*This article of mine is published in Medium.*
I did not need any caffeine to get me going this morning because my soul and feet were still grooving off the electric energy of Jennifer “JLo” Lopez and Shakira’s Super Bowl LIV halftime show performance. Shakira’s shimmering ruby-red dress was still sparkling in front of my eyes, and I may have tried one or two of the moves JLo learned for Hustlers before I got out the door.
But behind the 12-minute Versace-clad glitz and glam of these women’s spectacular and history-making night were serious political messages. The year 2020 marks the first time two Latinas headlined a Super Bowl halftime show. And the Spanish-speaking powerhouses were very much aware of the responsibility they had, as evidenced by how they used the massive Super Bowl platform to send a powerful message even prior to their performance.
“Two Latinas doing this in this country at this time is just very empowering to us,” Lopez said at a news conference held before the event. Shakira agreed, stating, “It’s very important for us to convey a message of unity and also to show what a relevant force the Latin community is in this country.”
And that is exactly what Shakira and Lopez did. It is no secret that Latinos are not normally shown in a positive light in this country, and it is undeniable that in Donald Trump’s White nationalist America, the negative stereotypes and racist depictions of Latinos are reenforced on a regular basis.
Shakira and JLo took Trump’s hateful rhetoric and policies and spun them on their head by displaying some of the best of Latin talent and by showcasing their own cultures. They were joined during the course of the evening by other major Latino talent such as Demi Lovato and Mexican American norteño band Los Tigres del Norte, along with Bad Bunny and J Balvin, two popular Latin artists who sang in Spanish.
The evening hit its political peak when Lopez’s 11-year-old daughter, Emme Maribel Muñiz, joined her mother onstage with a choir of children. As Shakira played the drums in the background, Muñiz and some of the other children sat in glowing cage structures, a clear acknowledgement of the Trump administration’s devastating family separation policies, while singing Lopez’s hit single “Let’s Get Loud.”
Immediately after that, Lopez strutted down the stage draped in a U.S. flag that revealed a Puerto Rican flag, and joined her daughter in a duet song mash-up of the Bruce Springsteen hit “Born in the U.S.A.” — sending a clear and powerful message that Puerto Ricans are Americans.
Shakira and JLo’s performance also underscored female power. Not only were the women dancing on a stage shaped in a giant female symbol, but the fact that both of these women are at the prime of their careers, both mothers, and 43 and 50 years old, was not lost on anyone.
More specifically, as women of color putting their sexuality on full display on a stage where we have been punished for doing so before (hello, Miss Jackson), Shakira and Lopez told women around the world that we are never too old to do anything. This is, in itself, is a bold and political message. And if you have any doubt about that, Shakira doing the zaghrouta (tongue thing) right into the camera — which took the ethnic flavor of the evening up a serious notch by introducing America to the joyful sound Arabic speakers make when celebrating, a nod to Shakira’s Lebanese heritage — should put your questions to rest.
JLo and Shakira’s performance, at its core, was about celebrating America’s diversity and rich immigrant history during a time when both those things are being denied and even criminalized by our own president. But more than reminding Americans that Latinos are a major force in American culture, and not just illegal immigrants at the border, by performing their political entertainment masterpiece on a night as American as the Super Bowl, Lopez and Shakira demonstrated to America that Latino culture is just as American as football.
As Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago writes:
“In the most necessary of years, Jennifer Lopez took Puerto Rico out of the shadows and into national living rooms. In a historic, iconic performance, singers Shakira and JLo represented the invisible Latinos of this country, using the power of dance and music to deliver a louder political message than mere words can convey… We are diverse people so rich in history that a Boricua, Jennifer Lopez from the Bronx, wraps herself in two flags, the American as her super power cape, and the Puerto Rican one with pride on the inside, always in her heart. All the contrary, Shakira and JLo’s performance was about empowerment of women, of Latinos, of cultures banned. It was an embrace of America the same way the voice of another Latina, Demi Lovato, powerfully belted out “the land of the free and the home of the brave” taking in another layer of meaning to the national anthem. We are here, we are us, we are Americans. See us.”
Indeed, we are here, we are Americans, we are people, and we have rights, too. Thank you, Shakira and JLo. Thank you.
*This article of mine is published in Medium.*