Latino Grammys Under Fire

First-ever awards showcasing Latino musicians and musical genres continues to be mired in controversy

Published on LatinoLA: October 2, 2000

Latino Grammys Under Fire

From: Los Angeles Times, Morning Report, Friday, September 29
Latin Grammys Refused: Two of the most popular groups in Mexican music announced that they will not accept the Latin Grammy they won at the award's inaugural ceremonies. Decrying what they say is offensive treatment of the Mexican music community by the awards' sponsor, the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Los Tigres del Norte and Los Temerarios were joined by tejano group Los Palominos in refusing their statuettes. The volley is the latest in an ongoing conflict between the Latin academy and Van Nuys-based Fonovisa Records, which alleges that the academy ignores Mexican regional stars in favor of artists associated with Sony Music and Miami-based producer (and Sony executive) Emilio Estafan.
Ernesto Guerrero at ernestoguerrero@yahoo.com writes:
The first annual Latin Grammys were a beautiful showcase of what the Latino community has to offer and they were a huge step forward for our community. It was however, fundamentally lacking in a few areas and downright insulting in one other. I thought that overall the awards were entertaining and fun. However, as I mentioned, I do believe that a few criticisms are in order.
First of all I believe that the show should have been three hours instead of two. Before every commercial break various awards that were given in "ceremonies held earlier" were announced. These were not just technical awards. They were awards given to artists like Luis Miguel. I think that this is evidence enough that the show itself needs to be longer. Besides, they wasted a whole hour with mindless pre-show drivel with artists talking about what they were wearing. I'm not saying that there should not be a pre-show but if you have to choose between having a one hour pre-show or adding an extra hour to the show where more artists can be recognized I think that the choice is clear.
A second critique is that Mexican regional music was grossly underrepresented in the show. The best they could do was a two minute song by Alejandro Fernandez who has actually more recently started to drift more into the pop arena. I do not know the actual statistics but I am willing to bet that a majority of the Spanish language music sold in the United States is Mexican regional music. I am referring of course to regional, norte?o, ranchero, banda, tejano, and grupero. They each have their own category for awards, as well they should, which makes their having only one short performance from an artist that really is not all that representative of the category all the more inconceivable (especially when you take into account their enormous record sales and popularity both in Mexico and the United States). This lends validity to my first point of needing to make the show longer and it lends validity to my last point as well.
My last critique is that the performance by N Sync was literally an insult. With air time at a premium and with the underrepresentation of Mexican regional music, N Sync performing was literally a slap in the face to all of the other legitimate Latino artists. By legitimate I mean artists for whom the language and the music is something that is part of their culture, something that they grew up with. By legitimate I also mean any artist that has embraced the language and the music and have dedicated their career to it. Bands such as Los Tigres del Norte, Banda Recodo, or any other Brazilian would have been much more representative of Latin music than N Sync. Giving them airtime was all the more appalling because it is so readily transparent that their only motivation to sing in Spanish is to cash in on the "Latin explosion" by reaching out to a whole new audience.
We as a community are quick to condemn the media for not having us represented in television, film, and in music. When the goal of having our own awards show, albeit only two hours, is finally achieved air time is given not to bands and individuals that have made Latin music what it is today but to a masterfully marketed boy band whose knowledge of Spanish probably extends no further than the song that they sang. Coincidentally, they are very good friends with Gloria Estefan with whom they have recorded a single with. And then the Estefans wonder why they continue to be accused of controlling the Latin Grammys and Latin music in general.
Despite all of my criticisms however, I do believe that it was a great night for Latin music and Latinos in general. Performances by Cristina Aguilera and Santana with Mana are indicative of the talent that exits in our ranks. Next year the second annual Latin Grammys will probably also garner praise and derision but the bottom line is that this is exposure. Exposure to the mainstream that Latin music has not had before. Had the Latin Grammys not come about, Latin music would have continued to flourish in all of our respective communities and countries. The beauty of it now is that the rest of the world may now discover what we have been enjoying for generations.
Alisa Zepeda-Madrid at AZepeda@CSLANET.CalStateLA.edu writes:
