The Latin Grammys recently announced that they would be holding their awards in the Andalusia region of Spain, the first time the ceremony will be outside of the United States. Unsurprisingly, the Spanish-averse contingent of Twitter dwellers were outraged.
The outrage included at least one Twitter user publicly blocking Spanish singer Rosalia. Another user called it a victory for “colonizers.” And still another user posted a picture of Namor from Black Panther, arguing our ancestors would not accept this (excluding Spanish ancestors, of course).
None of these Twitter responses are surprising given this segment of Latinos’ social media activity. But such a backlash both misunderstands why the Latin Grammys is being held in Andalusia and ignores Spain’s cultural impact on Latin America. The Latin Grammys holding their awards in Spain is a business decision that simultaneously honors some of Latin music’s key influences.
Why the Latin Grammys Are Going To Spain
The Latin Grammys began in 2000 with the goal of representing musicians from countries that speak Spanish and Portuguese. This can include people who are not Latino (i.e., the Spanish) and not Hispanic (the Portuguese) as evidenced by Rosalia, who won album of the year in 2022.
There’s no strict requirement that an artist need be from a particular country of Latin and/or Hispanic origin, just that the majority of lyrics are in Spanish or Portuguese. This implies that a certain amount of cultural appropriation is acceptable given that there could hypothetically be an artist in the U.S. with zero Latino heritage who raps with the assistance of Google translate, and still be eligible to win a Latin Grammy.
The Iberian peninsula, then, is firmly entrenched in the awards. And given the fact that the Andalusian government has offered incentives to the Latin Grammys for holding their awards and other events there in the next few years, it is clear that this was a business decision.
Still, it’s not so much the fact that it was based on business as that the decision-making power is restricted to an elite few in the Latin Recording Academy who kept voting members in the dark during the process, upsetting some members of the academy.
“ I feel like my voice doesn’t matter…because I am just a little person,” said Veronique Medrano, a country singer and voting member from Texas. “And the fact that these decisions were made by a group of people that really, I know they could care less about asking the voting members…it would have been nice to just be part of the conversation instead of it coming as a complete surprise.”
Spanish Influence Over The Culture
As I’ve previously written in the Chela, some Latinos wish to diminish any strains of Spanish influence on the culture. These people deeply misunderstand the Iberian influence.
The unique regional practices of Catholicism in countries such as Mexico derives from the pattern of historical religious practice in Spanish villages. Spanish food such as chorizo and flan has carried over to numerous countries. Andalusian flamenco influenced music such as Cuba’s rumba. And the word “guitar” comes from the Spanish word guittarra, which was influenced by the Moors.
Not to mention the fact that Spain itself is and was a vast cultural melting pot of Moorish, Iberian, Celt, Germanic, Jewish, and other influences that belies progressive Latinos’ efforts at branding the Spanish reductively as “white.” With Rosalia’s success, the interplay between Spanish and Latino artists will only get stronger.
Wherever Future Ceremonies Take Place, Latinos Will Be OK
What we can take away from this situation is not that the ghosts of Spanish past are haunting the Latin Grammys with the purpose of restoring colonialism, but that when it comes down to it, most any decision made at the elite levels of any organization is based on business.
Almost all major award shows are magnets for controversy as a result of this type of elitism and the popularity-contest nature of the process that often leads to charges of homogenization.
If anything, it’s fitting that Andalusia of all regions in Spain and Europe gets to host the awards. It’s a testament to the endurance of people who have been identified largely based on their Spanish cultural influence, for better or for worse.
None of this is to give moral dispensation to the Spanish or to colonialism in general, but it’s also not to say that the history of Spanish colonialism is relevant to this decision-making process. Acknowledging the contribution of the Iberian Peninsula to Latin American music and culture is not equivalent to moral approval of the colonial project.
If we’re going to try to play the morally simplistic game of eschewing any cultural impact of ancestors who were problematic, we will not have anything resembling a flourishing, organic culture. And we wouldn’t have as much to complain about on Twitter.