Culture

Rosalía's VMAs Win Sparks Debate Over Who Gets to Be Latinx

Spanish language music is more mainstream in the English speaking world than ever, and this year's MTV VMAs proved that. J Balvin and Bad Bunny performed "Que Pretendes" live, descending from the ceiling in oversized inflatable outfits. Flamenco pop singer Rosalía was resplendent as she sang "Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi" and "Aute Cuture" wearing glittering Burberry. Then she and Balvin won the Best Latin VMA for their collaboration "Con Altura," which was also nominated for Song of the Summer.

It was definitely Rosalía's night. She went on to pick up another moonman, for Best Choreography. She's the first Catalan artist to win two VMAs, but a white European woman's inclusion in the (already kinda problematic) Best Latin category has fans a little confused.

Note that Rosalía has a huge Latinx fanbase and has collaborated with numerous Latinx artists — Puerto Rican musician Ozuna was on stage with her at the VMAs, and J Balvin is Colombian. Note too that she acknowledged coming from Barcelona in her Best Latin Video acceptance speech, though stopping short of spelling out the fact she isn't technically Latinx.

This is far from the first time Rosalía's been mislabeled: she was on the cover of Vogue Mexico earlier this year as part of a "20 Latino artists to watch" feature, and won two Latin Grammys in 2018. You could argue her situation is similar to that of Enrique Iglesias back in the day — though hailing from Spain, he was marketed as a Latinx artist throughout the 2000s.

Things have obviously changed since Iglesias's heyday. As many fans pointed out on Twitter, Rosalía is currently enjoying all the benefits of a trendy Latinx label with none of the downsides. While she has likely faced anti-Catalan prejudice within Spain, that's a very difficult struggle to, say, the everyday experience of a Latinx person in Trump's America. All this being said, she's a gifted performer who has been placed in a tricky spot. It makes sense for her to collaborate with other Spanish language artists, but how does one do that with cultural sensitivity?

It's a complex debate, but one worth having. Here's what Twitter had to say about Rosalía's Best Latin VMA win.

Photo via Getty

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