When you are asked the question “what is one song that has changed your life?”, it is difficult to choose just one. I can easily name fifty tunes that have lifted my spirits or narrated important moments in my life. Whether it was the time that Ms. Gomez, my 9th grade Spanish teacher, sat down and translated “Te extrano” by Xtreme or the summer I discovered pride in my heritage through the rhythms of the Los Rakas tune “Africana”, it is music that takes me back to moments, mindsets, people and places.
“Suavemente” by Elvis Crespo was no different; it welcomed me into the world of Latin music with a warm abrazo. Watching the music video of a young passionate singer shake it Ricky Martin style, reminds me of the 90’s when most music videos looked like an episode of Reading Rainbow. I found “Suavemente” after the 90’s had passed. I was a middle school student in a college prep program.
One of my teachers had organized a Latin dance performance for the end of the summer awards ceremony so I asked her if I could dance with him.
For sake of this post, I’ll call him Miguel.
Miguel stood at an astounding 5’9, talked with a deep post-puberty voice and made all A’s in his classes. He also believed in God and read the bible to me over the phone once. Most importantly, Miguel was always cheering me on by telling me how awesome he thought I was. This young man was special because he had something that many of my crushes and boyfriends have not had–the ability to stay on my mind for years.
But back to the story.
My teacher agreed to make Miguel my dance partner for the program but fear got the best of me. I backed out. What can I say? I was a teenage girl and the thought of dancing with the guy of my dreams made me nervous.
I regret not dancing with him.
While we didn’t dance the night away, Miguel and I did work together on the program. We did the welcome. I did the Spanish version and he did the English version. At the time, my Spanish was at beginners level so Miguel translated my English welcome into his native tongue. Our practice meeting was about thirty minutes but it felt like five. Miguel complimented my pronunciation while “Suavemente” played in the background.
It was then, he took my hand and we danced.
Okay. Okay. I was kidding.
Miguel and I didn’t dance at our meeting but we might as well have. After we were done, I was beaming the entire day.
On the day of the program, Miguel and I captivated the audience with our welcome. It was an important moment in my life when I, without fear, pursued my passion. Later in the program, Miguel shook his tail-feather to Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente”. Yes, he danced with another girl but I didn’t care. We shared a moment together. I sang the words to the song like I understood every word. It was that night that I realized that Spanish would be more than a hobby.
When asked which song has made a profound impact on your life, it’s a difficult choice to make . Elvis Crespo’s hit is one track on the mix CD of my memories. “Suavemente”takes me back to my middle school crush, my public Spanish debut and the moment that I knew Spanish would remain a staple in my life forever.
Jelisa Jay Robinson is a 20-something writer and playwright. Jelisa explores Afro-Latinidad, female empowerment and the arts on her blog Black Girl, Latin World. She is currently a writer for Her Campus and the Black Youth Project.