According to Latin Recording Academy President and CEO Gabriel Abaroa, it wasn’t the ongoing discourse surrounding Spanish artists that sparked the Academy’s decision. “The Latin Recording Academy follows a strict Awards process,” he told Billboard on Thursday. “One of the rules that applies is that at least 25 approved recordings must be submitted each year.” According to the report, Universal Music Spain had submitted 10 qualifying new recordings; it was not confirmed how many other records were submitted.
“Because of this non-compliance, the flamenco category did not participate in the 20th Annual Latin Grammy Awards process,” Abaroa said. “After two years of non-compliance, the category is suspended, and after three years, it is cancelled. We hope to find solutions before that happens… The beauty, subtleness and power of flamenco music deserves our recognition.”
This news offsets an otherwise successful year for acts from Spain. Alejandro Sanz and Rosalía, each renowned for their intrepid flamenco-pop fusions, claimed the most Latin Grammy nominations this year. Sanz is nominated in eight different categories, while Rosalía has five. The two will compete against each other for the title of Record of the Year.
The Latin Grammys’ inclusion of Spanish artists has long been up for debate. Scholars, writers and fans alike have criticized the entertainment industry’s enthusiasm for European talent, in turn marginalizing many capable actors and musicians from Latin America. Sanz is a longtime favorite of the Latin Recording Academy: the Madrid-born artist won 17 Latin Grammy awards, and was even named Person of the Year in 2017.
The debate was reignited in September, after the VMA for Best Latin [Video] was granted to Rosalía for her first-ever reggaeton song, “Con Altura,” featuring Colombian artist J Balvin and Spanish producer El Guincho. Together they beat out reggaeton veteran Daddy Yankee, as well as Latinx superstars Bad Bunny, Maluma, Anuel AA and Karol G. In a recent essay published in Mother Jones, “Rosalía and the Blurry Borders of What it Means to Be a Latin Artist,” UC-Berkeley professor Cristina Mora says: “Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Julio Iglesias — all of these are examples of turning to Spain to speak for Latinidad in a way that obscures the real historical impact of colonization, genocide, indigeneity, and Afro-Latino ancestry.”
It remains unseen whether the Academy will further examine its qualifications, much less its definition of Latin music. In the meantime, traditional flamenco acts will need another avenue to measure their success.