Latinx Representation with Shakira and JLo at the Super Bowl - What it was like to watch Hispanic Idols on the Big Screen

February 2, 2020 started like any regular Sunday: messages from my parents, homework for college courses on my to-do-list, and the accidentally-on-purpose scheduled Netflix marathon. I, unlike millions of Americans, was not aware of the football game that everyone tunes in to watch: the Super Bowl. 

This year, however, millions of Hispanics, who would normally not watch the game (including myself), waited patiently for the halftime show, which starred none other than Columbian singer and songwriter Shakira along with singer and actress Jennifer Lopez. 

Growing up Latina, Shakira and JLo’s music was frequently played in the house, especially on weekends and family parties. From young girls to teenagers to adults, seeing these two talented women rise to fame was inspiration to all hard working Latinas that try to ‘make it’ in America. 

Watching them perform during the halftime show of an American sports game felt like a moment of recognition for the Latinx community. Though there was much controversy on the sexualized outfits worn during the show, which adds to the sexualization and stereotypical body and character of a Latina, the performance creates a platform for underrepresented communities of Hispanic background. 

Throughout the event, social media blew up with hashtags and videos of their performance trending on Twitter. Though the majority of the comments were positive feedback, there were bitter and offended commenters as well. One Twitter user, Dave @Equaltime4all, replied: “Understand English, I have no idea what they said in Mexican. Terrible halftime show. At least the game is good.” Well Dave, both of these women speak Spanish and English, nevertheless, the phrase “understand English” is a common verbal attack to immigrant individuals. Why such hostility towards non-English speaking people? 

Another Twitter handle commented: “My kid asked why we were watching strippers” - Dave @HarrisonDJay. Throughout the entirety of the show, neither performer twerked on stage. What one interprets as strippers twerking is actually multicultural dances. Shakira’s mapalé and champeta, otherwise known as the “stomping dance”, is a tribute to the Afro-Columbian culture. The “weird tongue thing” – that turned into memes on social media – is called a zaghrouta, a tribute to her lebanese ethnicity used to express joy in arabic culture. This show did not consist of strippers twerking on stage, but rather a celebration of various and intersecting cultures. 

A heartfelt moment in the show was when children, along with Jennifer’s daughter Emme, performed the introduction of JLo’s 2000 hit single “Let’s Get Loud” in white cage-like structures, subtly mirroring the humanitarian crisis in the detention centers at the border. The lyrics themselves are an affirmation to Hispanic and Latinx communities that will no longer hold silence pertaining to the injustice happening at the borders. It’s also a remark on behalf of the people who need to “prove” their Americanness, which they don’t. The combination of the song and symbolism of the cages, speaks volumes for not only Latinx and immigrant viewers, but also for the Americans who do not recognize the intensity of the problem. 

The outrage for having two Latina performers during the Super Bowl speaks about the white-centric American mind. Though this is an American sports game, lets not forget that America itself is built upon various cultures and backgrounds coexisting, which is what truly makes this country beautiful and unique. The performance of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez was, in its entirety, a celebration of different cultures and representation for an otherwise undermined ethnic group.