I was on Youtube listening to my favorite guilty pleasure, Lana Del Rey, when I saw under the suggested videos Shakira’s latest track “La La La (Brazil 2014)”, which is featured on the official FIFA World Cup 2014 Album. It came out a few weeks ago and I hadn’t noticed. I eagerly clicked, excited, knowing it would be a hypnotizing track. Like expected, it delivered, times 10.
Shakira’s World Cup songs and videos are always very inclusive, culturally vibrant, and heavily Afro-Centric, with a focus on the people of color of the villages, tribes, ghettos, slums, barrios, shanty towns, and favelas of the world. I always love these videos and promos because of that, and the songs themselves because they have a specific African and Latin@ fusion reminiscent of Dominican music, known specifically for having that distinct mix and that indomitable driving West African beat, which no Afro-Diasporc girl can refuse. It is a rousing, refreshing, hip song that I am sure, just like all of Shakira’s others, will become a hot anthem for this Summer.
Now, that’s how I feel about it on a purely sonic, superficially, and giving level. Otherwise, I can’t really jive to any of it.
You see, Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup hasn’t come without lots of vociferous outcry from many poor and Indigenous Brazilians being displaced by the construction and accomodations being made for the 2014 World Cup, rightfully angry at the Manifest Destiny-aspects of the invasion, and from the general Brazilian community at large for what is seen as the pretty messed up set of priorities of a government of a country with some of the world’s poorest yet pouring billions into this game while ignoring the needs and desires of the people.
While Shakira herself is a tried and true Colombian philantropist of Lebanese descent, proud of her Arabic and Latin roots and openly representing where she comes from, she is still visibly white-passing and a high profile international pop artist with 20 years of work and fame under her belt –couldn’t more visibility been given to lesser-known, more socially conscious artists of color from the communities she is repping, at least in larger collaborations other than a few spoken parts tacked on? Better yet, couldn’t she have stood in solidarity against the obvious abuses against Brazil’s most marginalized and poorest? I was hoping she would.
Shakira has been one of my favorite artists since I saw her perform at the Latina Grammies when I was 10, a life-changing and mesmerizing experience for little Brianacita. You always want your faves to come out doin’ the right thing, guns blazing. While the track is said to be a collaboration with Activia to “support the World Food Programme and its School Meals Initiative,” I can’t help but feel that is yet another huge charitable organization in the Non-Profit Industrial Complex monster that, despite good intentions and even with some successful programs or efforts, focuses on putting band-aids on social ills instead of criticizing the reasons children are poor and starving, like getting violently displaced for a huge corporation-backed, Hollywood-esque money-making Soccer game, and yet makes a profit off of social justice while achieving little. While the song touts diversity and the beauty of indigenous and Black folks, the World Cup itself steps all over them, so the message is false and empty.
Like I told my friend Jessenia, a felllow Latina also voicing distaste towards FIFA, these games and others like them were meant to be about sportsmanship and camaraderie and unity, but instead they are corrupt, vile, capitalist, nationalistic and macho, hurting way more than they are helping. Soccer is popular worldwide, especially in Brazil, because of how accessible it is even to the poorest and most destitute. When you have nothing else, you can at least play soccer in the streets, at least cheer your favorite teams with your family and friends. This legacy is being corrupted and passed off for profit. We have to question that and stand in solidarity against these human rights violation and reject any rose-tinted washing of the World Cup like it is some big coming together of peoples across cultures when it is tearing apart the lives of many and hurting communities across Brazil.
Written by Briana Ureña-Ravelo