Why are there no Latino music acts at ACL Fest 2017?

We at Team 360 are in the thick of Austin City Limits Festival prep work. In the process of delving deep into the schedule and planning our preview coverage, one of our colleagues at our Spanish language sister publication, Ahora Sí, Liliana Valenzuela, brought up a startling detail we somehow missed.

Juanes performs at the 2014 Austin City Limits music festival on Sat., Oct. 4, 2014 at Zilker Park in Austin, TX. ASHLEY LANDIS/FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Juanes performs at the 2014 Austin City Limits music festival on Sat., Oct. 4, 2014 at Zilker Park in Austin, TX. ASHLEY LANDIS/FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“Is it my imagination, or are there zero Latino acts this year at ACL?” she asked.

We dug deeper into the schedule and (correct us if we’re wrong) it does not appear to be her imagination. There are no Latino music acts at ACL Fest this year.

Latin music has never had a huge presence at the festival, but over the past few years there have generally been a few Latino offerings. If we generously stretch the definition of Latino music to include any act with a Latino or Latina fronting it, the breakdown for the last two years looks like this:

2016
Melanie Martinez
Bomba Estereo
Gina Chavez​

2015
Jose Gonzalez
Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas
Gabriel Garzón-Montano
Kali Uchis
El Tule

To find a relatively good year for Latino music at ACL Fest, you have to go back to 2014, when 360 staff writer, and Latin music expert, Nancy Flores said she was “pleasantly surprised to see more Latin music and acts from Latin America on the schedule than in recent years.”  That year’s offerings included Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux, L.A.’s salsa-cumbia-hip-hop mashup act Ozomatli, international superstar Juanes and Mexican rock bands Zoé and Rey Pila.

Around that time, ACL Fest producer C3 Presents, was expanding its reach into Latin America through its other festival brand, Lollapalooza. In 2014, the company launched Lollapalooza Argentina in Buenos Aires, building on the success of Lollapalooza Chile which launched in 2011, followed by Lollapalooza Brasil in 2012.  It seemed like we in Austin would benefit, as fest producers brought some of the fantastic acts they encountered in South America back to ACL Fest.

“There’s still only a handful of artists, and much more room to grow,” Flores said at the time.

The programming of ACL Fest has evolved dramatically over the last several years, moving away from its rock-and-folk roots to regularly feature high power hip-hop headliners. Jay-Z and Chance the Rapper are the standout stars on this year’s bill with Ice Cube, Danny Brown and A$AP Ferg further down ticket. They’ve also been folding in an excellent selection of R&B and soul acts. This year’s lineup includes Solange, D.R.A.M. and Thundercat alongside a variety of emerging talents.

Overall diversity at the festival has clearly improved, so is it fair to complain about a lack of Latino acts? Well, when you consider the fact that the festival literally calls itself Austin City Limits and within the actual Austin city limits, the Hispanic population is 38%, yes. Yes it is. We think they can do better.

“It’s outrageous,” our colleague, Valenzuela said.

At the very least, adding a few Latino artists to the bill could shield the fest from (admittedly excellent) jokes like this.

We have reached out to C3 Presents for comment and will update if we receive a response.

UPDATE: This post has been updated to add El Tule to the 2015 roster.

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