As We Look Back On 2017, These Are The Moments When Latinos Shined
2017 was rough, but we have these breakout moments that got us through the year and got us to turn up.
10. Music: We Brought The Jams, We Went Off On The Pop Scene
People all over the world have been listening to Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s hit “Despacito.” The song racked up more than 4.6 billion views on YouTube since it was released, luring mainstream artists to now want to be part of the Latino music movement. Such the case was when Justin Bieber jumped on the success of “Despacito” to record a remix version of this track, and again when Beyoncé teamed up with J Balvin to remix “Mi Gente” to aid to those affected by natural disasters in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
While “Despacito” continues to be heard throughout the world, there’s another Latino music movement called Latin Trap that is on the verge of taking over the mainstream in a way that potentially hasn’t been done before. If this is your first time hearing the term Latin Trap,” it’s a combination of a Southern rap genre known as “Trap” music with heavy kick drums with layered synthesized sounds that was created in the early ‘90s. In recent years, Latino artists like Puerto Rican heavy hitters Bad Bunny, Farruko and Ozuna have transformed traditional trap music by adding Spanish language lyrics to it and incorporating reggaeton rhythms whose origin once began on the island of Puerto Rico.
The emergence of Latin Trap arrives at a time when Latino artists like J Balvin, Maluma, and Daddy Yankee continue to collaborate with popular American artists. But while Latin Trap continues to be regarded as “subculture,” it has recently gotten the support of artists like Pharrell, Nicki Minaj, and others who, like the rest of the industry, understand that this new genre has the potential to become a major force in the music industry for years to come. – Walter Thompson-Hernandez
9. Our Screens Saw A Bigger Pop of Cultura
While Latino representation in TV and movies is still severely lacking, 2017 saw major strides in raising our visibility in pop culture. Tessa Thompson came crashing into superhero genre, playing the impenetrable Valkyrie in “Thor: Ragnarok,” not only taking on a role created as a blonde, blue-eyed heroine, but bringing a face of Black Latinidad to the forefront. John Leguizamo also brought more color and Latinx history to the Broadway stage with his one-man show, “Latin History for Morons.” Oh, and not sure if you’ve heard of this little musical “Hamilton,” but it continues to be a force to be reckoned with, and its star and creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has brought his talent and charm all over TV and music. Shows like “Riverdale,” “One Day at a Time,” “Jane The Virgin,” “Superstore,” “Orange is the New Black” and others feature Latino actors and storylines that not only highlight our stories, but simply acknowledge that we’re here. We’re present in America, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t be present in pop culture. Even hit shows like “Insecure,” which focuses on the experience of young Black people in L.A., inserted a prominent Latino storyline that touched on prejudice and racism. We saw it, and we appreciated it.
A study by Opportunity Agenda found that half of Latino immigrant characters are portrayed as criminals, which stands to perpetuate misconceptions about that community. That will happen when we are largely shut out of writers rooms.
We’re inching toward gaining a foothold behind the scenes, however. While showrunners, studios and writers rooms are still overwhelmingly white, SNL welcomed young comic Julio Torres to the writing staff, the shows “Legacy” and “Riverdale” are both run by Latino men and Victoria Alonso is bringing Latinidad to the film industry as executive VP at Marvel Studios, helping bring the world “Thor: Ragnarok.” Even pop star Selena Gomez has added another title to her business card as executive producer of Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why.” We’re not where we should be, but it’s a step in the right direction nonetheless. Perhaps once Latinos gave a greater place on the business side of Hollywood, we can we see ourselves portrayed with greater depth and breadth of character on screen. There’s hope for the coming year, however, with more shows featuring strong Latino characters and created by Latinos in pre-production or greenlit. – Alex Zaragoza
8. The World Series: Le Pusieron Acento
Two extra-inning thrillers.
Pros from both teams were looking to bring a little joy to areas and communities that suffered from natural disasters and other humanitarian crises. The Astros wanted to win for those affected by Hurricane Harvey while boricua peloteros Carlos Correa and Enrique “Kiké” Hernández were looking to score a win for Puerto Rico, which continues to suffer after being leveled by Hurricane Maria. Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez of Venezuela, which is in the middle of an economic crisis, hoped to give their paisanos something to celebrate, even if it was just a World Series victory.