All in all the awards show was well overdue, much appreciated by all Latinos and heartwarming to finally feel recognized by the mainstream. But I could not help but notice the lack of attendance by the West Coast artists. I missed seeing groups like Los Lobos, Ozomatli, Rage Against the Machine, Tierra, Lalo Guerrero and the many, many other possible "Chicano" artists that did not seem to even warrant a credit. Is it only me or am I being too sensitive?
It was touching to see La Reina Celia Cruz recognized and saluted (it was especially adorable to see her husband stand up - holding his "woman's" purse - and take his bow) before a massive mainstream audience.
I look forward to next year's award show and hope to hear more advanced promotion on it before hand.
The Latin Grammies: Is There No End to the Egotism of the Miami Mafia? By Willie Colon (source unknown, but circulating throughout the Internet)
For the first time, a Latin Grammy is celebrated. And where is the surprise in that? Well, Grammys have always been celebrated, in New York and Los Angeles, those world capitals of the cinema, television, disco, theatre, etc.
So why the flood of tears and foot-stomping so that Miami would be the seat of entertainment power?
Could it be that the gluttons of Miami have lost all sense of shame? We had arrived at a history-making moment in the unfolding of our Latin nation.
At first, we were all happy and proud that one of us, the Latino artists, would arrive at the levels of the English-speakers of the world. However, soon, we who were at the bottom of the hierarchy began to feel a sinister force in what we thought was progress. Our radio stations, our magazines, television stations, newspapers, and even our record companies, all, little by little, had been bought off and re-established in Miami. At first, all of us thought that this would signal a new dawn for every one. Then, in time, we began to understand and comprehend that it all dealt with an agenda geared to blend the politics of the Miami refugees with an avaricious economic and nationalistic intent that harbored no pity for anyone, not even pity toward other Latinos.
Now, late in my career, I experienced censure and marginalization because I was not completely submissive to the wishes of the new bosses. Meanwhile, some of my compatriots, like Andy Montanez along with friends such as Veronica Castro, were, with impudence, boycotted for simply visiting Cuba or befriending Cubans. Others, such as myself, were boycotted for committing a more minor crime, such as my attack against general Pinochet with a musical parody. We were blacklisted.
All doors were closed to us.
Gloria Estefan and her husband had become the point-guard of this Cuban-American mafia. Their intent was to redefine all that is Latino as well as Cuban. Salsa, a musical concept that incorporates all the directions and manifestations of Latin America, has been redefined as just another variant of Cuban music. The clear goal is to erase the 35 yeat history of salsa. The intent also is to take Boricua talent, as well as the Colombian, Venezuelan, Dominican, Panamanian, Mexican, as well as all those who have contributed, in the past as well as in the present, and to bury all of these beneath the Cuban American monument of Gloria and Emilio.
To accept this concept of the Latin Grammy is to regress to those times when we had to travel in the rear of the bus. It would be like returning to the days of American apartheid. Separate but equal. The Estefans and company, with their avarice, have soothed and cured a headache for the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for now they are not obligated to do as the movie Academy Awards with the Oscar, which permits all members to compete with each other. A French movie can compete with a German or an American production.
But, solely by the right of power to control all that is Latin, once again they have rendered us an insignificant footnote (un botin) for the Miami mafia. This (the Latin Grammys) has to be a feast between the Estefans, Sony, and the other recording companies that they, the Cuban Americans control. The majority of the singers who monopolized the recognition, for example, the Columbians Carlos Vives and Shakira, with six and four nominations, were produced by Estefan or they belong to the large record companies controlled by the Miami forces.
The Cuban American producer, Emilio Estefan, led all other nominees with six nominations-while his wife, the singer Gloria, was included in three categories. In addition, she was one of the (leaders) of the show along with the Cuban-born actor, Andy Garcia, who is not a singer but a forceful opponent of Fidel Castro. Also participating was N'Sync who, not being Latins, have no reason to be included aside from their association with Estefan.
Though it may have a large audience, this show will only achieve a minor status. The prize should be valued as are those of the Afro-Americans or of country and western music. The Latin Grammys are second class, for they are not among those that compete with an entire industry. If it did, it would be a different Grammy. If that were the case, it would not be a Lammy (improvised word from the Spanish verb, lamber, to lick). A Grammy is still a Grammy.
I join with all those who scream ENOUGH! Enough of this artist who permits herself to be introduced as the world's biggest Latin star, as I witnessed in Mexico this past week.
Willie Colon is an internationally famous musician from Puerto Rico. Translated from the original Spanish by Octavio Romano

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