Last year, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) and Being Latino, along with 18 other National Latino Organizations, wrote David Rubenstein, Chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center; Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS; and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg to express our disappointment with how few U.S. and international Latinos have ever received recognition by the Kennedy Center Honors. George Stevens, Jr., the creator and producer of the Kennedy Center Awards, currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities. This pattern and practice of categorically locking out Latinos from being honored by the Kennedy Center Honors is an embarrassment to the Kennedy name and the administration.
The Kennedy Center has now announced its 2011 honorees, and another year passes without a Latino being named to this prestigious American award. Since 1978, when the Kennedy Center Honors began, only two Latinos have received this recognition: Plácido Domingo in 2000, and Chita Rivera in 2002. After 33 years, 165 artists have received the Kennedy Center's lifetime achievement award.
It is particularly regrettable that Rita Moreno was not named an honoree this year, despite the 50th Anniversary of West Side Story, for which Ms. Moreno won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In addition to Ms. Moreno, below I have outlined the names of Latinos more than worthy of the Kennedy Center Award.
Literature: Gabriel García Márquez, Sandra Cisneros, Nilo Cruz, Isabel Allende, Victor Villaseñor, Oscar Hijuelos, Junot Díaz
Music: Julio Iglesias, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, José Feliciano, Joan Baez, Carlos Santana, Linda Ronstadt, Willie Colón, Rubén Blades
Dance: Kenny Ortega, Amalia Hernández, Priscilla Lopez, José Manuel Carreño
Actors/film/TV: Cristina Saralegui, Sônia Braga, Rita Moreno, Raquel Welch, Edward James Olmos, Antonio Banderas, Héctor Elizondo, Luis Valdez, David Valdes, Gregory Nava, Pedro Almodóvar
A number of current Latino performers would undoubtedly welcome the opportunity to pay tribute to the above-mentioned icons of the Latino community, including Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Jimmy Smits, Salma Hayek, Eva Longoria, Esai Morales, Sofia Vergara, Shakira, Christina Aguilera, George Lopez, Adam Rodriguez, Los Lobos, Los Tigres del Norte, Javier Bardem, Benicio del Toro, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Roberto Orci, Juanes, Penélope Cruz, John Leguizamo, Jessica Alba, Mario Lopez, Lynda Carter, America Ferrera, Rosie Perez, Eva Mendes, Fergie, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Don Omar, Alejandro Fernández, Juan Gabriel, Los Lonely Boys, Ozomatli and Luis Miguel, to name but a few.
The Kennedy family has a long history of working alongside the Latino community and valuing the contributions of the Latino community in building and strengthening our nation. From the moment the Latino community was first galvanized as a voting bloc in the 1960 presidential race electing John F. Kennedy as President of the United States, to the late '70s when Robert Kennedy worked with César Chávez, Dolores Huerta and other Latino leaders during the civil rights movement, and most recently as the honorable Senator Edward Kennedy fought valiantly to his final days working on immigration reform and health care reform, the Kennedy family have been allies, partners and true friends to the Latino community. It's time for the Kennedy Center to carry forward the legacy of the family name extended in the Kennedy Center Honors by also acknowledging and including the artistic contributions made by both U.S. Latinos and international Latinos.