Game two, a nailbiter that went into extra innings, was a classic. Then game five topped it. Although the Dodgers started with a 3-run lead, Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa all hit clutch home runs to keep the Astros in the game. In the 10th, with the game tied 12-12, Astros third baseman Alex Bregman walked it off with a hit single, giving the Astros a 3-2 series lead.
Although the Dodgers tied up the series in game six, the deciding game seven was a bit of a disappointment, considering how close each game had been up to that point. The Dodgers couldn’t muster a comeback after the Astros pounced on Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, taking a 5-run lead in the first two innings, and driving the Astros to win their first ever World Series trophy. During the postgame celebration, Carlos Correa provided another moment of excitement: he proposed to his girlfriend, Daniella Rodriguez.
The Astros’ collection of Latino peloteros — Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, George Springer, Marwin Gonzalez — were instrumental in helping Houston win its first World Series title. The Astros hit a whopping 15 home runs during the seven-game series — 12 of them were hit by Latino players.
The Houston Astros and its Latino contingent weren’t the only ones who celebrated big wins this year. After narrowly missing out on the 2014 World Cup, Panama qualified for the 2018 World Cup for the first time in its history. In South America, Perú booked their ticket to Russia after qualifying for the World Cup for the first time 36 years. Both countries declared public holidays to celebrate the historic occasions. – Omar Villegas
7. Latino Stars Spark Dialogue On Self-Care And Mental Health
There’s no doubting pop culture is encouraging more conversations about mental health. Still, these dialogues remain deeply wrapped in stigma. This is particularly true of those belonging to the Latino community, where only one in eleven of us suffering with mental disorder symptoms opt to seek help from a mental health care specialist. Fortunately, in 2017, the dialogue on mental health in the Latino community has taken a different course. In fact, no conversation surrounding pop culture and its effect on reshaping the mental health discussion is truly complete without nods to Latino celebrities. This year, artists like Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez and Luis Guzman have become unflinching ambassadors of mental health in mainstream media.
This year we watched Lovato step up to various podiums to address the country’s rampant mental illness crisis and saw her go so far as to give a very personal account of her own battles with bipolar disorder, addiction, and body image in a documentary. Meanwhile, Selena Gomez’s work as an executive producer for Netflix’s controversial series “13 Reasons Why,” widened our understanding of the threats that can lead to teen suicide and depression. Equally as impactful was Luis Guzman’s role in refocusing attention to suicide prevention. All three celebrities underlined the fact that mental illness affects us all, whether we witness as it takes its toll family members, watch as it plagues our idols, or experience it in passing, and it is something we should discuss without judgement. – Alex Portée
6. When In Crisis, We Came Through For Each Other
For Latinos across the world, 2017 has been particularly harrowing on many fronts. In the U.S., there has been a sense of consistent persecution by the Trump administration, whose presidential campaign began by specifically pointing out, targeting, and stereotyping immigrants and undocumented immigrants. Large Latino communities in Florida, Texas and the caribbean, including the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, were affected by some of the largest and most damaging Hurricanes in recorded history. The combined death toll for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria is in the hundreds and the damage is in the billions. Mexico was also hit with an earthquake, 32 years to the day of a previously devastating earthquake. This massive earthquake hit Mexico City and brought down buildings, killing 370 and injuring thousands.
Despite all of the tragedy and hardships, communities came together in the face of it all. Mexicans banded together to search through rubble for their brothers and sisters. Celebrities used their platforms and concert tours to raise funds for relief — there was a massive SOMOS concert thrown by A-List celebrities Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez that raised millions of dollars. If seemed like the entire world was pitching in to help.
