Is music changing U.S. culture?

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Latin American music has been part of the U.S. culture for decades, but its rise in the country has been more noticeable in recent years. 

Just a few weeks ago, Bad Bunny was a headliner at Coachella, one of the world’s most important music festivals. This was the first time since the festival’s creation that a Latinx artist headlined the event.

But he was not the only Latinx artist there. The festival also included Chicana artist Becky G, the legendary Argentinian band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Colombian singer Kali Uchis and many more. 

The lineup had plenty of Latinx representation compared to lineups from a few years ago. 

In a recent song, Bad Bunny expresses that today everyone wants to be Latino, insinuating that for the first time in history, being Latinx is now considered something cool and part of mainstream culture. 

Not too long ago, former U.S. President Donald Trump stated that Mexicans were rapists and came to the country to steal jobs, unleashing acts of violence and discrimination towards the Latinx community. 

It is estimated that one out of 10 Latinx reported experiencing discrimination, especially for speaking Spanish publicly, in the past years. 

But today, in many areas, things are different. Spanish nowadays is considered a cool thing to know. We see increasingly more non-Spanish speakers singing in Spanish and even learning the language nowadays. 

“Growing up, I avoided speaking my first language, Spanish, so I wouldn’t make others uncomfortable and get unnecessary attention,” Contra Costa College student Roberto Rivera expressed. “But today it seems like everyone is loving the language and even learning it all thanks to the attention that reggaetón and other Latinx genres are getting on mainstream culture.” 

Since 1980, the number of Spanish speakers has increased by 233%. It is one of the most rapidly growing languages in the world.

Between 2010 and 2019, the Hot 100, a list done by Billboard, had only 83 Latin songs, but just three years from 2019 to the present, the same list had 128 Latin songs. Nineteen singles reached the top 10 on the Hot 100, and four earned the top 4. Over forty songs achieved the top 10, and four went into the top 4. While 47 songs had a 20-week run on the chart, two remained on for more than 50 weeks, and 45 songs stayed on for varying periods. In the Latin section, over 110 entries went to the chart for fewer than five more weeks. Sixty-five of them only reached the top 10 once. Bad Bunny is the leading act, with nine in the region.

We can also see more mainstream U.S. artists collaborating with Latinx artists to expand their market. 

But things are not only changing in music. 

According to a study by GAO conducted through the ACS data, Hispanic people constituted 12 percent of the media industry’s workforce in 2019, as opposed to 18 percent for the rest of the industry’s workers. Among the media sectors, such as television, publishing, and film, Hispanics made up 12 percent, while the rest of the industry’s workforce included all other workers. Even though the number is still deficient, it is slightly higher than a few years ago. 

Tourism to Latin America has also increased. Mexico is the primary source of U.S. tourists in Latin America. In 2021, almost 29 million individuals visited the country’s territory. It was also the second-largest source of tourists after the Caribbean. And in the past years, especially post-lockdown, many U.S. citizens decided to move to Mexico City, mainly from big cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. According to several people who moved to or are planning to move to Mexico City, the low cost of living and their love for the culture are the two main reasons they moved there. 

Music has changed U.S. culture for decades, and it might not be a coincidence that those things are happening while regulation and other Latinx genres are rising in the country. Today we see more people singing in Spanish, more Latinx representation on TV, and non-Latinx people traveling more to Latin America. Tacos are no longer exclusive.