Ten years ago on March 29, 2010, Puerto Rican superstar Ricky Martin rocked the world when he came out. His announcement was also seen as an important moment for representation in Latin music as one of the scene’s most high-profile acts to join the community.
“I am very proud to say that I’m a fortunate homosexual man,” Martin wrote on his official website. “I am very blessed to be who I am.”
At the time, Martin had conquered both the pop and Latin music worlds in English and Spanish. In his statement, he acknowledged that people close to him were advising against his coming out and saying, “All the years you’ve worked and everything you’ve built will collapse.”
Every culture is ingrained with a form of toxic masculinity. For Latinx people in the U.S. and Latin America, it’s defined in Spanish as machismo. That harmful attitude is often reinforced with heteronormative (and sometimes homophobic) music. Martin did the math: Happiness and honesty outweighed the potential cost of his career and income. (After all, he had already achieved financial security.)
That conservative sentiment exists to this day. A decade later, Mexican DJ Raymix came out. He revealed that people close to him were also advising against his announcement. On the heels of Raymix, Spanish singer-songwriter Pablo Alborán also made his sexual orientation public, saying, “I want to be 100% true to myself.”
The very act of existing as queer is resistance to a largely hetero-normative world. But it is also risky. Promising Puerto Rican rapper Kevin Fret flaunted his flamboyant & fabulous lifestyle as a gay man in his reggaetón music videos. In January 2019, he was shot and killed in San Juan in a murder that remains unsolved. Over 50 years after the Stonewall Uprising in New York City, a catalyst for the gay rights movement, there’s still a struggle for the safety of folks in the LGBTQ community, especially for trans women of color.
There’s intersections between the gay rights movement and the Black Lives Matter protest movement. Let’s not forget to support the folks that made movements like Stonewall possible, which essentially allowed us to celebrate another Pride month this year (albeit virtually).
Openly gay Mexican singer Georgel shared a quote from Marsha P. Johnson that best summed up the sentiment: “No Pride for some us without liberation for all of us.”
To excite your three-day 4th of July weekend playlists with Latin music, here are 11 Latinx queer artists…
Ricky Martin “Mas”
Queer Latinx icon was something Ricky proudly embraced on his gay anthem “Más” from 2011’s Música + Alma + Sexo album. Martin has also used his big platform for other issues. Last year, he helped put a spotlight on (and later joined) the massive protests in Puerto Rico against the corrupt mayor Ricardo Rosselló, who resigned. He continues to speak out against any injustice in PR done under current governor Wanda Vásquez. Recently, Martin highlighted important moments in African-American history on his Instagram account in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Kany García “Lo Que En Ti Veo”
Another one of Puerto Rico’s biggest artists, Kany García, made waves in the Latin music scene when she came out as lesbian the day before Valentine’s Day in 2016. The singer-songwriter revealed she was in a relationship with her personal trainer Jocelyn Troche. On her recent duets album Mesa Para Dos, she released the single “Lo Que En Ti Veo” with Argentine singer Nahuel Pennisi. The stars of the music video are García and Troche, who share tender moments. She is also a part of the board of directors of the True Self Foundation, which advocates for LGBTQ Puerto Ricans, especially in the trans and nonbinary communities.
Joy Huerta “Love”
Mexican singer-songwriter Joy Huerta, who is one-half of the sibling duo Jesse & Joy, came out in April 2019. On Twitter, Huerta revealed she was in a relationship with Diana Atri with a baby on the way. The couple’s daughter Noah was born the following May. Huerta and her brother Jesse continue to uplift the LGBTQ community through their music. In honor of Pride month, they released the music video for “Love (Es Nuestro Idioma),” which features over 100 superstars in Latin America and Spain showing their support. The song is part of a campaign with the United Nations and YAAJ Mexico to ban the harmful practice of conversion therapy.
Raymix “Tu y Yo”
Mexican DJ and singer Raymix came in a surprise announcement. As an artist that works in the realm of regional Mexican music, a catchall term that comprises of local genres like ranchera, mariachi, corridos, and cumbia music, his bold pronouncement was seen as a win for LGBTQ representation in that especially heteronormative space. Mexico sometimes reflects that machismo attitude, having allowed same-sex marriage but with restrictions. The week his latest single “Tú y Yo” with Mexican pop queen Paulina Rubio went No. 1 on Mexican radio, he came out. That move quite possibly made him the first openly gay artist to top that chart in Mexico.
