I’m as guilty as anybody else for continually re-hashing the aftermath of the Latin pop explosion, but there was something about that moment that transcends the understandable “that wasn’t Latin music anyway” argument. This time I was asked to frame the debate using 9-11 as a kind of symbolic end of the optimism many of us had about celebrating and cementing the importance of Latino culture in the U.S. as a whole. (As well as kind of subtly addressing the xenophobia that followed the attacks as a crucial component to the quashing of this cultural moment.)
The optimistic me would say that even though Ricky and the Latin popsters were making a synthetic music meant for mass commercial consumption, there was a good chance that the real “we” were going to eventually break through given this bubbly space. But there were complications: Besides the militarization of the border mentality, there were also some short-sighted disqualifiers from the “free” marketplace. Bilingualism has been deemed unmarketable primarily because most marketers are incapable of being bilingual. Latinos are not seen as a powerful consumer force because the only way to intelligibly (which is not so intelligent) market to them is through clunky demographic strategies and for the most part being resigned to monolingual (Spanish-only) stereotyping.
Not that I’m going to shed a tear about large corporations’ ineptness in understanding how to most effectively profit from marketing to Latinos. In fact, I’m all too happy to continue to remain outside of the mainstream, since I can’t imagine feeling represented by the many roles Latinos get playing police and forensic investigators on network television, nor those thoughtful once-a-year CNN specials on of the advantages and potential pitfalls of assimilation. And I certainly don’t need anyone to tell me that the best I can hope for is to someday become the most interesting man in the world.
You can find my filtered “think piece” on The End of the Latin Boom here, and the Spanish-dominant version of my interview with Dominican warrior goddess Rita Indiana here. (Update: Local feature on Rita here and full English transcript of interview over at La Música.) Also, since I failed to shed enough light on Bobby Sanabria and his leadership role in New York’s Latin music community, here’s a fun piece in the Daily News about salsa dancing that spotlights him, and here is a story about a potential CBS boycott over the elimination of Latin jazz as a category in the Grammy Awards.