December 22, 2009

There's no doubt, as was pointed out in a recent analysis of Hispanic news stories, that a Puerto Rican was the Hispanic highlight of 2009--Sonia Sotomayor.  But if we can point to one Latin nationality that has been making their presence very well known in American culture, it has to be our Dominican brethren.

Sure we've had a Dominican make a huge splash in the world of fashion (De Le Renta for those of you who are dominicano-challenged) and Dominican power has certainly been felt on American baseball diamonds.  But 2009 has shown us how far Dominicans have established themselves on the American cultural and entertainment scene--music, film, TV.

Let's start with Aventura, the Dominican, Bronx-bred group who is the best-selling Latin music group of 2009.  If just five years someone would have suggested that a Bachata group would be the #1 Latin group in the country, they would have been laughed at.  But that is exactly what Aventura has attained.  And their 2009 Tour has been selling out everywhere, not just in their Big Apple domain.

Last week, Aventura sold out two shows in the Mexican city of Los Angeles, at the world-famous Staples Arena.  Previously they sold out their tour stop in Houston, and last Saturday they sold out American Airlines Arena in Miami.  And who can forget Aventura becoming the first Dominican music group to ever perform at the White House, at Obama's celebration of Latin music in October.

Or what about Martha Heredia, the 18-year old Dominicana who single-handedly created a national holiday on December 10, when she one this year's Latin American Idol competition.  I arrived in Santo Domingo on December 11, and my friends there were still recuperating from the celebrations.

Then there's American urban, hip-hop culture paying homage to their Dominican brothers.  Jay-Z, in his current hit with Alicia Keys ("Empire State of Mind"), gives a shout-out to his "dominicanos."

And who can forget last Saturday's hilarious spoof of Dominican television on Saturday Night Live: "The Manuel Ortiz Show."  The skit had all the over-top color of Escandalo, with a female character that reminded me of Charytin.

Then there's Hollywood.  This year, it was a Dominicana who certainly made a splash on the big screen, Zoe Saldana.  Whether it was this summer's hit "Star Trek," or this month's "Avatar," Saldana has put platano power front-and-center in 2009.  She recently graced the cover of Miami's "Ocean Drive" magazine.

But it seems that Dominicanos are planning to continue their parade in 2010.  Aventura has already sold out three shows at Madison Square Garden in January and February, and have added a fourth.  Who would have ever thought that half an island in the Caribbean, or the upper part of another island called Manhattan, would have had so much influence on American culture.

Ya tu sabes....have yourself a feliz Navidad!


Adrian, your point is well taken and yes, I am aware of the lyrics; and if you listen to all of the lyrics, Jay-Z includes himself and his boys in the roughness that is "the hood." My only point in referencing the song is the recognition by a bonafide urban trend setter and influencer like Jay-Z, of the Dominican presence in NY's urban world. Most Dominicans I've heard from take it for just that, the recognition, for better or for worse. Within a broader context, it speaks volumes about the breadth of the Dominican presence--it isn't the ONLY thing. Much like the Saturday Night Live segment I mentioned: a few thought it was mocking Dominican TV but most welcomed the recognition of the Dominican presence. Influence comes in all shapes and forms, and it is always complex and robust I for one believe that we're just seeing the beginning of a Dominican imprint on American culture. That's something to celebrate.

Estimado Manuel, I have now read two different blogs in which Latinos have referenced how cool it was or proud they were of Jay-Z's shout out to his Dominicanos. To be honest its quite upsetting that all you get out of those lyrics is the simple mention of a Domincano. Maybe you're not from NYC or have really listened to the words in the song, but just to clarify the songs says "I used to cop in Harlem all of my Dominicanos right there up on Broadway." Now anyone that has traveled the "Heights", resides in the vicinity, or has a grasp of urban vocabulary knows very well that his reference to "used to cop..." (translation to procure) ties back into the drug scene and the dealers which in this case happen to be predominantly of Domincan descent. I seriously doubt that the Jigga man was talking about scoring some mangú con huevos y un salami bien hecho. Ahora soy puertorriqueño y no me siento orgulloso de esta mención de mis hermanos ni por nada. But on a positive note yes Dominicans like Zoe, Aventura, Manny, Pedro all others in MLB are true testament to the Latino force...and we show no signs of slowing down! Siempre pa'lante!

Is good to know when dominicanos are doing good representing our pedazo de tierra. Te llena de orgullo, cause living in the DR you feel good: Geez, they're rockin' the house, they're really representing. But, when you live out of the media isla, the pride is more, because here in the states, for you to be someone you have to struggle, you have to be really good to get some recognition.

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