KQs, and the Brazilian at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLWYueKWbak.

  11. 11.

    This is not to say that there are no Afro-Mexican communities in the United States or in Mexico. Nor do I want to suggest that individuals’ identifying as mestizos is inherently problematic, or that mestizo identity has not been a source of ethnic pride at various moments in US history. Instead, I want to stress that images of mestizo Mexicans have become hegemonic in representations of Mexican and Latino identities in ways that contribute to the marginalization of blackness within Latinidad.

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Acknowledgements

Thank you to the anonymous reviewers for their generous and helpful feedback. Thank you also to my colleagues in the New England Consortium of Latina/o Studies, especially Marisol Negrón and Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez, for their comments on early versions of this article, and for their encouragement of this project.

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Correspondence to Petra R. Rivera-Rideau.

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Rivera-Rideau, P.R. Reinventing Enrique Iglesias: Constructing Latino whiteness in the Latin urban scene. Lat Stud 17, 467–483 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41276-019-00210-1

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Keywords

  • Reggaeton
  • Latinidad
  • Race
  • Afro-Latino
  • Whiteness
  • Latin pop

Palabras Clave

  • Reguetón/reggaetón
  • Latinidad
  • Raza
  • Afrolatino/a
  • Blancura
  • Pop Latino