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Photo: Bad Bunny | By Lauren Archuleta, Westword / Denverite | When I was four years old, Tex-Mex superstar Selena Quintanilla was tragically shot to death by her business manager. At such a young age, I couldn’t comprehend why my cousins went to school the next day clutching photos of the singer and spent the evenings crying along to the “Dreaming of You” cassette. It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I fully understood the role Selena played for Latinos in the United States. And it wasn’t until two decades later, when Puerto Rican trap star Bad Bunny came onto the scene, that I realized the significance of Latin artists for fellow people of color.

Bad Bunny, born Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, ignores the ideas of national borders entirely to reach fans everywhere. He didn’t stop when he became the most-streamed artist globally on Spotify for two years running, with more than 9.1 billion streams. He appeared alongside J Lo at last year’s Super Bowl, and worked with The Simpsons director David Evans to animate his most recent music video, “Te Deseo Lo Mejor.” Bringing his video into animation didn’t pressure him to change his music; impressively, all of this was done in Spanish.

“It’s awesome to have someone whose first language is Spanish, who sings songs in Spanish, and yet is so popular in U.S. culture,” says Juan Gallegos, founder of FactorX media group and a Mexican immigrant living in Denver. “Every once in a while, there are artists that are Spanish speakers, like Selena or Shakira, but they always have to do crossover albums in English in order to be successful.”
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Selena’s “Dreaming of You” topped the Billboard charts in 1995 with both English and Spanish songs, but Bad Bunny’s “El Último Tour del Mundo” premiered at number one as the first all-Spanish album in history. This is after he released an astounding three albums in 2020.
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Some Latino families are reflecting on generational bridges through Bad Bunny’s music.
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Gallegos describes Bad Bunny’s music and influence perfectly: “Culture drives society. And Bad Bunny is driving.”

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Lauren Archuletta is a contributor for Westword’s arts section, covering Denver’s health and wellness scene. Follow her work for tips on cheap workouts and which yoga classes include mimosas and beer.

Photo: Bad Bunny (from his Facebook page)

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