Where are the Latino artists?
Country singer-songwriter Valerie Ponzio, who grew up in El Paso, Texas, watched the changes in her hometown. As a child in the 90s, she frequently crossed borders with her family to go to Ciudad Juárez for shopping. By the early 2000s, violence had increasingly invaded Mexican cities and intensified the debate on border security. More recently, El Paso has been characterized by gun violence following a mass shootout targeting Mexican residents in 2019.
It’s an emotional sequence of events for Ponzio. “I just want to see people praise my hometown,” says the singer, a former contestant of “The Voice”. Some songs that focus on El Paso.. “That’s not what people think.”
What hasn’t changed about El Paso over the past few decades is the way El Paso, and Latin culture more broadly, has been portrayed in country music. For Ponzio, a song like Miranda Lambert’s recent song “Tequila does it” Another way to stereotype your experience. The song, which begins with the line “His last name was Flores / he was from Juarez / was looking for the hell out of time,” describes the area as a novelty ending with another drunken night at the border post. .. This defines the career of Marty Robbins ”El Paso“And Johnny Cash”RecruiterHas long described this area as an area of virtue.
Today, “Tequila Does” is one of a wide range of recent trends in popular country songs that have marked Latin culture. Thematically, this most often includes references to alcohol like John Purdy. “Tequila Little Time” (Including sound references to mariachi music using a horn) and Luke Bryan “A margarita.” These hits showcase Latin culture as a source of white escape for country music, like drinking alcohol, cross-border sex escape, more common Latin Americans, or countless Latin beach vacations. It is based on a long history. Song of Kenny Chesney..
What is missing from a long history of singing about Latin culture in country music is impressive: true Latin Americans. The parallel themes of family, beliefs and rural culture found in regional Mexican and tejano music particularly disturb the exclusion of Latin Americans in the country. Again, Lack of black expression in country music In particular, it has appeared more and more in the last year around the singer’s career. Mickey guyton And her Grammy nominated song “Black like me, ”Latin artist (singer Rissi Palmer’s“Color Me Country Podcast Exception).
According to Jada Watson, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa and principal researcher at SongData, only 0.5% of the songs recorded in Hot Country Songs between 1944 and 2016 were recorded by Latin artists. It’s even worse for women, as almost all of these singles were recorded by just three men. Johnny rodriguez, With Freddy Fender Rick trebino..
“The Latina is not only considerably underrated, but she is also significantly lacking,” says Watson. According to Watson’s research, only a handful of Latina country artists such as Rosie Flores, Star De Azlan, and Leah Turner have recorded any hits.
Born and raised in Southern California, Turner is one of the most fascinating Latinas in country music history (her 2013 hit). “Take the key” Peaked at No. 37 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart). The daughter of a first-generation Mexican-American mother and the father of a rodeo champion, she is a thing of the past when country music opens the door for Latino performers, rather than continuing to divert culture to white performers. Is called.
“It’s very unpleasant. We’re not characters, we’re not just costumes, ”she says. “They benefit from our culture, how cool and different it is, how much everyone loves Mexico and everyone loves passionate Mexicana and Senorita. They must start to sit down at the table that we have made. “
For 10 years Study by Country Music Assn.. Seven in ten non-white Americans listen to country every week, revealing that Latin listeners are particularly interested in the genre. According to Karen Stump, senior director of consumer knowledge and research at CMA, the organization continues to actively survey viewers in Latin countries.
“The CMA commissioned a multi-phased multicultural research study launched earlier this year to examine the changing demographics of viewers across the country,” she reports. “Our goal is to better understand these audiences and their perspectives on gender. “
Research like CMA is conducted by the entire entertainment industry Forgotten the purchasing power of Latin Americans In the light of a film like “In the Heights” by Lin-Manuel Miranda Netflix Serena Miniseries..
It’s a trend that white artists like Lambert seem to be on their toes. The singer recently recorded a second “Tequila Does” for her acclaimed “Marfa Tapes” earlier this month, as did Miranda Lambert’s self-proclaimed “Tex-Mex + Cantina” bar Casa Rosa. I played at the CMT Awards. Opened in downtown Nashville. From the singer Idyllevent The Boot Barn line is also inspired by the style of Mexican fashion.
Meanwhile, the recent signing to Sony Music Nashville by Puerto Rican and Cuban duo Cat & Alex may suggest the industry is motivated to support Latino artists. Married Kat Luna and Alex Garrido gained national popularity as “American Idol” contestants last year and have since built social media after posting. Spanish rendering From a famous country song.
Jennifer Way, senior vice president of marketing at Sony Music Nashville, said: “Every time they release a Spanish cover of a country music song, they attract new Spanish speaking fans who may not have been. able to identify the genre before. “
While some may find Nashville’s increased involvement in the Latin market surprising, there was a time when the Latin breakthrough sparked interest in Music Row. Texasians Rodriguez and Fender had a long and successful career with several successes in the 1970s. In the 1990s, the industry was temporarily called Trevino (a Texas who spoke only English but the label was forced to record his first album in Spanish), Emilio Navaira (“Garth Brooks of Tejano”). T), and lags behind the root band. Mavericks directed by Cuban-American singer Raul Malo and in 2007 from Texas Star of Azlan Becomes the first Latina to sign labels in major countries (she was dropped on a curve record after three singles).
Country music faces an increase in diversity compared to other genres, however, as only a handful of Nashville-focused Guardians have shown little interest in deviating from the status quo. With a few exceptions, Nashville is primarily closed to Latin country artists.
Ponzio and Turner report that they experience both covert and explicit discrimination because of their ethnicity.
“When I was in The Voice, I realized that there was something very coded in a lot of reviews. There was a lot of things that said, ‘You don’t belong to a country.’ Ponzio.
Meanwhile, Turner describes a former manager who has given a stereotypical nickname based on his Mexican identity.
“I used to have a manager calling me a ‘taco,’ she recalls. “I finally said I would stop calling myself ‘tacos. ”I’m half Mexican, so you just call me a“ taco ”. “
When it came to selling himself early in his career, Turner was told by a record company to obscure his Mexican roots. It is an ability that is not given to dark-skinned Latin Americans. For Turner, this decision was not a source of direct discrimination on the part of the industry, but a strategic and protective one.
“When they said that, it wasn’t because they were like, ‘I want nobody to know you’re Mexican,'” she said. “They protected me from what the fan base is doing.”
Turner’s etiquette might have been short-sighted, nicely, but it made sense. Black Guyton women are often the target of verbal abuse online, and Ponzio and Turner have suffered backlash from fans when they talk about the lack of Latin expression in country music. Such an experience was exacerbated by anti-immigrant rhetoric initiated by former President Trump and Fox News, targeting the often conservative white fan base, whom the country music industry has long prioritized.
Despite the negative interactions with fans, Turner also points to the positive messages from Latin listeners who feel his music proves his position as a country music fan. I go. It’s a community that helped spur her upcoming EP, which will be released independently in July, and makes great use of her Mexican and cowgirl roots. For her, it’s a natural combination for country music.
“Latin and country musical cultures are 100% interrelated. They are religious, have families, are diligent, passionate, and know Latin Americans and country music. [fans like] Drink it up, ”she says. “My dream is for the first cowboys, cowboys and buckets to come together in one place and bring these two worlds together.”
Amanda Marie Martinez is a doctoral candidate in the UCLA School of History, a member of the recording industry at Middle Tennessee State University, and teaches the history of country music.
This story was originally Los Angeles Times..