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.
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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I use the term “Latino-oriented media” to refer to both Spanish and English media that target Latino audiences.
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.
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).
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).
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.
Abreu, C.D. 2015. Rhythms of Race: Cuban Musicians and the Making of Latino New York City and Miami, 1940–1960. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Alcoff, L.M. 2005. Latino vs. Hispanic: The Politics of Ethnic Names. Philosophy and Social Criticism 31 (4): 395–407.
Alcoff, L.M. 2009. Latinos Beyond the Binary. The Southern Journal of Philosophy 47 (S1): 112–128.
Baker, G. 2011. Buena Vista in the Club: Rap, Reggaetón, and Revolution in Havana. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Bebout, L. 2016. Whiteness on the Border: Mapping the U.S. Racial Imagination in Brown and White. New York: New York University Press.
Bender, S.W. 2001. Will the Wolf Survive?: Latina/o Pop Music in the Cultural Mainstream. Denver University Law Review 4: 719–751.
Benjamin, J. 2019. Latin Music is Now More Popular than Country & EDM in America. Forbes, 4 January. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbenjamin/2019/01/04/latin-music-in-2018-album-song-sales-consumption-buzzangle-report/#7f2fefc05add. Accessed 12 Mar 2019.
Candelario, G.E.B. 2007. Black Behind the Ears: Dominican Racial Identity from Museums to Beauty Shops. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Cantor-Navas, J. 2014. Meet Descemer Bueno, the Talent Behind Enrique Iglesias’ Smash Hit “Bailando.” Billboard, 17 November. https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/latin-notas/6319836/descemer-bueno-interview-bailando. Accessed 12 June 2018.
Cantor-Navas, J. 2015. Beyond “Bailando”: Getting to Know Cuba’s Gente de Zona. Billboard, 15 July. https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/latin/6633605/gente-de-zona-interview. Accessed 12 Mar 2019.
Cepeda, M.E. 2010. Musical ImagiNation: U.S.-Colombian Identity and the Latin Music Boom. New York: New York University Press.
Cepeda, E. 2018. Tu Pum Pum: As Reggaeton Goes Pop, Never Forget the Genre’s Black Roots. Remezcla, 29 January. http://remezcla.com/features/music/tu-pum-pum-1/. Accessed 19 Mar 2019.
Cobo, L. 2016. How Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailando” Became a Hit … And How It Almost Didn’t. Billboard, 12 October. http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/latin/7541044/enrique-iglesias-bailando-song-history. Accessed 12 June 2018.
Cobo, L. 2018. Latin Grammys 2018: Why Luis Miguel Won Big and J Balvin Won Only One Award. Billboard, 18 November. https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/latin/8485596/latin-grammys-2018-analysis-luis-miguel-j-balvin. Accessed 12 Mar 2019.
Cruz-Janzen, M.I. 2001. Latinegras: Desired Women: Undesirable Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, and Wives. Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 22 (3): 168–183.
Dávila, A. 2008. Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race. New York: New York University Press.
Dávila, A. 2012. Latinos Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Dowling, J. 2017. White. In Keywords for Latina/o Studies, ed. D.R. Vargas, N.R. Mirabal, and L. La Fountain-Stokes, 239–242. New York: New York University Press.
Edmond, M. 2014. Here We Go Again: Music Videos After YouTube. Television and New Media 15 (4): 305–320.
Fiol-Matta, L. 2002. Pop Latinidad: Puerto Ricans in the Latin Explosion, 1999. Centro Journal 14 (1): 26–51.
Goin, K.K. 2016. Marginal Latinidad: Afro-Latinas and U.S. Film. Latino Studies 14 (3): 344–363.
Hall, S. 2004. New Ethnicities. In Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, ed. D. Morley and K.-H. Chen, 441–449. New York: Routledge.
Hernández, T.K. 2010. Afro-Latin@s and the Latin@ Workplace. In The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States, ed. M. Jiménez-Román and J. Flores, 520–526. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Hesse, B. 2007. Racialized Modernities: An Analytics of White Mythologies. Ethnic and Racial Studies 30 (4): 643–663.
Huffington Post. 2014. Enrique Iglesias baila con una sexy morena en su nuevo video del tema “Bailando.” Huffington Post, 11 April. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/11/enrique-iglesias-bailando-video_n_5134309.html. Accessed 12 June 2018.
