Country singer-songwriter Valerie Ponzio, who grew up in El Paso, Texas, was watching the changes in his hometown. As a child in the 90’s, she frequently crossed borders with her family to Ciudad Juárez for shopping trips. By the early 2000s, violence had increasingly overtaken Mexican cities and intensified debate about border security. Most recently, El Paso was characterized by gun violence following a mass shooting targeting Mexican residents in 2019.
It’s an emotional sequence of events for Ponzio. “I just want to see people praise my hometown,” says the singer, a former contestant of “The Voice.” Some songs that emphasize El Paso.. “It’s not what people think of it.”
What hasn’t changed about El Paso over the last few decades is how El Paso, and more broadly Latin culture, has been portrayed in country music.For Ponzio, a song like Miranda Lambert’s recent “Tequila does” Another way to stereotype her living experience. The song, which begins with the line “His surname was Flores / he came from Juarez / was looking for hell of time”, portrays the area as a novelty ending at another drunken night at the border crossing. .. It defines Marty Robbins’ career “El Paso“And Johnny Cash’s”RecruiterHas long described this area as a realm of virtue.
Today, “Tequila Does” is part of a wide range of recent trends in popular country songs that have wonked in Latin culture.Thematically, this most often includes references to alcohol like John Purdy. “Tequila Little Time” (Including sound references to mariachi music using a horn), and Luke Bryan’s “One margarita.” These hits present Latin culture as a source of white escape for country music, such as drinking, cross-border sexual escape, more common Latino Americans, or countless Latin beach vacations. It is based on a long history. Kenny Chesney Song..
What’s lacking in a long history of singing about Latin culture in country music is impressive: real Latin Americans. The parallel themes of family, beliefs and rural culture found in Mexican regional and tejano music particularly confuse the exclusion of Latin Americans in the country. Still, Lack of black expression in country music In particular, it has emerged more and more over the past year surrounding the singer’s career. Mickey Guyton And her Grammy-nominated song “Black-like me, ”Latin artist (singer Rissi Palmer’s“Color Me Country ”podcast Exception).
According to Jada Watson, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa and a senior researcher at SongData, only 0.5% of the songs recorded in the Hot Country Songs between 1944 and 2016 were recorded by Latin artists. This is even worse for women, as almost all of these singles were recorded by only three men. Johnny Rodriguez, With Freddy Fender Rick Trebino..
“Latina is not only significantly underestimated, but also significantly lacking,” Watson explains. According to Watson’s research, only a handful of Latina country artists such as Rosie Flores, Star De Azlan and Leah Turner have recorded chart hits.
Born and raised in Southern California, Turner is one of the most fascinating Latina in the history of country music (her 2013 hit). “Take the key” Peaked at number 37 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart). The daughter of a first-generation Mexican-American mother and rodeo champion’s father, she’s a thing of the past when country music opens the door to Latino artists, rather than continuing to divert culture to white artists. Is called.
“It’s very unpleasant. We’re not characters, we’re not just costumes,” she says. “They benefit from our culture, how cool and different it is, how everyone loves Mexico, and everyone loves passionate Mexicana and Senorita. They need to start sitting at the table we made. “
For the past 10 years Study by Country Music Assn.. Seven out of ten non-white Americans listen to country every week, revealing that Latin listeners are particularly interested in the genre. According to Karen Stump, Senior Director of Consumer Insights and Research at CMA, the organization continues to actively survey viewers in Latin countries.
“The CMA has commissioned a multi-step multicultural research study launched earlier this year to look at the country’s changing viewer demographics,” she reports. “Our goal is to better understand these audiences and their views on the genre.”
Research like CMA is being done by the broader entertainment industry Overlooked the purchasing power of Latin Americans In the light of a movie like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” Netflix Serena Miniseries..
It’s a trend that white artists like Lambert seem to be on the alert. The singer recently recorded a second “Tequila Does” for her acclaimed “Marfa Tapes” earlier this month, as did Miranda Lambert’s Casa Rosa bar, self-proclaimed “Tex-Mex + Cantina”. I played at CMT Awards. Has opened in downtown Nashville.Of the singer Idyllwind The Boot Barn line is similarly drawn from Mexican fashion style.
Meanwhile, the recent signing of Sony Music Nashville by Puerto Rican and Cuban duo Cat & Alex may suggest that the industry is motivated to support Latino artists. Married Kat Luna and Alex Garrido gained national popularity as “American Idol” contestants last year and have since built social media after posting. Spanglish rendition Of a famous country song.
Jennifer Way, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Sony Music Nashville, said: “Every time they post a Spanish cover of a country music song, they attract new Spanish-speaking fans who may not have been able to identify the genre before.”
While some may find Nashville’s increased involvement in the Latin market surprising, there was a time when the Latin breakthrough spurred Music Row’s interest. Texasians Rodriguez and Fender had a long and successful career with multiple hits in the ’70s. In the 90’s, the industry was temporarily called Trevino (a Texas man who could only speak English but the label was forced to record his first album in Spanish), Emilio Navaira (“Garth Brooks of Tejano”). T), and lags behind the roots band. Mavericks led by Cuban-American singer Raul Malo.And in 2007, native to Texas Star de Azlan Became the first Latina to sign record labels in major countries (she was dropped on a curve record after three singles).
However, country music faces a surge in diversity over other genres, as only a handful of gatekeepers focused on Nashville have shown little interest in deviating from the status quo. With a few exceptions to these, Nashville is mostly closed to Latin country artists.
Ponzio and Turner report that they are experiencing both secret and explicit discrimination because of their ethnicity.
“When I was in The Voice, I realized that there was something very coded about many criticisms. There were a lot of things that said,” You don’t belong to a country. ” Says Ponzio.
Meanwhile, Turner describes a former manager who gave a stereotypical nickname based on his Mexican identity.
“I used to have a manager who called me a” taco, “she recalls. “I finally said I would stop calling me” tacos. ” I’m half Mexican, so you just call me a “taco”. “
When it came to marketing himself early in his career, Turner was told by a record label to obscure his Mexican roots. This is an ability not given to dark-skinned Latin Americans. For Turner, this decision was not a source of direct discrimination from the industry, but a strategic and protective one.
“When they said that, it wasn’t because they were like,’I don’t want anyone to know that you’re Mexican,’” she says. “They protected me from what the fan base does.”
Turner’s label may have been short-sighted, kindly, but they made sense. Black women Guyton are often the target of online verbal abuse, and Ponzio and Turner have experienced fan backlash by talking about the lack of Latin expression in country music. Such an experience was exacerbated by anti-immigrant rhetoric instigated by former President Trump and Fox News, speaking to the often conservative fan base of whites, which the country music industry has long prioritized.
Despite negative interactions with fans, Turner also points out positive messages from Latin listeners who feel that her music proves her position as a fan of country music. I will. This is a community that helped encourage her next EP, which will be released independently in July, and makes great use of her Mexican and cowgirl roots. For her, it’s a natural combination for country music.
“Latin and country music cultures are 100% interrelated. They are religious, have a family, are diligent, passionate, and know Latin Americans and country music. [fans like] To drink, “she says. “My dream is for the first cowboys, cowboys and buckets, to come together in one place and bring these two worlds together.”
Amanda Marie Martinez is a PhD candidate at UCLA’s School of History, a Fellow in the recording industry at Middle Tennessee State University, and teaches the history of country music.
This story was originally Los Angeles Times..