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Las Mostras: Fierce Women Of Latin Music

La Lupe.
Courtesy of the artist
La Lupe.

According to the Real Academia Espanola, the official royal institution that oversees the Spanish language, there is no feminine version of the word monster (monstruo). In the Spanish language, monsters are masculine.

I could spend several pages unpacking the psychology of that, but I'm more interested in the fact that monstrua (female monster) is actually a popularly used word in much of Latin America — most commonly pronounced mostra. In much of the Caribbean, a mostra is a powerful woman, often sexually dominant, sometimes a man-eater. Singer, artist and cult writer Rita Indiana is famously nicknamed "La Mostra," a description of her talents. "She travels in first class with the trafficker's body guards, la mostra," Dominican duo Jowell y Randy raps in "La Super Chapiadora," a song about a heartless woman who gets ahead using sex. In Argentina, the word mostra originates in the countryside, and began, like so much slang, in the LGBT community. "A mostra is a woman who is a beast, just fierce." my best friend Gabriel says when I call him up to ask him for a definition.

This week on Alt.Latino, we're picking out Las Mostras, the lady-monsters of Latin music. And we're graced with two guests whom I personally consider monstrously talented: Nadia Reiman (from NPR's Latino USA) and Vero Bayetti Flores, who co-hosts an amazing music podcast called Radio Menea.

As always, we encourage listeners to write to us and let us know who should be on our list. There are just too many mostras to fit into one episode. The word might not be recognized as real, after all, but mostras are everywhere.

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Jasmine Garsd
Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.