It’s currently one of the best times of the year: Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month!
Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month is an annual celebration — from September 15 to October 15 — in which we honor the contributions and achievements that people in the Hispanic and Latino community have made in the United States and around the world.
As someone who is a part of this community, we wouldn’t be us without our love for music. As we wind down into the final week of Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month, here are the Top 10 songs, in no particular order, you must (and I mean must!) have in your playlist.
1. “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” by Celia Cruz
Starting off with a classic, “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” was released in 1998 and is performed by salsera Celia Cruz. The song would come to be one of Cruz's many songs that have appeared in Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. Apart from being a smash hit, the song’s addictive rhythm, fast-paced flow and optimistic lyrics about viewing life as a carnival and singing your sorrows away are what make it a crowd favorite. Cruz was known as the “Queen of Salsa” during her lifetime, and she continues to hold that title as more people come to appreciate her music.
2. “Suavemente” by Elvis Crespo
“Suavemente, bésame,” translated as “Kiss me softly,” are the opening lyrics of this energetic merengue. Performed by Puerto Rican American Elvis Crespo, “Suavemente” is a common song that comes to people’s minds when referring to Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month. The 1999 song focuses on Crespo’s desire to receive a kiss from a woman, and there’s no doubt that the playful rhythm is what gets people on the dance floor.
3. “Obsesión” by Aventura
Of course, we cannot have a Latino playlist without including this iconic — and, yes, sort of toxic — bachata. Performed by the renowned Dominican American group Aventura, “Obsesión” starts slow, as lead vocalist Romeo Santos calls the girl he is currently obsessed with. As it progresses, it becomes a more fast-paced bachata, making your hips move even if you don’t know how to dance! Aventura is known to be one of the most recognizable groups in bachata history, representing their Dominican roots all around the world and successfully expanding bachata music.
4. “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” by Selena Quintanilla
While I could have made this whole playlist with just Selena songs, “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” released in 1994, is one worth mentioning. The Mexican American Tex-Mex singer was at the peak of her career when this song was released, and while her life was tragically cut short a year later, her legacy continues to be remembered by new generations of Hispanics and Latinos. Selena proved Spanish music could succeed in American mainstream culture, and, as someone who entered an industry dominated by males, songs like “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” showcase the talent and capability she had to break those boundaries.
5. “El Apagón” by Bad Bunny
A more recent song, 2022’s “El Apagón” stands out in Bad Bunny’s iconic album Un Verano Sin Ti, as it is not something the Puerto Rican rapper is used to singing about. While the title could be taken literally, focusing on the constant blackouts in Puerto Rico, the song dives deeper into the social, economic and political struggles experienced by Puerto Rican residents. This was applauded in the Latino community, as Bad Bunny, someone with an ever-growing fanbase, decided to use his music to speak about issues that matter in our community and deserve to be highlighted. Besides that, the song’s use of repetition, percussion and “sazón, batería y reggaetón” make it worth playing on repeat.
6. “Corazón Sin Cara” by Prince Royce
Another one of our recognized bachata singers is definitely Prince Royce. The Dominican American singer rose to fame in 2010 when he released “Corazón Sin Cara,” a song that encourages us to have unconditional love for ourselves, while accepting our imperfections. For him, “the heart does not have a face.” With heartwarming lyrics, a soft melody and his signature “Royce” phrase, this is a song many Latinos have loved since release.
7. “Cali Pachanguero” by Grupo Niche
For all the Colombians out there, including Grupo Niche’s 1984 hit “Cali Pachanguero” is mandatory. This is known to be one of the Colombia-based salsa group’s most successful songs, among others. Not only is the song a love letter to Cali, a city in Colombia, but it is also an iconic representation of Colombian salsa and Latin American salsa in general. With its use of brass instruments, catchy lyrics and its uncanny power to make you come up with an improvised choreography, this is a song you do not want to skip when it comes to salsa.
8. “Ven Bailalo” by Angel & Khriz
This song would fall under a category we like to call “Old School Reggaetón,” which brings us nostalgia and good memories of when reggaetón was slowly starting to make a name for itself. “Ven Bailalo,” released in 2005, is one of the Puerto Rican duo’s best songs, if not the best. The title itself invites us to dance and to be swept away by the reggaetón and Latin pop beats used throughout the song. Combining that with exhilarating guitar chords and contagious Spanish rapping, this is definitely a must-have at Hispanic and Latino parties.
9. “La Dueña del Swing” by Los Hermanos Rosario
Speaking of must-haves, this iconic 1995 merengue can’t be forgotten. Performed by Dominican band Los Hermanos Rosario, “La Dueña del Swing” is a mainstay at parties. Describing a man’s admiration in the way a woman moves her hips and gloriously dances to a merengue, combined with a touch of swing, it makes the listeners of the song follow along and surround the dance floor. It is known to be one of the most successful merengues ever made in history, exploring tropical rhythms and fast-tempo beats that make anyone’s feet hurt (in a good way!).
10. “La Gozadera” by Marc Anthony and Gente de Zona
Finally, to finish off strong, “La Gozadera,” performed by Puerto Rican American Marc Anthony and Cuban duo Gente de Zona, is a literal and artistic representation of the entire Latin American region. This flavorful 2015 salsa could not find a better way to express the joy of being a Latino than by mentioning every single country in its lyrics. The song’s music video showcases all of the colorful flags that represent our beloved countries, with groups of people dancing on the street and singing about this “gozadera” that we all come together to share. There is no better way to celebrate this historical month than by having this song playing in the background.
Thumbnail courtesy of Jonamay Labert and Associates