There is a very good reason the Latin Grammys were established 20 years ago, and as Stefanie Fernández and I looked back at this year in music, we were reminded of it: The width and breadth of expression within Latin music stretches that single designation beyond its seams.
This happens every week as we share our weekly Alt.Latino playlist with you — but when looking back at an entire year of releases, that diversity overwhelms.
So in our list of the best Latin music of 2019, we did our best to reflect a variety of genres and styles.
We celebrate a musical world that includes two all-Latina groups who make radically different music: Flor de Toloache (passionate mariachi) and Fea (unbridled punk).
Salsa icon Rubén Blades picked up an electric guitar this year with the young rockeros Making Movies and made some of the most vibrant music of his five-decade career. And the Guatemalan blues diva Gaby Moreno collaborated with a genuine rock and roll legend for an lushly orchestrated trip through the Latin American songbook.
Two musicians who explore the folkloric sides of their own backgrounds made astounding albums this year that reverberated way beyond their respective Cuban (Daymé Arocena) and Puerto Rican (iLe) roots.
While the biggest names in Latin urban music dominates the larger Latin music landscape, indie artists like Snow Tha Product, KAINA, Tomasa Del Real and Melii show what happens with the same source material free of external commercial constraints.
And there are a handful of musicians who explore sounds that don't all easily into any genre — and all of them at the same time — who released great music this year, including Y La Bamba, Helado Negro and Nicola Cruz.
I could go on, but you get the picture. There is something for everyone in what we call "Latin music" these days, and from where Stefanie and I sit, we should all dip our toes into all of it. It will remind us of just how diverse our communities are, and yet, what we all have in common. —Felix Contreras