In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the 31st Annual Hispanic Heritage Awards aired on PBS Friday, September 28th. Among the honorees and presenters at D.C.’s Kennedy Center were entertainers who have made great strides for Latinx people in music.
Mexican-American pop duo Jesse & Joy were presented with this year’s Vision Award. The Huerta siblings’ 2017 album, Un Besito Más, won the Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album. The video for the title track follows the plight of a mother and father, braced for deportation, who ultimately decide to leave their U.S.-born daughter behind.
“I was blessed to be raised in a bi-cultural home,” said Jesse Huerta during their acceptance speech. “It showed me, from a young age, the beauty and power that lies in diversity, and working with my sister every day I experience the power that lies in unity: ‘Together we are stronger – juntos, somos más fuertes.’ All it takes is a little more time to understand and learn from one another: diversity is what makes America truly great.”
One of few women recording primarily in the reggaeton and Latin trap genres, Colombian singer Karol G was honored with the Inspira Award. “I’m super nervous, I’m super excited — I’m from Colombia,” she said in Spanish, with a laugh.
Featuring collaborations with Bad Bunny, Ozuna and Quavo, her 2017 debut Unstoppable debuted at Number 2 on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart. The award was presented by Shakira Barerra, who most recently played the role of Yolanda in Netflix television series GLOW. “This Colombian reggaetonera understood early in her career that she would have to work twice as hard to succeed in a genre dominated by men,” said Barrera. “With her debut album appropriately titled Unstoppable, Karol G introduced herself as a new kind of reggaeton artist, one that would combine trap, urban and pop music with a feminine twist. Her lyrics are driven by her experiences as a woman, telling stories about love, heartbreak, happiness, but most importantly — empowerment. And while she writes with a female audience in mind, Karol G hopes that we will all be inspired by our shared experiences.”
Richard “Crazy Legs” Colón – a Bronx-born pioneer of breakdance and president of B-boy dance group Rock Steady Crew – was presented with this year’s Culture Award by rappers Fat Joe and Grandmaster Caz. “The story of Crazy Legs is undeniably about humanity,” said Fat Joe. “It’s the story of a Puerto Rican brother from The Bronx who not only lifted himself from the streets, but also ensured that others would be lifted up with him.”
Before accepting his award, Colón took the chance to whip out a Puerto Rican flag and wave it onstage. “I’d like to thank the Hispanic Heritage Foundation for this honor and recognizing the significant contributions of Latinos in hip-hop culture,” said Colón.
“I’m in the process of helping the Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico to have solar power in their clubhouses,” he added. “With solar power they will be better able to serve their community during a crisis, like Hurricane Maria… Please help me out. It’s gonna take a lot of your money!”
José Feliciano, Puerto Rican singer-songwriter and 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, returned to perform this year. He made headlines after the 1968 World Series, where he and his band performed the National Anthem with a controversial Caribbean flourish. “Despite criticism for his Latin performance,” said presenter Lele Pons, “a recording of the single topped the Billboard Hot 100.” He reprised the National Anthem live on Friday night, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his landmark performance.
Other honorees included actress MJ Rodriguez, winner of the Trailblazer Award and member of television’s largest transgender cast in the 2018 FX drama Pose; activist Sister Norma Pimentel, who earned a Community Service Award for her work in reuniting immigrant families separated along the U.S.-Mexico border; Culinary Arts Award winner Ingrid Hoffman and Entrepreneurship Award winner Daniel Lubetzky.
The 2018 Hispanic Heritage Awards show is now available for stream on PBS.com.