13 Crossover Songs That Prove the Latin Explosion Started a Long Time Ago

is so wonderful, because it identifies and celebrates individual cultures, while also uniting the world in a universal way

Photo: Unsplash/@sulivan

Photo: Unsplash/@sulivan

is so wonderful, because it identifies and celebrates individual cultures, while also uniting the world in a universal way. You may not understand another language, yet still feel drawn to music from another country. A way that we Latinxs have been able to share our identity with the rest of the world is through our music. There have been a collection of songs that have been crossover jams and celebrated throughout the world. Here are 13 of them — check them out!


“El manicero”


“El manicero,” a.k.a. “The Peanut Vendor,” is a 1928 song composed by Moises Sanchez. It was the first million-selling Cuban 78 record, introduced the world to Cuban music, and helped to start the rumba craze.


“Babalú” by Desi Arnaz


You may have heard Desi Arnaz singing “Babalú,” his signature song, on the television show, I Love Lucy. The 1939 Afro-Cuban song was written by Margarita Lecuona, and is about Yoruba Orisha Babalú Ayé.


“Qué rico el mambo” by Pérez Prado

Released in 1950, “Qué rico el mambo,” is the big crossover hit from The King of Mambo, (Dámaso) Pérez Prado  It brought mambo to a wider audience, as did Mambo No. 5, another huge crossover song composed by the Cuban.


“La Bamba” by Richie Valens and Los Lobos

“La Bamba” was a song so nice, it became a crossover hit twice. Richie Valens mixed the Mexican folk song with rock and roll in 1958, as did Los Lobos almost 30 years later, in 1987.


“El Watusi” by  Ray Barretto


“El Watusi” became a crossover hit for Nuyorican Ray Barretto, in 1962. It was a million-seller, which spawned other Watusi (once the name of the African Tutsi) songs, as well as the dance.


“Besame Mucho” sang by various artists


The classic, “Besame Mucho” was written by a 16-year-old Consuelo Velasquez. The megahit has been covered numerous times, by artists such as The Beatles, Andrea Bocelli, Pedro Vargas, Connie Francis, Placido Domingo, Luis Miguel, and Dean Martin.


“Mas Que Nada” by Sergio Mendes

“Mas Que Nada,” released in 1966, became a crossover success for Sergio Mendes. This version was actually a cover of Jorge Ben’s 1963 song.


“Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano


It wouldn’t be Christmas without Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad.” People who don’t even speak Spanish know how to say “Merry Christmas” in the language solely because of this classic holiday song.


“Oye Como Va” by Santana


Santana’s “Oye Como Va” was another crossover hit that was recorded previously. The 1970 jam threw the Latin rock sound on top of Tito Puente’s 1962 Latin jazz song.


“Conga” by Miami Sound Machine

When “Conga” came out, in 1985, it was so different and fresh, that it took the world by storm. It put both Latin pop and Gloria Estefan, on the map.


“Rico Suave” by Gerardo

Whether you loved the song, and/or thought it was a BS glorification of machismo, “Rico Suave” was a hit. The 1991 jam, which featured lyrics in both English and Spanish, made Ecuadorian Gerardo a star, if only for one recording.


“Gasolina” by Daddy Yankee

Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina” introduced the rest of the world to reggaeton. The song was released in 2004 and it still makes everyone move 15 years later.


“Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee


“Despacito” was a monster hit, to say the least. It reminded the world that music in Spanish can reach to the top, make everyone dance, and sweep awards shows — even if you don’t know the lyrics.

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