In Dark Times, Helado Negro’s “Young, Latin & Proud” Is a Reminder of Latinx Resilience

Photo by Ben Sellon. Courtesy of Helado Negro

The hushed urgency of Helado Negro’s “Young Latin & Proud” didn’t immediately hit me when Ecuadorian-American producer Roberto Carlos Lange first released the song last June. Its chugging kick drums, chiffon whispers, and cosmic energy snuck up on me, and I didn’t quite recognize the power of the song’s quiet intensity. But over the course of the year, “Young, Latin & Proud” became a potent and unlikely anthem of Latinx self-love and resistance. It dropped almost simultaneously with the announcement of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a now notorious speech in which the real estate mogul characterized Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists. As Trump continued to spew vitriolic hate speech and normalize anti-immigrant hostility, “Young, Latin & Proud” emerged as a mantra for me and so many other members of our community weighed down by the persistent trauma of white supremacy.

The power of “Young Latin & Proud” is in its unexpectedness. It’s the anti political anthem; Lange doesn’t deliver a stadium-sized call to action, but a featherless lullaby celebrating Latinx resilience. As he told Pitchfork last summer, “It felt like this thing that a mother or father would tell their son before he went to bed. It’s this tuck-you-to-sleep type of thing where it’s very comforting. That was the goal for me — it’s less about trying to exclude yourself, and more about just being proud of who you are and all the things that come with that.”

Lange’s voice hovers over the crawling atmosphere like a hesitant prayer.

“You woke up
Knowing that you’ll be you
for the rest of your life

Knowing that you’ll
Always be this one thing
and you’ll have
This to be you
and the people
who’ll be here waiting
for you
Always will be one with you
and you’ll be one with me.”

In the wake of Trump’s triumph in the general election, these words resonate more than ever. We – brown and black Latinxs, immigrant Latinxs, queer Latinxs, disabled Latinxs – are here to stay. Our communities are dynamic and diverse, but they’re resilient. The power of our voices has never lied in mainstream electoral politics, but in the resistance and activism spearheaded by our ancestors, like the Young Lords, the Brown Berets, and the UFW. We’ve found strength in the creative community, too – artists like Helado have helped us reinvent the ways we express and celebrate our identities. We can be eccentric daydreamers, cholo goths, and reggaeton brujas. We can exist as all of these things and remain fiercely proud of our Latinidad. I celebrate musicians like Helado, whose work reminds us that art, music, and protest can help us reimagine the way the world sees us and the way we see ourselves. “Young Latin & Proud” is an anthem of resilience, but it’s helping us imagine a way forward, too.