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Shakira and J-Lo Rock Political and Cultural Statements at the Superbowl

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A stage in the form of the symbol of femininity; the flags of Puerto Rico and the United States on the same canvas; girls inside cages reflecting the horror of Donald Trump’s anti-migration policies; a mix of ‘Born in the USA’ and ‘Let’s Get Loud’: the entire halftime Show of the 2020 Super Bowl dominated by the Latin Power for the first time in history. The Kansas City Chiefs might have gotten the ring, but make no mistake, J-Lo and Shakira were the real winners of Sunday’s Super Bowl. 

The performance, led by Shakira, the first South American artist to perform the Super Bowl halftime show, and ‘La Diva del Bronx’, Jennifer Lopez, who is originally from Puerto Rico,  hasn’t stopped making headlines since last Sunday. From viral memes to outrage and praise, the internet doesn’t seem to be able to shut up about it. 

“This show will have very important repercussions,” said Shakira in an interview she gave in Spanish alongside J-Lo for NFL en Español. “We are a mix of cultures and we conserve so many idiosyncratic cultural traits that make us unique. Our music is a reflection of that.” 

The music heavyweights performed a medley of their biggest hits, and placed not-so-subtle political and cultural messages through their performance. One of the most popular ones was Shakira’s viral tongue wiggling, which confused people enough to make it into a very popular meme. 

However, the real meaning behind the gesture was more than just a quick moment of fun. Shakira, who is half Lebanese, has always tried to incorporate Lebanese elements to her music and performances, some of which were included in Sunday’s performance, like the belly-dancing and Arab instruments. 

Many on the internet have recognized the gesture as “azaghrouta”, a sound often made by women in the Middle East and North Africa to express joy or other strong emotion. Others have pointed out that it could be a nod to the Carnaval de Barranquilla, the Colombian city where Shakira is from. She also incorporated the Champeta a genre of folk music and dance originating in her hometown.

“I think the message [of my performance] is gonna be ‘Listen, I’m a woman, I’m a Latina, it wasn’t easy for me to get to where I am,” Shakira told 60 Minutes before her performance. “Being at the Super Bowl is proof that everything is possible. That the dreams of a little girl from Barranquilla, Colombia, they were made of something of what dreams are made of and I’m gonna be there, giving it all.”

Among the special guests on stage, which was shaped like the female Venus symbol, were J Balvin and Bad Bunny, who joined Shakira in a rendition of his song “Like It Like That” where he drops the popular line “Latino Gang”, which is exactly what the Latin pop divas were going for in their performance. 

“The energy we bring [as Latins] is very different,” J-Lo told NFL en Espanol. “I hope it’s the beginning of a change. What we can do is represent our community but also as women. We’re here, we have voices, let’s use them.”

Perhaps one of the most poignant moments came when J-Lo’s 11-year-old daughter, Emme Muñiz, joined the singers in the performance while she and other children were inside what appeared to be cages. Muñiz then started singing her mother’s hit “Let’s Get Loud” with J-Lo even telling the audience “Latinos, let’s get loud!”

Media outlets and viewers have pointed out that this imagery was a political statement made by the artists, criticizing Trump’s family separation policy and inhumane treatment of child immigrants in detainment centers. After the game, J-Lo posted on Instagram,  “All I want my girls, the little girls on stage with me and all over the world to know is how to use their voices and be proud of everything they are. We are proud to recognize that all of us together are what makes this beautiful country truly great,” she wrote. 

The song was followed by Emme and J-Lo’s rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in The USA” while J-Lo was wearing a Puerto Rican mixed with a U.S. flag alluring to the lack of support that the island has received from the government following various devastating earthquakes.

“I’m a woman, I’m Latin and I’m American and I’m proud of all of those things. If you’re going to describe me, I guess, that’s what it is. So, all of those things will be part of the performance for sure. I really hope that it empowers people,” J-Lo told The Associated Press. “There is so much that we can achieve, just me and Shakira being on that stage is something where people go, ‘Yay, anything is possible. We can be up there, too.’”

Alexandra Tirado Oropeza is a Venezuelan journalist covering politics, immigration, entertainment and social justice. She moved to the U.S. in 2014 to pursue a Writing degree at The University of Tampa, and after graduating, she moved to Los Angeles where she works in broadcast and as a freelance writer. She’s passionate about equality, freedom of speech, art and dogs.