By Emma Ladouceur
The Superbowl LIV half-time show made history on Sunday, Feb. 2 when it headlined two Latina legends: Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, and features from J Balvin and Bad Bunny. Although they were not the first Latinas to grace the stage, they made their mark on the current political climate in subtle, yet powerful ways.
Lopez and Shakira blended both English and Spanish languages into their performance. Shakira kicked off the event with her songs “She Wolf,” “Empire,” and her Spanish smash “Ojos Así,” and she performed Cardi B’s “I Like It” with Bad Bunny as well. She finished her set with her 2005 hit “Hips Don’t Lie.” Lopez followed Shakira’s performance with “Jenny from the Block,” “On the Floor” and J Balvin joined her on stage to sing his song “Mi Gente.” The women then closed the half-time show with “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” and “Let’s Get Loud.”
Especially during a time like this, when hate is everywhere, including in our politics, it is extremely important to incorporate different cultures into our own. In modern American culture, there is no bigger platform to do so than the Super Bowl.
It is extremely notable when celebrities use their platform to highlight issues that are plaguing America today. During this Half Time Show, for example, Lopez’s daughter, Emme, sang Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.'' while children sat in cage-like structures. This is, of course, a reference to the Trump Administration’s policy at the US-Mexico border where children are separated from their families and forced into cages. Lopez also raised a feathered flag with the stars and stripes of the American flag on one side, and the Puerto Rican flag on the other. Lopez grew up in the Bronx and is of Puerto Rican descent, and her holding of the flag is a strong reminder that the neglected island is populated by people who are American citizens.
Shakira demonstrated her Columbian and Lebanese backgrounds by performing cultural dances like the champeta and mapalé, both originating in Columbia, according to Rolling Stone. Shakira’s moves, despite being unfamiliar to some Americans, and even inappropriate to others (I disagree), including the zaghrouta, an Arabic whoop, all have a cultural significance and have become more recognizable after memes went wild following the performance.
By introducing these ethnic aspects on such a large scale, Shakira and JLo attempted to incorporate their heritage into a definitively American classic: football.
Some controversy arose, as it usually does for anything, regarding the appropriateness of the performance. The main concerns were the “barely there” costumes, “inappropriate” dance moves, and pole dancing. JLo demonstrated the skills that she learned during her recent movie “Hustlers,” where she played a talented stripper. Lopez performed some of these difficult and skillful moves following her song “Waiting for Tonight.” But really, the complaints are much ado about nothing. The performance was new and different. Things like that are bound to upset some people somewhere.
Shakira and Jennifer Lopez demonstrated unity and power on stage, not only as women but also as Latin Americans. The celebrities used their platform and opportunity as headliners to push forward a message that Americans needed to hear: other cultures live within this country, whether they are Latin American or anything else. They are here and here to stay, a unique part of our greater national fabric.
Latin American culture is alive and thriving in the United States, and so is female unity!