Entertainment

Spain Has Colonized The 2019 Latin Grammys And Latino Twitter Has Some Serious Thoughts

The Latin Recording Academy continued to dismiss valid criticism from the Latinx community by nominating Spanish artists Alejandro Sanz and Rosalia. The two European artists received the most nominations, in the most prestigious categories of the bunch, while urbano artists were shut out our relegated to niche categories. 

“The Latin Recording Academy is privileged to see so many talented and diverse artists join the milestone 20th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards season,” writes Gabriel Abaroa Jr., President and CEO of The Latin Recording Academy. 

“Since our inception, our international membership continues to be our driving force in the pursuit of excellence. Whether they are a sound engineer, a performer, a songwriter, or a music arranger — regardless of their gender, age, national identity, or musical genre — the nominees are the product of a voting process where every vote counts. Latin music continues to grow internationally and we’re excited to celebrate the music that unites us all.”

Justifying whitewashing by calling it diversity is really something.

Rosalia and Alejandro Sanz: the conquistadors of music.

Two white Europeans from Spain, Alejandro Sanz and Rosalia, have swept the Latin Grammys. Sanz received the most nominations of anyone with eight nods, while Rosalia received five. 

Sans was nominated for Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Pop Album for #ELDISCO. He and Rosalia were both nominated for Song and Record of the Year. Many artists and actual Latinxs are fuming.

What makes these artists Latinx other than that they descended from the folks that colonized the Americas, raped and ethnically cleansed indigenous people, initiated that Trans-Atlantic Slave route, created the casta system, then subjugated the resulting multi-ethnic communities they denied self-determination from for centuries? That is a rhetorical question. 

This is like white people saying they’re African American because both groups speak English and share some cultural elements while ignoring why that cultural diffusion occurred (slavery and oppression). 

Rosalia feels 100 percent Latina

Earlier this year, Billboard featured Rosalia in their “Growing Up Latino” series where she says she feels a hundred percent Latina and that she is at home visiting countries like Panama and Mexico. Except Rosalia is from Barcelona. 

This is cultural appropriation: a member of the dominant culture (Spain) is stealing elements of the oppressed culture for profit. In this case, it is her use of Colombian rhythms, guajira, and rumba — which no one was even really upset about until Rosalia began identifying as Latina. The United States census would not identify Rosalia as anything but white or European so why should Latinxs? 

Rosalia says she is representing her culture

Rosalia courted controversy by stepping into Latinx spaces again when she won a Best Latin VMA this year. She further alienated Latinxs by accepting the award but also saying she was representing her culture when the reality is she is appropriating ours. 

“I come from Barcelona. I’m so happy to be here representing where I come from, and representing my culture,” she said in her speech.  

Artists call out the conquistadors 

Artists like Nicky Jam, Karol G, and J Balvin have posted a photo reading “Sin reggaeton, no hay Latin Grammy,” to call out the nominations and disregard for reggaeton and urbano artists. Artists like Bad Bunny, Ozuna, Daddy Yankee, Sech and De La Ghetto received nominations but they are standing in solidarity with real Latinxs. 

“Despite being nominated, I don’t agree with the way they treated the genre and a lot of my colleagues. Remember one very important thing: Their platform was not the one that created this movement. This goes beyond a prize. This is culture, credibility, relevance, and RESPECT,” Daddy Yankee wrote on Instagram. 

Maluma was also upset that he did not receive a single Latin Grammy nomination for this album 11:11.  

Credit: nickyjampr / Instagram

“It is a disappointment to not even have one Latin Grammys nomination. So much effort, the best album I’ve ever made in my LIFE,” Maluma said. 

The Latin Grammys now must justify why they have excluded real Latinxs while including white Europeans. Urbano music is basically some of the most popular on the entire planet, artists like Bad Bunny, Ozuna, and J Balvin have had explosive chart numbers and broken world records yet they were relegated to Urban categories. 

This is not unusual in the Grammys either — Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar have both had culturally monumental albums snubbed from major categories. It is clear Grammy voters have their own caste system where white people deserve the highest recognition. One where black and brown people are consistently sent the message they should “stay in their lane” and that their music cannot speak to universal themes (despite the numbers indicating otherwise). 

If Macklemore can win Best Rap Album, then, of course, they will justify Spanish artists winning Latin Grammys. This is what colonizers do. 