This sense of helping each other out and coming together was a common theme throughout the year. In a time when Latinos may feel like we need to be looking out for one another, many individuals and organizations did just that. Some provided help and legal services when they could and found ways of helping some those with legal issues related to immigration and deportation. Many artists used their various mediums to figuratively and literally shed light on current border and immigration issues, including the proposed border wall by the Trump administration. Though many Latinos may be feeling under represented, unseen, and disrespected by a country that they’ve literally helped build with their own hands, we continue to find ways of helping one another, lifting each other up, and fighting for each other, even when no one else will. – Andrew Santiago
5. Latinas Get Sh*t Done
Last year’s presidential elections could have served as a crushing blow for women across the United States as the threat of their rights loomed closer leading up to the inauguration. And yet, in the months after the election women have continued to prove through a series of big wins that 2017 was the year Latinas truly embodied the phrase “calladitas no more.” Because our accomplishments from this year, in spite of the traditional obstacles that have blocked us, have worked to lift the whole of our country.
We saw these achievements on full display as the Latina effort penetrated nearly every industry, including politics, entertainment, education, science, and business. The first full effect of our efforts could be seen at the start of the year with the 2017 Women’s March which was co-chaired by Carmen Perez and organized by Paola Mendoza. Both Latinas rallied behind the country’s largest single-day protest in history, which drew worldwide participation of nearly 5 million. And the political stamina proved to only gain momentum throughout the year. Latinas joined other people of color and members of the LGBTQ community in the 2017 Elections and sealed major historical wins as the first Latinas to do so in their prospective states. And in a completely different realm, Latinas continued to completely crush. Afro-Dominican hip hop artist Cardi B shattered charts and glass ceilings across the music industry, topping the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart at No. 1. She also became one of two female artists to maintain the longest-running number one spot on the charts for 2017. And it doesn’t end with her, for music and entertainment achievements there was Selena Gomez, Camila Cabello, Demi Lovato, the list goes on. Meanwhile, Univision’s Ilia Calderon became the first Afro-Latina to anchor one of the U.S.’s major broadcasters of evening news, redefining news for young Black girls across the country.
In business, Latinas were still not to be outdone as they published and created books that dethroned Harry Potter’s No. 1 spot and substantially increased the country’s number of Latina-owned businesses. For her work in education and science, Dr. Kellie Ann Jurado, a postdoctoral scientist in Immunobiology at Yale University, was awarded a fellowship by L’Oreal for her research on Zika and reproductive health.
Many might assume that as the group affected most by pay and career equalities this might have been impossible but this year’s influential Latinas did it all in stride. – Alex Portée
4. We Went Viral, or We Blew Up Your Feed
From hilarious memes to socially impactful videos, this year’s coverage on viral content stirred a wide range of responses from audiences. For some, the viral content was about representation, identity and no longer feeling alone. Pieces such as animated short film “In a Heartbeat,” brought light to the insecurity of coming out as gay when you’re still a young kid and pushing conversations that are sometimes difficult to have for people in our community. Charlie Peña’s tweet about prom expressed both Mexican cultural appreciation, along with gender representation for those who identify as non-binary. In response, people across the Internet not only celebrated these identity pieces, but thanked the individuals behind it for sharing their personal stories and educating them on different issues.
Viral content also played a role in promoting social change. Earlier this year, 14-year-old Fatima Avelica-Gonzalez recorded a video of her father being detained by ICE as he was dropping her off at school. The video spread quickly and gained national attention. Six months later, Fatima’s father was released on bail, and according to their attorney, the process may have taken much longer without Fatima’s viral video. “I have to give a lot of credit to Fatima that recorded the incident of his arrest which went viral. It was an act of resistance, and I’m hopeful that more people will do that. In a democracy, we need people to speak out when they see injustice,” said Avelica-Gonzalez’s attorney in a press conference.
There were several video clips that made us laugh so hard we had to tag our friends to make sure they got in on the joke too. Have you heard of Dominican internet sensation, Pio, better known as, “No F****** Baby?” The 24-year-old social influencer from the Bronx has created a name for himself by using his Instagram account as a window into his daily antics, which range from smoking hookah in night clubs, dancing to Latin Trap, pranking unsuspecting bystanders, while also providing his viewers with inspirational and uplifting messages, and, of course, reminding the world that although he may look like a baby, he is, in fact, “no f******* baby.” On top of his 1.2 million followers on instagram, he also has become fast friends with popular musicians like Diplo, French Montana, and Maluma, among others. If the past year is any indication of his future success, then it certainly won’t be the last time that we hear the phrase “No F******* Baby.”
