Photo: Kennedy Center Dishonors Latino Artists
In letters to Kennedy Center executives, Caroline Kennedy, President Obama, and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) are calling for major changes in the process by which Kennedy Center Honorees are selected and asking why there is a constant pattern of exclusion of Latinos. The groups’ demands follow the recent announcement of the 2012 Honorees, none of whom are Latino artists.
NHLA Chairman Hector Sanchez stated, “This is a priority because Latinos have been locked out in 33 of the 35 years of the Kennedy Center Honors’ existence. Out of 170 people that have received the award only 2 have been Latinos. The only two Latinos to have received the award are Placido Domingo in 2000 and Chita Rivera in 2002 and no Latino has received this award in a decade. This is unacceptable.”
NHFA Chairman Felix Sanchez stated, “Among the many names that have been previously recommended for the honor are Rita Moreno, Joan Baez, Carlos Santana, Ruben Blades, Julio Iglesias, Gloria Estefan, and Edward James Olmos. While the Kennedy Center Honors asks for nominations from its Board and other organizations, the nomination process is clearly a pro forma ruse to validate the ultimate Honorees named exclusively by Mr. Stevens. The secrecy in which the selection is cloaked has created a virtual lock-out of Latino artists.”
Until we can present Latino modernity and inclusivity to the nation, Latinos will remain at the periphery. The numbers do not lie; a pattern of constant exclusion of Latinos requires immediate attention. The NHLA and NHFA call on Members of Congress to introduce legislation to withhold future funding for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts until the issue is resolved. The organizations also request the removal of Mr. Stevens as producer of the show and to direct the presidentially appointed Kennedy Center Board to name future Honorees. Finally, the organizations respectfully ask that President Obama replace Stevens as Co-Chair of the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities in protest for his refusal to name Latino artists as Kennedy Center Honorees; and for the President and the First Lady to discontinue their participation in the Kennedy Center Honors.