People Are Celebrating Mexico’s Planned Bill To Fine Companies That Copy Indigenous Designs

Culture

People Are Celebrating Mexico’s Planned Bill To Fine Companies That Copy Indigenous Designs

MasdeMx.com

Much has been said and written about the material pillaging that indigenous communities in what is now the Americas have been subject to since Christopher Columbus “discovered” the continent. Mineral resources, agricultural knowledge and dignity: they were all taken in the name of “civilization”. These processes of abuse towards the original owners of a land that was never willingly ceded have continued well into today. 

Some goods are immaterial, which means that more than objects or places, they are cultural goods such as knowledge, practices and methods of doing things.

Credit: secadero_uno / Instagram

 Such an immaterial good are the designs that indigenous communities imprint on clothes, pottery and art. However, because there is no single author for these, creations are nor protected under intellectual property, which is how companies and designers take advantage and basically steal designs. These are not homages, but direct acts of plagiarism! 

But there have been people that have been profiting from traditional designs

Credit: Mexico News Daily

Zara, the massive Spanish retailer, has been accused of stealing designs both from indigenous communities and from independent designers. Indigenous groups from the Mexican state of Chiapas, for example, have said that the copycat designs affect their livelihood because potential customers, including tourists, can just go to the shops and get them.

As reported by Mexico Daily News, there is a discrepancy in the hours of labor that indigenous artisans invest in each garment and what they get paid, compared to the profit made by brands like Zara. as artisans “dedicate more than 50 hours to making each embroidered garment, selling them for 200 pesos (US $10). In contrast, Zara manufactures the same garment and sells it at 599 pesos ($32.)”

And let’s not forget that Zara and other international companies have been found to use abusive and exploitative production methods in other countries such as Bangladesh. Consumers are also to blame, as a representative for the advocacy group Impacto told Mexico Daily News: “There’s also a contradiction, because they pay high prices at a store but then don’t want to spend in an indigenous community.”

So if you visit Mexico or another developing country and you want to take the price down, regatear as they say in Spanish, when buying from a local artisan, well, then shame on you! 

And if we think a bit further, international brands like Zara sometimes profit from a global network of abuse and injustice.

Let’s not forget that six years ago a fatal collapse in Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza building, where brands such as H&M and Zara outsourced clothes manufacturing, caused deaths and revealed the industry malpractices that do not guarantee workers’ safety. Since then international brands have looked into their production processes, but problems remain. Needless to say, what Global South workers get is a minuscule amount compared to what US or Spanish workers would demand, so the profit on each piece is huge. All in the name of money, right? So the chain of mistreatment sometimes start with stealing designs and continues with paying super low wages to people that cannot afford not to be employed, even if it is under very precarious conditions. 

So the motion that is being considered in the Mexican Senate makes a ton of sense.

Credit: masdemx.com

The Mexican Senate is considering imposing a hefty fine to those who copy indigenous designs, which are de facto intellectual and cultural property that can make money, so there is a monetary value attached to them.

As reported by Mexico Daily News, “The proposal being discussed by the Senate culture commission would penalize the theft of indigenous cultural elements with fines up to 4.2 million pesos (US $218,000.)”

The proposal includes a legal framework through which indigenous communities can denounce cases in which they feel like their creative and cultural property has been stolen. The Senate’s cultural commission has focused on indigenous affairs since MORENA, the incumbent president’s party, got into power earlier this year. For all its controversial decisions, the current government has in fact done more to protect indigenous communities than previous administrations.

In some cases the copycat models are blatantly direct: such is the case of a chinanteco design copied by the brand Intropia and sold in over 170 euros. Other brands that have appropriated designs from indigenous communities from Chiapas, Oaxaca and other states such as Hidalgo are  Carolina Herrera, Dior, Isabel Marant, Nestlé, Madewell, Mango and Desigual. The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has found at least 39 cases of this type of theft. If the proposal goes through, a database of designs of indigenous and Afro-Mexican designs will be created. 

Ditch The Headdress, Read Up On Native Authors: Here’s How You Can Celebrate Native American Heritage Month Respectfully

Culture

Ditch The Headdress, Read Up On Native Authors: Here’s How You Can Celebrate Native American Heritage Month Respectfully

November is Native American Heritage month. And like most commemorative months dedicated to honoring the culture and history of an oppressed people in the U.S., Native American Heritage Month is an insufficient gesture. Added onto that, November is often a a time when stereotypes of Native people get reinforced. A month of supposed ‘appreciation’ and ‘honoring’ of oppressed communities, can easily turn into one replete with cultural appropriation and prejudice.

So we decided we’d round up a few things that you can do —and not do— to celebrate in a positive and healthy spirit. 

