As the rain trickled outside the Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Florida, the biggest names in Latin music arrived in glamorous fashion for the 2021 Latin Billboard Music Awards. Considered the longest-running awards show in Latin music, the Billboard Latin Music Awards, aired on Telemundo, is the only awards show to honor the most popular Latin music as determined by sales, streaming and social data from Billboard’s weekly charts. As Latin music continues its seismic crossover into mainstream pop regardless of language, last nights’ awards show was a testament to the power and influence of Latinx listeners.
Bad Bunny is the night’s biggest winner
The preshow started off with a special treat from Bad Bunny—his first red carpet appearance with his jewelry designer girlfriend, Gabriela Berlingeri. The Puerto Rican reggaetonero was by far the biggest winner of the night, winning 10 of 22 awards that he was nominated for, including Artist of the Year. As he accepted his award, he held an impromptu sing-along of “Safaera” with the audience. The sparse crowd due to COVID regulations went wild. In one category for Album of the Year, the industrious artist was even up against himself three times for each of the albums he released in the past year.
In the end, 2020’s pre-pandemic salvation, “YHLQMDLG” took home the award. Later in the evening, Bad Bunny and Berlingeri, who has been featured on some of Bad Bunny’s songs, got to perrear to Daddy Yankee’s Hall of Fame Award performance of “Metele al Perreo,” celebrating their success.
Tokischa lights up the red carpet & stage with unapologetic ensemble and duet with Rosalia
Dominican rapper, Tokischa, was by far the debut star of the pre-show red carpet. Tokischa is no stranger to controversy. Just last month, the “Que Viva” singer posed in front of a Virgen de Altagracia mural in Jarabacoa wearing a white lace bustier and nude panties. In one photo, she forgoes the panties and covers herself with her hands, wearing a lace headpiece with horns. The mayor of La Vega deemed the photos disrespectful, and soon after she was summoned to court and charged with a fine.
But, that won’t stop Tokischa from upending cultural norms in a predominantly conservative and traditional media market. She’s going to wear what she wants, as she should. She arrived Thursday evening wearing a peach, sheer and latex ensemble resembling a religious habit, similar to a nun. Her face was adorned by metal balls and around her neck was a single cross.
The artist would go on to close out the show with a debut performance of her hit song “Linda” with Spanish songstress Rosalia. For their performance, Tokischa swapped her labial pink statement piece for a black and pink lace bodysuit. As was expected of the two “homies” “quien se besan,” and in a perhaps unintentional celebration of Bisexual Visibility Day, the two artists closed the show with a smooch.
Paquita la del Barrio takes home Lifetime Achievement Award
With over 50 years crafting female-empowerment rancheros and boleros, Paquita la del Barrio was honored last night with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Known for machismo denouncing anthems such as “Rata de dos Patas,” “Me Saludas a la Tuya” and “Tres Veces Te Engañé,” Paquita is a force in Mexican music.
Bad Bunny was also the night’s biggest gentleman. He escorted the Mexican ranchera, and the night’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Paquita La Del Barrio up the stage. When he realized she couldn’t reach the microphone, and stagehands didn’t react in time, Bad Bunny stepped in, holding the mic for the 74 year-old honoree who delivered an emotional speech.
“Thank you for taking me into consideration and for distinguishing me with this honor,” she said, met with a standing ovation. “I have so many things I could say but I prefer to simply thank you for the love.”
Camila Cabello calls for Freedom for Cuba, but where was the solidarity for Haitian refugees?
Camila Cabello opened the show with a cabaret performance of her latest song, “Don’t Go Yet” which takes influence from her Cuban salsa roots. She finished the song calling for an end to the decades long Cuban dictatorship, punching one fist in the air and shouting “patria y vida.” The phrase, which means “Fatherland and Life” was the rallying cry of this summer’s historic protests that saw people all across Cuba taking to the streets demanding civil liberties.
“Patria y Vida,” which upends the Cuban regime’s official slogan of “Fatherland or Death,” was popularized by singers Yotuel, Gente de Zona, Descemer Bueno and Maykel Osorbo, featuring performance artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara this February when they released the eponymous song which was critiqued by the Cuban regime.
Following the protests, conditions have only continued to deteriorate and hundreds of protesters are still imprisoned. Alcantara, who is a leader of Movimiento San Isidro and was recently named one of Time Magazines’ 100 Most Influential People, has been in a maximum security prison for over two months, facing charges of instigation to commit a crime, public disorder, and “desacato” which translates into offensive expression toward public officials.
What was missing from last night’s event, however, was a show of solidarity for our Haitian cousins who are fighting for their lives at the U.S.-Mexico border. The images have been horrific—border patrol agents on horseback brandishing whip-like reins onto Haitian refugees to keep them from entering. It may be Hispanic Heritage Month, but that means showing solidarity with all diaspora communities that face the same callous issues of immigration and forced removal.
Taboo from Black Eyed Peas calls for Indigenous Solidarity
Winners for Crossover Artists of the Year, Black Eyed Peas member Taboo gave an impassioned speech in Spanish honoring his Mexican roots in East Los Angeles, and his indigenous roots from the Shoshone tribe.
“Thank you for all the support, it is an honor to represent Mexicans,” he said. “I’m focusing on my indigenous roots, never forget that, we need to focus on that.”
Rauw Alejandro and Karol G give two of the best performances of the night
Rauw Alejandro dazzled in a roller-disco performance of “Todo de Ti,” even breaking out his own electronic moves. He was like a smooth Greaser, if Danny Zuko had pastel pink hair. Later, he performed “Loquita” on a psychedelic stage with Reik. Dancers in yellow and purple flower costumes framed the stage as giant mushrooms lingered in the distance.
Earlier, Karol G’s electric turquoise hair swayed past the backs of her thighs as she performed a hits-filled medley including “El Maquinon,” “Bichota,” “El Barco,” “Ay, Dios Mio” and “Tusa.” The artist had just won an award for Hot Latin Songs Artist of the Year, Female, and her unabashed joy and energy was palpable. When the song finished, she led her dancers in a celebratory fist pump, jumping together in unison. It’s no surprise Billboard recently named her the next Latin Queen.