By Alexandra Curtis Blasco-
On the evening of the 2nd of February 2020, my friends and I excitedly gathered around the television in my cramped Edinburgh apartment to watch the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show. Whilst my friends normally don't take part in things ‘all American’, this was the exception as I had not stopped talking about the upcoming show since the announcement of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez as the headliners. Not only was this the first half time show to be headlined by two women, but two Latin women! The performance proved to be a monumental step forward for Latin American representation within the USA due to the cultural significance that the Super Bowl plays for Americans during this weekend. For many, the Superbowl is not just an American sport but rather a symbol of tradition and culture that's as American as apple pie. Consequently, to have two Hispanic women headlining the halftime show, which in recent years has gotten even more views than the actual game itself, was a step towards rewriting within American society what it truly means to be ‘All American’.
Elements of the cultural belonging that the Latinx community has within the United States was made evident through the artists’ continuously Code Switching between English and Spanish throughout the performance. Code Switching & Blending is a bilingual phenomenon, referring to the use of two or more languages throughout a conversation, or in this case the performance. All throughout the show, artists such as Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin, took the stage and implemented some form of Code Blending to represent their culture and Hispanic heritage at the all American event. The bilingual nature of the show was made blatantly evident from the very start when Shakira’s first words whilst rising up on the stage were “¡Hola Miami!”. The implementation of Code Switching between English and Spanish throughout the performance was an iconic choice, emphasising that, despite English being recognised and accepted as a dominant language across the USA, there is no official language within the country due to its multinational stance since its birth. The choice to not have one dominant language throughout the performance highlights and emphasises the multicultural and multilingual foundations which the US was built upon and intended to uphold.
This message of the USA being a multilingual nation that is a melting pot for cultures and people was further emphasised through Lopez’s outfit change near the end of her set. Lopez walked out wearing a bright feathered cape with the American flag patterned on the outside, designed by Versace. As Lopez’s daughter, Emme, began to sing the classic American song Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen, Lopez removed her robe revealing the inside of the feathered cape to showcase the iconic red, white, and blue of the Puerto Rican flag (pictured above). The duality between the Puerto Rican and American flag in addition to Springsteen's song brought to attention Puerto Rican’s identification as American citizens due to the island's status as an unincorporated territory of the United States since 1901. Despite Puerto Rico's identification as a Latin American country, it is still a part of the United States of America and thus an element to be represented within American culture and society that is at times much forgotten. The status of Puerto Rico as an unincorporated territory of the United States’ government effectively provides Puerto Ricans with the birthright of American citizenship and thus a part of American tradition and culture.
Despite the celebration and blending of cultures which the halftime show clearly depicted, one cannot deny the blatant political message that the show portrayed to its audience on a global scale during Lopez’s set. Whilst initially the orbs which some of the children were sat in seemed like innocent and flashy props, one cannot help but have noticed the luminous bar-like caging which enclosed some of the children as they sang one of Lopez’s hits Let's Get Loud. The depiction of children in cages drew parallels with the children enclosed and separated from their families in various detention centres along the US- Mexican border. The timing of this performance came after a global cry of outrage at the end of 2019 when there were a record-breaking number of unaccompanied minors being detained in centres along USA's southern border. By the end of the 2019 fiscal year (in September) the American Immigration Service apprehended 76,020 unaccompanied minors coming up from Central America that were in search of a better life in an attempt to escape extreme poverty and violence from their home countries. The symbolic imagery alongside the song Let's Get Loud was a clear message to the American audience, and the world, of the attention that needs to be drawn towards the inhumane injustices that are currently occurring on American soil to asylum seekers from the LatAm community.
Whilst the glitz and glam of the show was an unblemished representation of the lively culture and heritage of LatAm society, the show was able to simultaneously emphasise LatAm’s stance and belonging within American society as well. Despite the backlash that the performance received for its “needing of a translation”, the show was an accurate representation of Latin American pride which rightfully belongs within the USA.