1. Don’t desecrate traditional, sacred Native objects by buying or wearing them as props.

More often than not, we find ‘Native’, ‘Tribal’, or ‘Navajo’ inspired goods in stores, what you might not know is that they could be sacred Native artifacts and spiritual items. Objects like the canupa pipe or a warbonnet —commonly known as ‘headdress’— are part of Native spiritual culture and they should never be worn as a costume.

For Native people, practicing their spirituality was illegal in this country, up until the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978. Before then, Native people were beaten, jailed, and even killed for practicing their ancestral beliefs. What remains of tribal cultures customs, and ceremonies has been paid for in blood.

Among Native people, the warbonnet was only given to those who earned each and every eagle feather for their bravery, self-sacrifice, and great deeds of valor —doesn’t seem very appropriate to wear one as a costume or prop now, does it? Disrespecting the warbonnet is a terrible wrong and dishonors the likes of all who earned them with pride.

2. Don’t make children wear redface and reenact the re-telling of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving reenactments are a whitewashed version of early U.S. history. The retelling of this story only glorifies colonization when we all know that the truth isn’t so pretty. In actuality, an official “day of Thanksgiving kept in all the churches for our victories against the Pequots” was said to have been proclaimed by Massachusetts Bay governor William Bradford in 1637, celebrating the slaughter of up to 700 Pequot men, women, and children.

3. Don’t promote the fetishization of Native women.

We should all know this by now, but since not everyone acts like it, we’ll say it louder for the people in the back —Do not dehumanize women of color. We’re not your fetish and will not be devalued any longer. Reducing Native women to a fetish is oppressive and objectifying. It subjugates Native women while denying their agency.

Native women face higher rates of violence than the general population. A report last year by the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center found that more than half of Native women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime and 96% of those who commit sexual violence against Native women are non-Native.

4. Don’t support racist mascots.

It’s 2019 and the sports team, Washington R*dskins, literally has a racial slur in its name. It mocks Native identity, it reinforces ignorant and racist caricatures of a whole culture.

5. Don’t pretend to know better than Native people on Native subjects.

I’d like to believe that Native people know more about being Native because well…they are Native, they’ve lived the experience daily. Native people know more about their heritage than non-Natives do and silencing their voices is equal to erasing them.

What’s more, don’t bother Natives on social media by sending them the worst instances of cultural appropriation and racial violence that you may stumble upon while scrolling. Natives who are present in online spaces see it often. Even if you mean well, for Native people, constant exposure to this sort of toxic environment is damaging and exhausting.

6. For the love of God, don’t buy culturally appropriative products from Non-Native vendors.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, do not buy Native imitations at places like Urban Outfitters or other stores who have actually been on trial for stealing names, references and designs from Native people.

Under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, “it is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States.” Violators may face civil or criminal penalties of a fine up to $250,000 or five years behind bars. Before buying goods from a purported Native vendor, ask them if they are following this law, and what tribe they belong to. It is not offensive to ask a person who claims to be Native what tribe they hail from. Tribal identification is commonplace and accepted among Natives.

7. Do teach real Native history to children and read up on works by Native scholars and authors.

Introduce real and accurate Native history —including harvest feasts—into school events. Invite Native speakers, authors and scholars to speak to students about Indigenous peoples. It’s important that children see Natives as contemporary living people who are still here.

8. Do respect Natives’ beliefs.

It’s pretty easy; respect other people’s religion and belief systems as you would your own. There are many differences among tribes, but in general, they all share a reverence for the land, for animals and plants, for the bonds of community, for the wisdom of the elderly and for the contributions of their ancestors. Their beliefs and traditions might differ from what you grew up learning, but Native perspectives are just as compelling and valuable as everyone’s, and they should be respected as such.

9. Do respect and honor Native-Veterans.

Natives have served in the U.S. military at a higher per capita rate than any other ethnic group in the 20th century, and in the military actions following September 11, 2001, Native men and women veterans served at a higher rate than veterans of all other ethnic groups, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. As we remember those who have given their lives in service to our country while protecting the freedoms and ideals we hold dear, many of our fellow Americans remain unaware of the major contributions Native Americans have made to our nation’s armed forces.

10. Do buy authentic Native goods sold by Native artisans and businesses.

Stores like Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie, are taking valuable business away from actual Native American artists and small businesses. Support Native American creativity, history, and legacy, and help create a much-needed economic boost in Indian Country by shopping from small, authentic Native businesses. This site has enlisted Native-owned businesses you can shop from online —now you have no excuse.