Esteman “Para Siempre”
Esteman is an openly gay singer-songwriter from Bogotá, Colombia. He has always explored his identity through his music and it was especially the focus of his last album, 2018’s Amor Libre, which tracked a relationship from its beautiful beginnings to messy ending. Esteman is a pop chameleon and has embraced many genres of music. His most recent single “Para Siempre” packages pop and R&B with a message of love as the bow on top. The music video is stunning: Esteman shares a dance with his real-life boyfriend Jorge Caballero, who stars in Netflix‘s El Club series. Their front-and-center romance is the real star of the show.
Georgel “Noa Noa”
Mexican singer-songwriter Georgel is a rising star in Latin music. For his first single, 2018’s “Meteorito,” he embraced his gay identity by featuring his wedding footage with husband Guillermo Rosas in the music video. The couple recently celebrated Father’s Day with the daughter they are raising together. Georgel is becoming a leading voice in Latin R&B with his recent releases “Que Nos Importa” and “Adrenalina.” Notably, he paid homage to one of Mexico’s queer icons, the late Juan Gabriel, by covering his signature hit “Noa Noa” alongside Esteman. For the remix, they enlisted Raymix to add his electro cumbia touch to the track.
Pabllo Vittar “Timida”
Brazilian singer Pabllo Vittar is the biggest drag pop star in the world. She became the first drag queen to be nominated for a Grammy when her collaboration “Sua Cara” with Major Lazer and Brazilian superstar Anitta was up for a Latin Grammy in 2018. She sings in Portuguese, English, and Spanish and has also collaborated with the likes of British pop star Charli XCX (“Flashpose“) and Mexican pop queen Thalía (“Tímida”). Both of those collaborations are featured on Vittar’s latest album 111. Even with Brazil electing Jair Bolsonaro, perhaps the most homophobic leader in the world, Vittar continues to perform and be a voice for the community in her country while extending her success abroad.
Lido Pimienta “No Pude”
Colombian and Canadian singer-songwriter Lido Pimienta identifies as queer. Her second album, 2016’s La Papessa, put Pimienta on the map when it was selected as the winner of Canada’s Polaris Music Prize in 2017. Follow-up Miss Colombia is continuing that critical success streak, recently landing on Rolling Stone‘s 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far list. On the LP, she embraces and uplifts her Afro-Latina and indigenous Wayuu roots in Colombia. With “Pelo Cucu,” Pimienta grapples with her hair not being straight and seen as undesirable, pointing to a bigger picture of today’s beauty standards letting down Black women. In the striking music video for “No Pude,” she wears her hair naturally and it’s a source of both power and ire.
Arca is a Venezuelan singer-songwriter who identifies as nonbinary and a trans woman. She made her formal debut in 2014 with Xen. Arca’s forward-sounding and experimental productions on that album and her previous mixtapes caught the attention of artists like Kanye West, FKA Twigs, Björk, and Frank Ocean, who invited her to work on their respective albums. She sings in English and Spanish on “@@@@@,” her hour-long pop odyssey. Arca’s highly-anticipated KiCk i was released last Friday with Björk returning the favor. On the album’s latest offering “KLK,” Arca teams up with Spanish superstar Rosalía. The queens of the club usurp the dance floor with the glitchy reggaetón banger.
Javiera Mena “Corazon Astral”
Javiera Mena is a Chilean singer-songwriter who has often explored her lesbian identity in her music. Like Arca, she is known for her futuristic sounds as a queen of Latin synth-pop. In songs like “Sol del Invierno” and “Acá Entera,” Mena has not shied away from using female gender pronouns to describe her love interests. In 2013, she co-wrote and produced “Agüita,” which has been described as one of Mexico’s biggest gay anthems, for Mexican pop star Danna Paola. Mena returned this year with “Flashback,” a throwback bop to ’80s-inspired pop. Recently she followed-up with the sultry “Corazón Astral,” an ode to the woman of her eye.
Solomon Ray “El Otro”
Reggaetón music is a genre filled with machismo that we’re seeing artists like Fret (R.I.P.) and LGBTQ ally Bad Bunny push back on with their more inclusive lyrics and colorful performances. Like Fret, Mexican-American singer-songwriter Solomon Ray is another gay man making his mark in the genre. He sings about being the other man in a same-sex relationship in “El Otro” and later teams up with Mexico’s MANCANDY on “Llama a Tu Novio,” their gay version of Becky G and Natti Natasha’s hit “Sin Pijama.” Both songs are featured on Ray’s upcoming EP La Mala Introducción that’s due out on July 3, just in time for the long weekend.