There have been moments of pure joy captured on camera, such as a group of strangers dancing to Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” in a New York subway. Cardi B’s song managed to get an entire group of busy New Yorkers to stop for a moment and enjoy some music together, to which one person on Twitter commented, “I cannot stress enough that Cardi B is the hero we need in these dark times.” Personal and emotional videos, such as the one of comedian LeJuan James surprising his parents with a new home, also made their way across the internet. This video not only made viewers emotional, but served as an inspiration to Latino children who strive to repay their parents for all of their hard work and sacrifices.
When one video, one tweet, or one photo goes viral, it opens the door for conversations and has the power to create change. – Jessica Garcia, Walter Thompson-Hernandez
3. When A Hero Comes Along
Being the mayor of a large city, which draws millions of visitors and tourists every year, and just so happens to be riddled with financial struggles, would be considered a difficult job under normal circumstances. Now add three devastating hurricanes to that situation. Throw in a president who lacks empathy and a federal administration that is slow to provide you with aid. Sounds like a recipe for an unmitigated collapse. But San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz did no such thing. No, actually, in the face of all of that, she’s literally waded through floodwaters to help Puerto Ricans who need help. She’s become one of the most outspoken critics of President Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria, and his refusal to help Puerto Rico to the same degree as he did Florida and Texas.
Cruz has also gone to Washington D.C. to continue to fight for Puerto Rico, and rally support from other government officials who support her cause. From social media, to news outlets, to comedy shows and late night TV, Cruz has taken her fight to every venue that will have her. She even has the full support of “The Simpsons” behind her. She continues to campaign and work for more help, while visiting hurricane centers and being a beacon of hope for islanders as they recover from the life-changing events of the last few months. – Andrew Santiago
2. The Game Changer
In case you haven’t noticed by now, 2017 has been the year of the come-up for many Latino artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and social influencers. Latinos have made their impact felt on the cultural and social fabric of our society.
While artists and entertainers will usually receive most of the limelight, 2017 has also been a year of recognizing social change-makers who have an impact through the political level. MacArthur “Genius” Award winner Cristina Jimenez Moreta is a 33-year-old immigrants rights activist from New York and became the only Latina in 2017 to win the prestigious award. But while she is finally being recognized as a changemaker, her work began almost two decades ago when she immigrated to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador.
In 2008, Jimenez Moreta co-founded and served as the executive director of an organization called United We Dream, which sought and continues to fight for access to health care, education, and a variety of other issues related to undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Though she is not the first to advocate for the rights of undocumented immigrants, her recognition could not come at a better time, considering the current political and racial climate. – Walter Thompson-Hernandez
1. Politically Charged
Latinos made noticeable gains in equal representation when it comes to political office. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada became the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate. Delegate-elects Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala made history as the first Latinas elected to the Virginia House of Delegates during the historic 2017 elections that ushered in numerous firsts in politics. Representative Adriano Espaillat broke ground as the first Dominican-American Congressperson and one of the first formerly undocumented people elected to Congress. If 2017 is any indicator, Latinos will be set to grow our representation next year.
The major strides Latinos made this year go further than just representation. The election of President Donald Trump prompted many Latinos to become engaged in their communities like never before.
We suffered a blow when the Trump administration announced the reversal of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented youths living in the country. As a result, politicians across the aisle have come together to demand that Congress step up and create a legislative fix to protect those who are now facing deportations. Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Democrat Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard of California co-sponsored The Dream Act of 2017 bill that would, if passed by Congress, legally enshrine the framework of DACA to protect hundreds of thousands of people from deportation. DACA recipients fought for the DACA program during Obama’s presidency and they’ve raised their voices again and protested until Democrats agreed to fight for a clean Dream Act protecting themselves and their families. Political pundits like Ana Navarro and Julissa Arce took to different news networks to show that Latinos might have different political affiliations but we put our communities before the party. Representative Luis Gutiérrez from Illinois might be leaving Congress, but he spent 2017 fighting for the rights of immigrants in this country even if it meant being jailed. – Jorge Rodriguez-Jimenez