Jiménez Román, M. 2007. Looking at That Middle Ground: Racial Mixing as Panacea? In A Companion to Latina/o Studies, ed. J. Flores and R. Rosaldo, 325–336. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Jiménez Román, M., and J. Flores (eds.). 2010. The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Jones, J.A. 2018. Afro-Latinos: Speaking Through Silences and Rethinking the Geographies of Blackness. In Afro-Latin American Studies: An Introduction, ed. A. de la Fuente and G.R. Andrews, 569–614. New York: Oxford University Press.
Jorge, A. 1986. The Black Puerto Rican Woman in Contemporary American Society. In The Puerto Rican Woman: Perspectives on Culture, History, and Society, 2nd ed, ed. E. Acosta-Belén, 180–187. New York: Praeger.
Leight, E. 2018. Latin Music is Reaching More Listeners than Ever—But Who is Represented? Rolling Stone, 15 November. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-latin/latin-pop-urban-reggaeton-trap-755772/. Accessed 12 Mar 2019.
López, A.M. 2010. Cosa de Blancos: Cuban-American Whiteness and the Afro-Cuban-Occupied House. Latino Studies 8 (2): 220–243.
López, N. 2013. Killing Two Birds with One Stone? Why We Need Two Separate Questions on Race and Ethnicity in the 2020 Census and Beyond. Latino Studies 11 (3): 428–438.
Mendizabal, A. 2014. Exclusive: Enrique Iglesias Talks Record-Breaking No. 1 Run for “Bailando.” Billboard, 29 October. http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6297021/enrique-iglesias-bailando-breaks-record-hot-latin-songs. Accessed 12 June 2018.
Negus, K. 1998. Cultural Production and the Corporation: Musical Genres and the Strategic Management of Creativity in the US Recording Industry. Music, Culture, and Society 20: 359–379.
Oboler, S. 1995. Ethnic Labels, Latino Lives: Identity and the Politics of (Re)Presentation in the United States. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Party, D. 2010. The Miamization of Latin-American Pop Music. In Postnational Musical Identities: Cultural Production, Distribution, and Consumption in a Globalized Scenario, ed. I. Corona and A. Madrid, 65–80. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Poey, D. 2014. Cuban Women and Salsa: To the Beat of Their Own Drum. New York: Palgrave.
Railton, D., and P. Watson. 2005. Naughty Girls and Red Blooded Women: Representations of Female Heterosexuality in Music Video. Feminist Media Studies 5 (1): 51–63.
Rivera-Rideau, P.R. 2015. Remixing Reggaetón: The Cultural Politics of Race in Puerto Rico. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Rivera-Rideau, P.R., J.A. Jones, and T.S. Paschel (eds.). 2016. Afro-Latin@s in Movement: Critical Approaches to Blackness and Transnationalism in the Americas. New York: Palgrave.
Sandoval-Sánchez, A. 1999. José Can You See?: Latinos On and Off Broadway. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Sue, C.A. 2013. Land of the Cosmic Race: Race Mixture, Racism, and Blackness in Mexico. New York: Oxford University Press.
The Latin Recording Academy. 2013. The Manual: Eligibility Year for the 15th Annual Latin GRAMMY ® Awards, July 1, 2013 Through June 30, 2014. https://www.latingrammy.com/en/the-manual-backup. Accessed 12 June 2018.
Torres-Saillant, S. 2003. Inventing the Race: Latinos and the Ethnoracial Pentagon. Latino Studies 1 (1): 123–151.
Trust, G. 2014. Ask Billboard: How Has Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailando” Become Such a Big Hit? Billboard, 27 July. http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6189519/ask-billboard-how-has-enrique-iglesias-bailando-become-such-a. Accessed 12 June 2018.
Vargas, N. 2015. Latina/o Whitening? Which Latinas/os Self-Classify as White and Report Being Perceived as White by Other Americans? Du Bois Review 12 (1): 119–136.
Vasconcelos, J. 1997 . The Cosmic Race/La Raza Cósmica. Trans. D. T. Jaén. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Vernallis, C. 2004. Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context. New York: Columbia University Press.
Watson, M.R., and N. Anand. 2006. Award Ceremony as Arbiter of Commerce and Canon in the Popular Music Industry. Popular Music 25 (1): 41–56.
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.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
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
- Latin pop
- Pop Latino