Latin Songs I Grew Up Listening To

Growing up as a Latina, a common saying that perfectly encapsulates my identity is “you are what you listen to”. One of the great things about being raised in a Latin household is the exposure to music made by Spanish-speaking artists. Whether it came from car rides or from family parties, I always find myself in the presence of Latin music. From powerful love ballads to rebellious pop rock anthems, here are a few songs that I liked as a kid, and feel free to add some to your next playlist!

  1. 1. Selena - “Amor Prohibido” 

    It wouldn’t be a Latin playlist if I didn’t mention this queen first. At an early age, I was introduced to Selena Quintanilla’s music from the CDs that my parents owned. When I discovered that they named me after her, I could not help but listen to a couple of her songs, which then lead me down a techno cumbia rabbit hole that I didn’t want to get out of. From Selena’s discography, I chose “Amor Prohibido” because it is one of those songs where it feels upbeat and happy-go-lucky, but the story demonstrates conflict between love and status. Overall, I would highly recommend giving this song a listen as the “Queen of Tejano” never disappoints.

  2. 2. Maná - “Oye Mi Amor” 

    If you are looking for music to jump around and dance to, then look no further. Maná is a Mexican classic rock band that will bring energy and relaxing acoustic guitar feels to any playlist. I started listening to this band from the CDs that my dad owned (see a running theme here?) and my early memories of this song “Oye Mi Amor” involve me sitting in my parents’ car with the windows down, clapping to the beat and shaking like a bobble head. What I thoroughly enjoyed from this track is the instrumentation: the guitar riffs, flutes, drums and the vocals, you get the point. If you are ever feeling tired and you need a wake-up call, listening to this song will give you the pep you need to be lively.

  3. 3. Mocedades - “Eres Tú”

    Shockingly, Mocedades is not a group that I stumbled upon from my parents’ CD collection. I first encountered this song “Eres Tú” from my grandmother’s CD player that had a Spanish radio station exclusively playing ballads. At the time I did not think much of it, since it was playing in the background. Flashforward a couple months, my brother and I were watching a comedy movie called Tommy Boy. In it, the two protagonists were driving and began lip-synching this song. It was at that moment that I added that track to my playlist. Mocedades’ “Eres Tú” is such a slow love song and for it to be juxtaposed with a comedic element made me more attached to it. The track itself is great, but I also recommend giving the song a listen, then watching the car scene from the movie.

  4. 4. RBD - “Rebelde” 

    While everyone was obsessed with Hannah Montana and Zoey 101, I religiously watched a telenovela called Rebelde. Set in a private boarding school, a group of students came together to create a band known as RBD. The opening theme “Rebelde”, meaning rebel in Spanish, sets the tone of the show by giving context of the relationship between the students’ dreams of wanting to pursue music, and their parents’ disapproval of said dream. Every time I heard the theme song, I would scream at the top of my lungs, “Y soy rebelde!” (And I’m a rebel!) and my rebellious nature would surface. This song is an anthem when you feel like taking on the world and not letting obstacles get in the way of your success.

  5. 5. Ivy Queen - “Quiero Bailar” 

    It is amazing how much progress has been made in terms of female representation in the male-dominated music genre of Reggaetón. Growing up, the only female MC that I was aware of is la diva herself Ivy Queen. At every family gathering I went to, at least one of her songs would be played by the DJ. My personal favorite from the Puerto Rican MC is “Quiero Bailar”. What I love about this feminist anthem is its message; letting women dance the way they want to dance, but not for the pleasure of men. The next time you find yourself getting ready to head out, definitely give this song a listen.

Everytime I listen to one of these songs, I feel an overwhelming sense of joy and nostalgia, which I repeatedly welcome with open arms (and ears). While I only listed 5 songs that I enjoyed when I was younger, there is a plethora of Latin music ingrained with my earliest memories. This is not even the tip of the iceberg! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed listening to these songs and you find yourself discovering more Latin music to pair with your future memories.