Respect Diversity + Inclusion

Here are all the cultural references you missed during Shakira and J-Lo’s Super Bowl halftime show

Shakira (left) and Jennifer Lopez (right) on stage during the Super Bowl LIV halftime show

Story at a glance

  • The halftime show for Super Bowl LIV marked the first time two Latinas headlined the performance.
  • Both Shakira and Jennifer Lopez paid homage to their hometowns and heritage during the show.
  • Viewers interpreted some elements of the show as veiled political statements.

As Shakira descended into the stadium for the Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show, her first words to the crowd were a clue that this performance would not be like any before it: “Hola Miami!”

In a majority Latin city in a state where 1 in 5 residents is an immigrant, two Latina women headlined one of the most watched events of the year. The performance was recognized almost immediately as a strong political statement as both women embraced their heritages in their entirety. 

Shakira, who is both Latin and Lebanese, incorporated the Champeta — a dance from her hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia — belly-dancing and Arab instruments (the mijwiz and derbeke) into her performance. Oh, and of course, what many on the internet are calling “the tongue thing.”

But many online were quick to point out that the ululation is a common expression in many other cultures. Many who recognized Shakira’s Lebanese heritage identified it as a zaghrouta, a sound often made by women in the Middle East and North Africa to express joy or other strong emotion. Of course, many cultures use ululation in this way, and others connected it to the Carnaval de Barranquilla as well. 

The Spanish-heavy performance, produced by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, featured guest appearances by Latin artists J Balvin, Bad Bunny and mariachi band Los Tigres Del Norte. 

“Latinos, let’s get loud,” Jennifer Lopez — also known as J-Lo — called to the crowd, in addition to shouting out the Bronx, where she was raised. 

The 50-year-old actress, who is of Puerto Rican descent, also held up a Puerto Rican flag on stage — although not everyone was able to recognize the flag when it appeared on screen. 

It wasn’t the first time the Puerto Rican actress and singer has advocated for the U.S. territory, which was recently struck by an earthquake. But while some statements were more blatant, others took on more meaning in the context of the current state of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. A choir of children, led by Lopez’s 11-year-old daughter Emme, sang “Let’s Get Loud,” which incorporates elements of “Born in the USA” while sitting in spherical cages — which many immediately connected to the cages migrant children are being held in at the border.  

In an Instagram post after the show, Lopez said in Spanish, “Puerto Rico and Colombia are sky high today.”

Shakira, who turned 43 on the day of the Super Bowl, thanked her fans and team in a post, saying, “We Latinos climbed Kilimanjaro and made history tonight and we couldn’t have done it without all of you!”