It goes without saying that 2020 is a year no one will soon forget. On lighter notes, things like Zoom and Tik Tok became part of our cultural lexicon. On heavier notes, COVID-19 ravaged the globe, wild-fires raged in California and systemic racism reared its ugly head time and time again. Yet, if you look hard enough there were also moments of meaning, pride and even celebration. In particular for the Latinx community. Here are the most inspiring Latino moments of 2020.
Jennifer Lopez & Shakira Headline Super Bowl Halftime Show
It may seem like a lifetime ago and light fare for current times. But, in the beginning of 2020 when the world was living a pre-pandemic life Jennifer Lopez and Shakira served as headliners for the Super Bowl halftime show. Why is this noteworthy you ask?
For the biggest sporting event of the year, two Latinas entertained the entire globe. They rocked their greatest hits and put Latino culture on full display. When was the last time you saw the Puerto Rican flag make its way across a Super Bowl stage? Well it happened here.
Yet, the event was about more than the Latino pride on display. It was emblematic and a celebration of diversity on the world’s biggest stage during America’s favorite pastime.
In June, DREAM’ers scored a major victory when the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s plan to dismantle an Obama-era Deferred Action Childhood Arrival program (DACA).
Under DACA qualified individuals brought to the U.S. as children were given temporary legal status. Provided they passed a background check and graduated from high school or were honorably discharged from the military. Early in his administration, Trump moved to revoke the program. The result – approximately 700,000 of the DREAM’ers it protected now became in jeopardy of deportation. The 5-4 ruling of Supreme Court ensures this will no longer happen.
Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash
Military Reform and I Am Vanessa Guillen Act
After Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen went missing and was eventually discovered murdered. The Guillen family set out for answers and accountability. The case and their efforts captured the attention of not just the local community, but the Latino community at large. Elected officials, Latino advocacy groups and activists demanded action.
Consistent community organizing and calls for justice prompted the military to take that action. An investigation of the specific case and an independent review of military policies and procedures in general revealed a culture of what was coined a “permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment”.
The findings resulted in the removal of 14 Fort Hood leader and prompted several military policy reforms, including revisions to the Army’s sexual harassment and prevention program.
Yet, the Guillen family’s efforts did not cease there. Guillen’s family continues its advocacy. Lobbying to enact the “I Am Vanessa Guillen Act”, which would provide independent investigations for sexual harassment and assault survivors in the Army. The family’s goal is to protect other soldiers and keep Vanessa Guillen’s legacy alive.
At a time when Latino’s and other minorities continue to make up a large portion of the military such reforms could not come at a better time.
Bad Bunny Hits #1 on Billboard Album Chart
Bad Bunny was a busy man in 2020. Releasing no less than three albums. The last in the trinity entitled El Último Tour del Mundo (The Last Tour in the World) made music history.
Upon its release the album debuted at the top the Billboard 200 Albums chart. Making El Último Tour del Mundo the first all-Spanish album to ever reach No. 1 in the 64-year history of the chart.
However, the debut was more than a historic achievement. It served as validation for the Latin music industry. One which for decades has seen its artists marginalized unless they bowed to the terms of the mainstream. By that we mean if you want to succeed in the American market your material needs to be in English. With the debut Bad Bunny shattered a glass ceiling and showed the industry and the world that a Spanish language album can make it to number one on the charts.
Leadership Reflective of the Community It Serves
When campaigning for the Presidency, then candidate Joe Biden promised that his Cabinet would be “the most diverse in history.” In terms of Latino representation President-Elect seems to be making good on that vow. The fall of 2020 saw historic nominations such as Alejandro Mayorkas, the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security and Xavier Becerra the first Latino to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Yet, victories were also amassed outside the executive branch. Notably, Alex Padilla who was appointed to fill the US Senate seat vacated by Kamala Harris. Padilla’s appointment makes him the first Latino Senator to represent California. With the Latinos making up approximately 39% of the state’s total population, the appointment at least in part addresses the issue of making leadership reflective of the community it serves.
American Latino Museum
Latino culture in the United States ended the year on a highest of notes. After decades of effort, the American Latino Museum will be.
In December, Congress finally passed legislation to fund the construction of the American Latino Museum. A museum that will be dedicated to the achievements and contributions of Latinos to the United States.
The museum faced its share of obstacles, the most recent being Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who blocked the bill, stating that there “should not  [be] an exclusive museum of American Latino history or a museum of women’s history or museum of American men’s history or Mormon history or Asian American history or Catholic history. American history is an inclusive story that should unite us.”
Despite this opposition, Congress included funding for museums dedicated to Latino and Women in its most recent government funding legislation. Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a longtime advocate for a Latino museum and the lead sponsor of the Senate bill, said that the museum’s passage is the “culmination of decades of hard work, advocacy, successes and setbacks in the movement to recognize Latino contributions to America’s history, economy and culture. With this vote, Latinos and Latinas across our nation will finally have their stories, struggles, and impact on our country validated by the United States Congress.”
Here’s hoping 2021 will serve up as many inspiring Latino moments as 2020.
Photo property of American Latino Museum Facebook.