Opinion: Ricky Martin’s long career is a lesson in survival
Martin and Menudo’s breakthroughs have a lot to do with the invisibility and misunderstanding of Latin cultures in the United States and Latin America. They were presented as fresh, innocent young faces to counter gangster stereotypes of poor urban Latinos living on the margins of society. While Menudo’s staggering material success paved the way for the boy group model used by *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Men and today’s reigning K-Pop titans BTS, it was partly made possible by an entertainment medium that largely ignored the international projection of classic salsa and pop of the 1970s and 1980s.
Martin’s career has served to transcend this scandal much more effectively than Menudo de Díaz’s new version. He went from Broadway to being among the Latin pols who denounced Díaz, although the HBOMax special only mentions that he spoke about the harsh working conditions and not the sexual abuse.
Yet, as “Menudo: Forever Young” reminds us, healing is a process shared by individual victims and society as a whole. Machismo still runs rampant in Latinx communities, and its foundations of domination and exploitation must be banished to see this process through. Menudo’s prescient boy band formula not only created a new musical genre, but also helped put Puerto Ricans and young Latin Americans on the entertainment media map. Despite the dark melodrama created by his manager, a montage at the end of the series depicts successful former members of Menudo, proving for the moment that it is not only possible to survive sexual abuse, but that the process can be positive and rewarding.