We grew up dancing, singing and watching their performances on TV, and we still do today.
Growing up in a home where music was always blasting early Saturday morning, the sizzling of mami cooking platanos fritos (fried plantains) and making cafe con leche (coffee with milk), reminds me of how great it feels being a Latin woman. Whether it was a lake day with friends and family or a quinceañera, music was always there to hold that sense of connection within one another. I remember watching Latin Music Award shows, telenovelas and commercials with these influential artists. Today, these nine tracks are still the most influential songs for many Latinos, and we invite you to take a moment to remember them.
“La Vida Es Un Carnaval” - Celia Cruz
Celia Cruz, fully Úrsula Hilaria Celia Caridad Cruz Alfonso, was known as the Queen of Salsa Music. Cruz’s stage presence, contagious smile and robust voice filled the hearts of many Latinos. She sings, “There is no need to cry, life is a carnival, it’s more beautiful to live singing.” The rhythm in her music makes you want to just dance away all the troubles. And you cannot forget her iconic line: “Azucar!” (sugar!)
“Un Beso” - Aventura
The pickling of the guitar; Romeo Santos’ ethereal voice made anyone grab a partner and start dancing. The “Bronx” group became the most influential Bachata group of all time. They made me get into my emotions, singing to a non-existent boyfriend at age six. Although they parted ways, their music sold-out arenas, won multiple nominations and they continue to be recognizable worldwide. They became the Kings of Bachata to many, while others dared to call them the Latin Beatles.
“Oye Mi Amor”- Mana
Mana is one of the best Latin groups, combining their mix of rock-n-roll with Carribean lilt.Their nineties fashion aesthetic, Fher Olvera’s long curly hair bouncing as he sang and played guitar brings back so many memories growing up. Mana always holds a special place in my heart because my uncle would play it, and, although I was about two years old, I could always recognize Olvera’s thick voice.
“Amor Prohibido” - Selena
This is the “Romeo and Juliet” story: two lovers from different social classes in love. This song makes you feel as if you are the main character in a music video. Selena Quintanilla is a Mexican-American Cumbia singer who inspired many Latin women across the world. Everyone knew Quintanilla as “La Reina” (The Queen) because of her gracious voice, sparkling stage presence, and her style. I remember as a child wearing red lipstick around the house as I played dress-up. I loved seeing her dance, mimicking her hip movements, and her endless twirls as she sang.
“Hips Don’t Lie” - Shakira
“Oh, baby when you talk like that, you make a woman go mad!” I still cannot move my hips like Shakira. What I do know is that this song was a huge hit. Growing up and seeing it on MTV, watching her perform in Latin Award Shows and hearing it on the radio. This song makes you feel as if you are on a beach, feeling the ocean waves at your feet and the wind flowing through your hair. The pop song has acoustic guitars and trumpets, and the best part is it's bilingual. This song brings back so many memories of me wearing skirts and crop tops to look like Shakira. Who doesn’t want to move like her? The woman is talented.
“Livin La Vida Loca”- Ricky Martin
Martin’s catchy chorus and loud horns made this ‘90s anthem irresistible. Honestly, I believe this was the first English song I could sing as a child word for word. I remember hearing it again in Shrek 2, which made everyone dance. This has to be one of the best Latin Pop songs that Ricky Martin sang. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Ricky Martin dancing and having a good time?
“Hero”- Enrique Iglesias
Iglesias’ soft voice, the acoustic guitar in the background and heartfelt lyrics made me crush even harder. This song reminds me of dancing in my room just listening to it on repeat, pretending he was singing to me because he was. The best representation of this song was when it made its debut in Beverly Hills Chihuahua as Chloe, the white chihuahua, was on a train. That scene always made me cry growing up.
“La Tortura”- Shakira ft. Alejandro Sanz
This song made me feel so empowered like I could do whatever I wanted, and I loved every aspect of that. The reggae-pop, Sanz raspy voice, and Shakira’s sassy lyrics. I love the way Shakira sings how men can ask for forgiveness without really meaning it. Especially when she sings, “When you cry with your eyes dry and talking about her.” Her representation of strong, confident women in this video really made this song one of my favorites growing up.
“Gasolina”- Daddy Yankee
Its utter beat. Yankee’s unforgettable phrase. This was the start of a new reggaeton era for the Latin industry. Yankee set the bar high for all artists here, because this song was playing everywhere at parties, clubs festivals and in commercials. No one could not sing and dance to his dembow beat.
As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to an end, let’s reminisce on many classic artists who redefined how Latin music connects people around the world. I am forever in touch with my roots through food, people and music.
Edited by George Frey | firstname.lastname@example.org