As the rain fell outside the Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Florida, the biggest names in Latin music glamorously arrived for the 2021 Latin Billboard Music Awards. ancient to Latin music, the Billboard Latin Music Awards, broadcast on Telemundo, are the only awards show to honor the most popular Latin music as determined by sales, streaming and social data from Billboard’s weekly charts. As Latin music continues its seismic crossover into mainstream pop, regardless of language, last night’s awards show is a testament to the power and influence of Latinx listeners.
Bad Bunny is the biggest winner of the evening
The pre-show started with a special gift from Bad Bunny: his first red carpet appearance with his jewelry designer girlfriend, Gabriela Berlingeri. The Puerto Rican reggaetonero was by far the biggest winner of the evening, winning 10 of the 22 awards for which he was nominated, including Artist of the Year. When he accepted his award, he sang improvised “Safaera” with the audience. The sparse crowd due to COVID regulations has been unleashed. In one category for Album of the Year, the industrious artist even faced off three times for each of the albums he released last year.
Ultimately, the pre-pandemic 2020 salvation, “YHLQMDLG” won the award. Later that evening, Bad Bunny and Berlingeri, who featured on some of Bad Bunny’s songs, were able to back to Daddy Yankee’s Hall of Fame Award performance of “Metele al Perreo”, celebrating their success.
Tokischa lights up the red carpet and stage with a shameless ensemble and duet with Rosalia
Dominican rapper Tokischa was by far the first star of the pre-show red carpet. Tokischa is no stranger to controversy. Last month, the singer of “Que Viva” posed in front of a Virgen de Altagracia wall painting in Jarabacoa wearing a white lace bustier and nude panties. In one photo, she forgoes the panties and covers herself with her hands, wearing a lace headgear with horns. The mayor of La Vega found the photos disrespectful and soon after she was called to court and charged with a fine.
But that won’t stop Tokisha from upsetting cultural norms in a predominantly conservative and traditional media market. She will wear what she wants, as it should. She arrived Thursday evening wearing a peach, transparent and latex ensemble resembling a religious dress, similar to a nun. Her face was adorned with metal balls and around her neck there was a single cross.
The artist then closed the show with a first performance of his hit song “Linda” with Spanish singer Rosalia. For their performance, Tokischa swapped her lip-pink statement piece for a black and pink lace bodysuit. As expected from the two “quien se besan” “buddies”, and in a perhaps unintentional celebration of Bisexual Visibility Day, the two artists closed the show with a kiss.
Paquita la del Barrio wins Lifetime Achievement Award
With over 50 years of making rancheros and boleros for women’s empowerment, Paquita la del Barrio was honored last night with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Known for her machismo denouncing hymns such as “Rata de dos Patas”, “Me Saludas a la Tuya” and “Tres Veces Te Engañé”, Paquita is a force in Mexican music.
Bad Bunny was also the greatest gentleman of the evening. He escorted the Mexican ranchera and the winner of the evening’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Paquita La Del Barrio, to the stage. When he realized she couldn’t reach the microphone and the stagehands failed to respond in time, Bad Bunny stepped in, holding the microphone for the 74-year-old winner who gave a touching speech.
“Thank you for considering me and for distinguishing me with this honor,” she said, greeted with a standing ovation. “I have so much to say, but I’d rather just thank you for the love.”
Camila Cabello calls for freedom for Cuba, but where was the solidarity for Haitian refugees?
Camila Cabello opened the show with a cabaret performance of her latest song, “Don’t Go Yet”, which draws inspiration from her Cuban salsa roots. She ended the song calling for an end to decades of Cuban dictatorship, punching her fist in the air and shouting “patria y vida”. The phrase, which means “Homeland and Life” was the rallying cry of this summer’s historic events who saw people from all over Cuba take to the streets to demand civil liberties.
“Patria y Vida”, which overturns the official slogan of the Cuban regime “The homeland or death”, was popularized by singers Yotuel, Gente de Zona, Descemer Bueno and Maykel Osorbo, starring performance artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara last February when they released the eponymous song which was criticized by the Cuban regime.
As a result of the protests, conditions have only deteriorated and hundreds of protesters remain in jail. Alcantara, who is a leader of San Isidro Movie and was recently named one of Time Magazines 100 Most Influential People, has been incarcerated for more than two months in a maximum security prison and faces charges of incitement to commit a crime, public disorder and “desacato” which results in an offensive expression towards public officials.
However, what was missing from last night’s event was a demonstration of solidarity with our Haitian cousins who are fight for their lives on the US-Mexico border. The footage has been gruesome: Border patrol officers on horseback brandish whip-shaped reins at Haitian refugees to prevent them from entering. It may be Hispanic Heritage Month, but it means showing solidarity with all diaspora communities facing the same critical issues of immigration and forced deportation.
Taboo of Black Eyed Peas calls for indigenous solidarity
Winner of the Crossover Artists of the Year award, Black Eyed Peas member Taboo gave a passionate speech in Spanish in honor of his Mexican roots in East Los Angeles and his indigenous roots in the Shoshone tribe.
“Thank you for all the support, it’s an honor to represent Mexicans,” he said. “I’m focusing on my native roots, never forget that, we have to focus on that.”
Rauw Alejandro and Karol G give two of the best performances of the night
Rauw Alejandro was dazzled in a roller disco performance of “Todo de Ti”, even releasing his own electronic movements. He was like a smooth Greaser, though Danny Zuko had pastel pink hair. He later performed “Loquita” on a psychedelic stage with Reik. Dancers in costumes of yellow and purple flowers framed the stage as giant mushrooms lingered in the distance.
Earlier, Karol G’s electric turquoise hair swayed down the back of her thighs as she performed a medley filled with hits including “El Maquinon”, “Bichota”, “El Barco”, “Ay, Dios Mio” and “Tusa”. The artist had just won an award for Artist of the year in hot Latin songs, female, and her unabashed joy and energy was palpable. At the end of the song, she led her dancers in a party fist pump, jumping together in unison. it is not a surprise recently named her the next Latin queen.