Feature In Alexander Dinelaris’ jukebox musical “On Your Feet!,” the audience is expected to sing along and dance to Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine’s greatest hits. But, amid the flashy dance numbers and exaggerated vocals, there is a poignant scene that addresses an issue with the movement of Latin culture into the United States. Having been recognized locally as a success, an American record label turns down Gloria and her husband Emilio after noting that their music was entirely sung in Spanish. There is a momentary loss of hope in the narrative as the actors realize that their culture will always be cast to the side as minorities of the nation they call home. The perception of immigrants as workers and not humans is highlighted in this scene, and in what may be a game-changer for the progression of Latin music, Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine march back into the record label with their first English-language song and global success, 1984’s “Dr. Beat.” The same year the single was released, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded the first Grammy for Best Tropical Latin Album to Tito Puente and the first Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album to Jose Feliciano. As time went on, the music of Latin America became an essential part of North American culture, to both great benefit and many costs. Alongside the newfound success for many Latin artists, there has also been a branding of the genre, limiting new, more unknown and especially controversial artists. Increasing poverty and emerging authoritarian regimes throughout Latin America made the 1980s a time of increased immigration to the U.S. In 1986, Ronald
“Alongside the newfound success for many Latin artists, there has also been a branding of the genre, limiting new, more unknown and especially controversial artists.”
Fall 2014 Spring 2017
Reagan passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which was one of the most ambitious pieces of immigration legislation passed in the States, granting legal status to millions. Although citizens of each of these nations had already founded smaller émigré populations in the U.S. well before the 1970s, the turmoil of the 1980s resulted in an unprecedented wave of Latinos. By 1990, there was an aggregate Central American population of 1.324 million in the U.S., making what once was a marginal component of a minority a very present and important part of the U.S. population. With the first Grammys being awarded to Latino artists, other institutions began to reflect interest in Latino media as well. 1987 marked the year that Univision Holdings Inc. formed, validating and branding Univision as a major Spanish language television network. The next decade would mark the start of the new age of Latin music. U.S.born Latin artists began emerging, including icons like Marc Anthony. Foreign musicians began changing their style, singing and collaborating with English-language musicians. Gilberto Santa Rosa, now known
as “the gentleman of salsa,” kicked off his career in 1986 with Good Vibrations, an album that, despite being entirely performed in Spanish, had an English title. Menudo, a Puerto Rican pop group which would launch the career of Ricky Martin, released their first English-language album in 1987. Paulina Rubio began collaborating with American artists and singing in English, while Juan Luis Guerra had an album that went platinum in the U.S. in the ‘90s. In 1993, La Mega, New York’s largest tropical music station, rebranded itself and began broadcasting the genres it is known for today, and hundreds of Latino radio stations emerged across the country. Celia Cruz began approaching more U.S. collaborations with her album Duets in 1997. That same year, the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences was instituted,
“Foreign musicians began changing their style, singing and collaborating with English-language musicians.” and the first Latin Grammys premiered in the year 2000. The 2000s also brought new and changed genres in the Latin American community. Groups like Xtreme, Wisin & Yandel and Daddy Yankee changed the sound of and pioneered genres like bachata and reggaeton, defining them as something more than Latin music. North America was no longer a location of distribution, but of production as well.