We lost a lot of notable folks this year, and I’m sure glad Charo wasn’t one of them.
There’s this Letterman-style variety show on Univision called “Esta Noche Tonight” that I won’t link because this post is about things I like. I’m watching it with my mom in her kitchen in Miami. Charo is a guest, although you wouldn’t know it because in lieu of asking her questions about her new show in Las Vegas, “Charo in Concert: A Musical Sensation” (starting July 10 at the Riviera Hotel and Casino), they have a campesino character with oversized prosthetic ears, crossed eyes and bongo drums sitting beside her inventing stories about a childhood as a fake weirdo. (This kind of shit is so disappointing; Kristen Wiig, I’m talking to you and your back-scratcher hands.)
Charo’s call is to stand up occasionally, pop her hips, and smash her breasts against his head, inducing cuckoo-face and long, flat trumpet sounds from the orchestra, about five times. She obliges so decorously, so practiced at being caliente, and there’s a sleepiness to her eyes while she does it that says, “My bedroom is smoky, full of guitars, and completely absent of sequins, you furry bags-of-dicks.”
A few months ago a bunch of us were at Tommy’s watching a clip of Charo performing on Hollywood Palace on a night Sammy Davis Jr. hosted in 1968. We must have watched it four or five times, then Tommy posted it on Facebook and I played it on loop while I wrote the next day. The video has since been pulled from YouTube but I found it via Google on a Slovenian video site called MojVideo. So here’s Charo in 1968 (pre-cuchi-cuchi) playing the guitar and singing a traditional flamenco song:
Check Sammy Davis Jr. with the matador cape and the whack(y) scandalization face, censoring her before she gets primitive on primetime. The bongos, hip thrusts, and boobie launches (i.e. tropicalizations*) are thrown in at the end like the little bits of freeze-dried green and red pepper that makes Velveeta “fiesta flavor,” which is an image I’m styling from something the gay neo-con academic Richard Rodriguez said in a Bill Moyers interview in 1990 that you can watch or read here if you’re Latino and looking for more reasons to hate yourself.
(I have to stop now to mention that my father just walked in the front door wearing no pants. I should ask questions but it would kill the holiday magic.)
Back to strong, savvy, hip-thrusting Latinas: Shakira’s new songs totally suck. My god. I was in my friend’s car last night listening to Power 96 and I thought, “If this had been her first song ever she’d still be a nameless bougie princess in Baranquilla,” and it made me think about her early Indy-via-Sony-Records period.
It’s b.s. that a latina needs to bite Alanis Morissette to get industry cred only to go platinum in hair and sales, the latter by wearing Little Mermaid costumes and singing in Spanglish. But that’s the Latin-takeover agenda.
Nonetheless, that early stuff was so awesome. I loved it and so did my dad back when he wore pants. Here’s Yumi, a musician and Shakira fan in Brazil, doing a rad cover of my favorite early Shakira song “Estoy Aqui” (1995) in her foyer (listen for the high-speed-folk chorus, oh man):
Estoy aquí queriéndote – ahogándome – entre fotos y cuandernos – entre cosas y recuerdos – que no puedo comprender. – Estoy enloqueciéndome – cambiándome un pie por la – cara mía – esta noche por el día – y nada le puedo yo hacer.
:super obsessy emotional planning. P.S. Yumi today I’m your #1 fan in the 305.)
I’m trying to avoid building a facile Women of Latin Music Pre-Cuchi and Post-Cuchi timeline that leads to an old and boring conclusion: hating on them for crossing over and making bills by catering to the tropical imaginary.
(This shakes down at my house like this:
Dad: Shakira’s just copying Madonna
Mom: Shakira doesn’t need to copy anyone! She’s Shakira!)
The fact is I love what these women are doing now and I would give them my bills if I had any. But I go back to this early stuff a lot when I think about how I finally in college looked back and engaged my latinidad in ways that countered the republican, consumerist fruit of Cuban exile that my community wanted me to be. Meanwhile I had to be oblivious to the corporate-empire-orchestrated markets that made such music available to me. The point is I fucking love me some Miami Sound Machine:
Not only that, I also love me some Alanis Morissette, although that sarcastic “My Humps” video annoyed me–I thought it was kinda brainless, cheap and snobby (insert joke here about how Alanis doesn’t understand irony).
By the way, I saw Nine, which was largely z^3, but man Fergie can sing! And she plays this speechless vagrant who lives on the beach near a Catholic school in Italy where she runs a seaside business corrupting young boys with her fishy fishnets for a few coins a pop. But still, I wouldn’t suggest dropping your 10-12 Chavito$ on that movie, it’s like Hollywood for Dummies. Go see Fergie live or write some YouTube comments.
Purportedly she had to gain weight for the role. I think that means she thought, “I’m an Italian wench [I would have used the word “virago” but that’s my prerogative] in this movie? Fuck the crunches!”
And finally, the Latina to watch this year if you ask me is Yoani Sánchez, Cuban blogger on Generación Y. No one in the Americas blogosphere is as eloquently, fiercely and simultaneously critical of U.S. imperialism and Cuban despotism as Sánchez and I’ve got a lot of homework to do on her recent life and times. Let’s be her fans on Facebook.