Vogue México Put A Spanish Music Artist On Their Cover And Called Her Latina And Latinos Almost Set Twitter On Fire
It seems the difference between “Latinx” and “Hispanic” continues to confuse the masses where both terms are incorrectly used interchangeably to describe the collective Spanish speaking community. This time the controversy comes with the reveal of Spanish flamenco artist Rosalía on the cover of Vogue México, as the face for their list of “20 artistas latinos.”
If you were alive over the weekend, then you likely caught the Twitter backlash that criticized Vogue for its latest faux pas.
For its latest cover, Vogue México recently featured Rosalía for an issue that headlined a group of “20 artistas latinos.
Rosalía, again, is not Latino. The artist was born in Catalonia, Spain and while she has collaborated with Latino artists like J Balvin, she is– again– not Latino. Vogue’s cultural flub is a reminder that as much of a rising influence as Latino artistry and culture continues to be, the nuances of our culture and history remain in the blindspots of many consumers. And yes, even of Vogue México’s, a media giant, that has made great strides to improve the diversity on its pages in recent years, particularly with features of minority women like Mexican indigenous actress Yalitza Aparicio.
Latinx Twitter was quickly ablaze with comments reminding people of the correct usage: “Latinx” is for Latin America, “Hispanic” is reserved for those from Spain.
But beyond the literal distinctions, the term “Hispanic” is loaded with ties to colonial history between Latin America and Spain. Starting in the 1500s, what was then known as “New Spain” (colonized areas including Latin America) led to the massacres of indigenous communities or forced assimilation to Spanish culture. Additionally, diseases wiped out a large portion of the population leading to mortality rates as high as 90 percent throughout Latin America.
In short, despite the fact that Rosalía speaks Spanish, calling her Latina is culturally insensitive and grossly inaccurate.
Rosalía herself discussed the difference during an interview with Fader in May 2019 saying “If Latin music is music made in Spanish, then my music is part of Latin music. But I do know that if I say I’m a Latina artist, that’s not correct, is it?” The singer, who makes music inspired by Andalusian flamenco culture, clarified that she’s “part of a generation that’s making music in Spanish” and suggested that others should decide if she should be included in a modern definition of what “Latin” music sounds like.
In the interview, she addressed how the term is used loosely in the media though the article does mention the controversy she sparked after saying she felt “Latina” when she traveled to places like Mexico.
Since the Vogue México cover is in Spanish it can be translated to “Latin Artists” referring to Spanish music overall.
However, due to the sensitive nature of the terminology, it’s important to take the opportunity to highlight the importance of the distinction.
This isn’t the first instance in entertainment where the distinction needed to be made. Recently, One Day at a Time creator Gloria Calderón Kellett tweeted about how she needed to clarify that the writer she’d been sent was Hispanic not Latinx.
She then tweeted a chart created by Bustle to provide a visual interpretation of the differences between “Latinx” and “Hispanic.”
The music industry as a whole has yet to adopt this vocabulary and properly use it and the uproar is not on the spotlight placed on Rosalía but rather the fact that there are plenty of indie Latinx artists who deserve attention.
Rosalía is a five-time Latin Grammy nominee who came out with El Mal Querer in November of last year. She spoke with Billboard about the Andulasian influence in her neighborhood growing up that sparked her love for flamenco since the folkloric music has its origins in that community in Southern Spain.
“That folklore is part of who I am, and that’s the key: I don’t want to lose my roots. I think that’s what gives you your identity. Rather than trying to adhere to some kind of global pop standard, it’s much more interesting to look to my roots and to the popular music of where I’m from. Not now or ever will I put flamenco aside,” she told the publication.
Though her last album was an ode to flamenco, she has explored other more contemporary sounds and collaborated with Latinx artists include J Balvin, who is from Colombia. Their reggaeton track was a global hit providing an opportunity for a distinction to be made between the way they could’ve been identified but that wasn’t necessarily the case.
Even well known Spanish artists like Enrique Iglesias and Alejandro Sanz are often referred to as Latino/Latinx artists. Yet, even the U.S. census has been identifying people of Spanish descent using “Hispanic” as a catchall term since 1980. In neither instance was the word used properly and the vocabulary continues to evolve now that the gender-inclusive term Latinx has become the preferred identifier for younger generations.
While Rosalía’s music is worthy of attention and praise, it’s important to note that, like Portugal and Brazil, Spain and Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America are two distinct cultures that shouldn’t be conflated. If English artists and Americans can be identified as such and not grouped together solely based on language, it’s not much to ask that distinctions be made when it comes to “Latinx” versus “Hispanic.”