How Fiesta Latina Used Music To Shift Focus Back To Relief In Puerto Rico

Senior Music Writer

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On a warm Saturday evening last week, the citizens of Miami converged en masse on the immense American Airlines Arena, heavy with anticipation. iHeartRadio was hosting its annual Fiesta Latina, and the deck was stacked with a near-who’s who of Latin Pop Music. One of the biggest names in the genres history, Ricky Martin was tasked with opening the show. Luis Fonsi of “Despacito” renown would be there too; so will Yandel, CNCO, Camila Cabela, and Jesse Y Joy. Diplo is also on the lineup for some reason.

I would never claim to be the world’s biggest Latin pop fan. Like many, I grew up dancing to the “Macarena” at junior prom and blasting Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” in my dad’s car but that’s pretty much as far as it goes for me. Reggaeton however, now that’s a genre I’m quite familiar with. I spent the ages of 19 through 21 living in El Paso, Texas just around the height of Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina” fever. You couldn’t hit a club without hearing that track play five times a night minimum. The distinctive boom, da, boom, duh beat is ingrained in my DNA.

So it was with intense interest that I made my way inside the home of the Miami Heat, eager to fully immerse myself in a world I’m wholly unfamiliar with. Oh, did I mention I don’t speak or understand a lick of Spanish? Except for a little onstage banter here and there, for about five hours I remained completely and totally unaware of much of what anyone said or sang about. Regardless of all these limitations, I have to tell you, the experience was thrilling!

Right from the jump, the energy in the room felt electric. Just before 8 PM, a countdown ticker began running down from 60 on the big jumbo screen above the stage. iHeartRadio host Enrique Santos appeared to introduce the first, and biggest act of the night, Ricky Martin. At the mere mention of his name, a torrent of screaming broke out that was only surpassed by the appearance of the man himself, clad all in black, with a shirt buttoned up just low enough to expose his tanned chest.

Martin launched right away into his 2015 hit “La Mordidita,” a dark and slinky track propelled by a heavy, thumping bass drum. From there he segued into the soaring ballad “Gracias Por Pensar En Mi,” which got a significant contingent of couples in the audience looking longingly into each other’s eyes. As compelling as the music was however, the real focus of the evening was the devastation in Puerto Rico following the touchdown of Hurricane Maria that killed 54 people, left thousands more homeless, and sparked a major humanitarian crisis.

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