Last year at the Kennedy Center Honors held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., stars Buddy Guy, Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Natalia Makarova, and Led Zeppelin were honored for being successful artists in their specific genre of entertainment. This year two Latinos will take part in the ceremony after Latino Advocacy groups demanded some Latino representation.
The Kennedy Center Honors is an annual award that recognizes individuals’ lifetime contributions to American culture music, theater, dance, opera, film or television. Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein, said that honorees have “spent their lives elevating the cultural vibrancy of our nation and the world.”
Yesterday, it was announced that joining this year cohort are Latino superstars Mexican Musician Carlos Santana and Puerto Rican Opera singer Martina Arroyo. Prior to the two receipts, the ceremony acknowledged two other Latinos Conductor Plácido Domingo in 2000 and actress, singer, and dancer Chita Rivera in 2002.
In 2012, Latino-American advocacy groups demanded that show runners of the Kennedy Center Honors include some Latino representation into the prestige ceremony. The demand is in response to for the lack of Latino presence in the 35-year-run of the honors.
The controversy over the 10 year absence of Latino honorees resulted in a heated telephone conversation between Michael Kaiser, President of the Kennedy Center, and Felix Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) that lead to a storm of criticism which made the committee change its honor process.
The Kennedy Center expanded its review committee of picking honorees by accepting recommendations from the public and including previous winners like Chita Rivera. Rivera and other board members narrow the list of candidates and then submit the list to the Kennedy Center board members for selection.
Santana, 66, describes the recognition of this award as being better than the “Fourth of July, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s.” The Afro-Cuban intermixed with blues, rock, and jazz guitarist came to the states 50 years ago from Tijuana, Mexico.
Arriving in San Francisco, Santana said the area was pivotal in his career jumpstart because it was “ground zero for the consciousness revolution.” With his band, Santana performed at the 1969 Woodstock concert which became the rising platform of his career leading to 10 Grammys and more than 100 million records sold.
Pursuing a career as an Opera singer was something that Arroyo’s, 76, mother urged her from suggesting she find a more practical skill. However, Arroyo chose to utilize her Soprano vocal cords which led to her becoming a star. Arroyo gained recognition in 1965 when she replaced Birgit Nilsson in a production of Aida. Arroyo has performed and toured around the entire world.
Hopefully the two Latino superstars are just the first of many to come in the prominent ceremony. Joining Santana and Arroyo are honorees Shirley MacLaine, Billy Joel, and Jazz Pianist Herbie Hancock.
The ceremony begins with the handing out of medals at a dinner held at the State Department on December 7th. The next day honorees will be received at a reception at the White House with a tribute performance held at the Kennedy Center. The events will be recorded and broadcast on CBS on December 29th.