Super Bowl LIV gave us a lot to talk about. After what felt like an eternity that the New England Patriots were finally not part of the two teams competing, the entertainment went well beyond the football game, and the Super Bowl felt the power of the Latinx community during the halftime.
Aside from the world getting to witness the first fully Latinx-ridden halftime show thanks to the performances by Shakira, J. Lo, J Balvin, and Bad Bunny, the world was exposed to various impactful moments. We were exposed to the harsh reality of children in cages, the ever-young appearances of these powerful Latinas, and a gesture that blew up all throughout social media. Yes, the one where Shakira faces the camera and rolls her tongue in a rapid, continuous motion. But this could have been done with the purpose to showcase a Colombian dance called, Danza Son de Negros. This might be pure speculation since she’s yet to explain the reasoning behind her now-infamous tongue roll, but it doesn’t hurt to overanalyze some things from time to time. Right?
I’m not going to lie. I found some of the memes amusing. I even got in on the fun and there’s no shame in that. However, after looking into it a bit, I realized that this might’ve been another way she was paying homage to her roots — in this case, her Colombian roots.
Shakira is from a vibrant city off the coast of Colombia named Barranquilla. But see, the coast of Colombia walks to its own beat making it seem magical.
It is known that their energy is almost unmatched by anyone when they are in the middle of a celebration. It is the norm for Colombian dancers to come out to the streets with extravagant outfits splashed with color. These outfits come to life once the dancing commences to the music blasting from everywhere, which typically entices everyone in the crowd to follow suit. The cities of the coast of Colombia portray the Danza Son de Negros in many of their celebrations.
The Danza Son de Negros is a traditional dance that derived in the 18th century when Africans had been brought to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia by the Spanish colonizers. Since the Colombians and the Africans were brought into slavery, they had no other choice but to mingle with each other. And thank goodness for that! Look at the wonders that did for the Colombian culture. Anyway, they introduced Colombians to the dances that were introduced to them by the people of the Congo. However, they made it their own in Colombia by incorporating colorful clothing and rolling their tongues continuously while they danced as a way to rebel against their colonizers. According to historians, this is a gesture that would be played out during battles for their freedom and independence as well.
This Afro-Caribbean dance is a staple in various celebrations that occur in municipalities Suan, Santa Lucía, and Manatí, that are within the Colombian department, Atlantico. Cartagena de Indias and Barranquilla, who are cities in Atlántico as well, feature Danza Son de Negros in many of their festivities. The celebrations that showcase the cultural manifestation of Danza Son de Negros include carnivals, the event of the Nativity of Baby Jesus, and the Day of the Candelaria, among many others. Yes, Colombia is a very religious country (like most Latin American countries). But due to this, parties are endless due to the many events they set aside for these special dates.
What’s interesting is that the Day of the Candelaria is usually celebrated the second of each February, which happened to be yesterday — the same day of the Super Bowl. Coincidence? Who knows, but it’s still interesting to say the least.
Nowadays, you can find the male participants of this dance covering themselves in dark paint or mesh, wearing a straw hat, and sporting fisherman-style pants. All while they’re rolling their tongues throughout celebratory parades. They do this as an act of solidarity for the Afro-Latinx slaves of the past. As for the women, you can find them wearing long and colorful skirts and dancing, twirling their skirts to the fast music in the background. They too paint their bodies to represent their Afro-Latinx ancestors. In most cases, they wave a red flag that is meant to represent freedom as well.
All in all, this may or may not have been the reason that Shakira did this gesture during her performance in the Super Bowl. I’ve even read that some people saying that it’s also an homage to her Arabic roots. Or maybe she’s trying to represent both of her roots with this gesture. The truth is that no one knows for sure. Maybe she’ll speak out on it in the future. As for now, there’s no harm in enjoying the different theories.