Opinion: a response to the backlash – the super bowl halftime show was a proud moment for latino culture

As I watched Shakira and Jennifer Lopez perform during the halftime show at the Super Bowl, my heart swelled with pride and joy at the rich display of Latin American and Afro-Latino culture represented on stage. Similarly, most of the members of the Latino community referred to the show as powerful, significant and culturally enriching. After all, it is not often that we get to see our culture accurately represented on the “big stage.” 

Unfortunately, there were also many who did not fully grasp the cultural significance behind the show and took to social media to criticize it, calling it immoral, trashy and disgusting. This reaction, although disappointing, was not entirely unexpected. In fact, it is part of a larger issue which stems mostly from people’s ignorance and even fear of Latin American culture. 

Latin Americans are the second largest ethnic group in the United States, comprising 18.1% of the national population, according to census.gov. Historically, there has always been a dismal lack of representation of Latino culture in the U.S. mainstream media. 

This halftime show was a huge step for Latin American representation; however, the overwhelming amount of criticism from people who did not or would not understand the cultural significance of the performance shows that the country still has a very long way to go. 

RELATED: The Super Bowl halftime show sent all the wrong messages

In today’s society, we talk proudly about women’s empowerment, and yet the tendency to police the bodies of women of color is deeply ingrained in our society. 

This problem mainly stems from the lack of understanding of Latin American culture. Many of J.Lo’s and Shakira’s movements, which were labeled as “vulgar” or “porn-like,” were actually traditional dance moves that have been incorporated into our culture due to the African influence in our heritage. One example of this is Shakira’s performance of the mapalé which she danced during the halftime show as an homage to her Afro-Latino roots. 

Perhaps one of the most significant moments of the halftime show was when J.Lo performed “Born in the USA” while wearing a coat that showcased a dual Puerto-Rican-American flag, while children, including her daughter, emerged from what appeared to be cages. According to J.Lo’s statement after the halftime show, this performance was meant not only to protest the treatment of immigrants held at migrant detention centers, but also to show America that Latinos are, and have always been, part of what makes this country great. 

The fact that one of the most controversial and talked-about moments of the half time show was J.Lo’s pole dancing on what was staged to look like the top of the Empire State building is deeply concerning. 

Though viewers may not have immediately recognized what the children in cage-like structures meant, after J.Lo’s explanation, there couldn’t have been any mistake.

Regardless of anyone’s stance on immigration, this bold political statement should have been the center of the conversations regarding the halftime show, as should have been the representation of Latin American culture, and the unquestionable talent of both artists. Sadly, a significant amount of the population chose to overlook this and instead decided to focus all their attention on 20 seconds of pole dancing, immodest clothing and choreography that included too many hip movements for their taste. 

As for those who are worried about what this performance means to little girls, the real message behind the show is that girls can do anything, regardless of the color of their skin or the language they speak. They should be unapologetically proud of their cultural background, of who they are, and of where they come from, even if people constantly tell them otherwise. 

Pino Mara is a guest writer.

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