Latin Crossovers

Synopsis: Part of what made Bad Bunny’s 2022 success so amazing was that he did it in Spanish. In the United States, only three Spanish-language songs have ever made it to the top of the charts. Historically, Latin artists like Shakira or Ricky Martin have had to perform in English to have a successful crossover. This context makes Bad Bunny’s success all the more unlikely, and tremendously significant.


In this piece, María Elena Cepeda looks at the concept of crossing over through personalities like Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez into the US English-language media. She analyzes how stereotypes of race, sexuality and gender influenced the reception of Latin stars in the 1990s Latin boom.

Licia Fiol-Matta looks at the media coverage of Puerto Rican stars like Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, and Jennifer Lopez in the United States mainstream during the 1999 and early 2000s.  Fiol-Matta argues that all three stars perform a latinidad that conforms to hegemonic stereotypes of Latinidad and Puerto Ricans in US mainstream media. 

Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture analyzes the complex perception of Puerto Rican identities in the US media. Frances Negrón-Muntaner looks at the the integration of Puerto Rican culture and figures in US popular culture such as West Side Story, Ricky Martin, and Jennifer Lopez, and how these representations relate to broader discussions of Puerto Rican national identity vis-a-vs its colonial relationship with the United States.

This paper evaluates Enrique Iglesias' reliance on Afro-Latino culture while simultaneously using his whiteness as a way to boost his success in the Latin music industry. Petra Rivera-Rideau traces the racial dynamics of the music industry’s “Latin urban” category that emerged as reggaetón became more mainstream. She specifically focuses on the success of Iglesias’s hit “Bailando” to reveal the dynamics that enabled him to take advantage of the popularity of Latin urban music while foregrounding his own “Latino whiteness.”

This paper looks at the racial politics surrounding “Despacito” by using media coverage and performances of the song. Petra Rivera-Rideau and Jericko Torres-Leschnik examine how Luis Fonsi’s whiteness was used as a vessel to make AfroLatinidad visible while still maintaining core components of tropicalization and stereotypes of Latinidad, especially the Latin Lover trope.