Over the last few months films such as Encanto (2021) and the remake of West Side Story (2021) have showcased Latinx talent and stories, achieving significant attention and success. The popularity of Reggaeton has endured with the genre continually evolving. The narrative is changing, however, the representation of Latinx community in mainstream media has not always been as positive or even existent. Hollywood has long been critiqued for presenting stereotypes of Latinx characters and white washing the richness of what it means to be Latinx.
The Latinx community one of the fastest growing in the UK, and the eighth largest in London.2 However, even the right to identify as Latinx or Latin American is not yet an option on the UK census and many monitoring forms.3 Even if this example equates a box-ticking exercise, the right to claim and celebrate identity is a real one and an important one. Within the embrace of Diaspora, we can begin to unpack the complexities of colonisation, culture and language inside the shared histories and geographies of the Caribbean and Latin America.4
This is one of the reasons why we chose to programme Ballet Hispánico as part of Let’s Dance International Frontiers 2022. The company are a testament to the unification of the Latinx Diaspora in New York. In Tiburones, choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa addresses the discrimination and stereotypes placed upon Latinx culture and the power the media has in portraying these themes by diminishing the voices of Latinx artists. Con Brazos Abiertos by Michelle Manzanales explores with humility, nostalgia and humour the iconic Mexican symbols that she was reluctant to embrace as a Mexican-American child growing up in Texas. With Gustavo Ramírez Sansanoʼs 18 + 1 is a pure celebration of movement merging with the playful rhythms found in Pérez Pradoʼs mambo music.
In the UK, film makers such as Romano Pizzichini5, writers such as Yara Rodrigues and musicians from Sachellys to Desta French are magnifying the Latinx British experience. In a landscape as diverse as ours we are working to continue research and amplify voices from the Diaspora, using art as our megaphone.
To be continued.
For more information about the history of Ballet Hispáncio we suggest reading Eduardo Vilaro’s paper in My Voice, My Practice.
- The title is quoted from the popular song in Disney’s Encanto (2021).
- The New Stateman (2019) Latin Americans are one of the UK’s fastest-growing groups. So why aren’t they recognised? [Online] Available at: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2019/12/latin-americans-are-one-of-the-uks-fastest-growing-groups-so-why-arent-they-recognised [Accessed: 11/03/2022)
- Arts Council England introduced ‘Latin American’ as an option on some reporting forms in 2021. Thanks to the campaigning of LatinXcluded
- Maps of the World (2017) Is the Caribbean part of Latin America? [Online] https://www.mapsofworld.com/answers/geography/is-caribbean-part-of-latin-america/#
- Pizzichini, R. (2019) More Than Other [Film] Available at: https://vimeo.com/357942794
- Trust for London (2016) Towards visibility: the Latin American community in London. [Online] Available at: https://www.trustforlondon.org.uk/publications/towards-visibility-latin-american-community-london/#:~:text=Around%20a%20quarter%20of%20a,thirds%20having%20arrived%20since%202000.
Image Credit: Ballet Hispánico in Tiburones – Photo by Paula Lobo