Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Culture > Art > Campaign underway to heighten awareness of only 2 Latino recipients in 32 years by Kennedy Center Honors

Campaign underway to heighten awareness of only 2 Latino recipients in 32 years by Kennedy Center Honors — According to the website for the Kennedy Center Honors:

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Kennedy Center Honors has redefined America’s perception of its artistic legacy and reinvented the way this nation rewards its artists. The Honors have been compared to a knighthood in Britain, or the French Legion of Honor–the quintessential reward for a lifetime’s endeavor.

At the same time, the annual addition of new names to the roster of Honors recipients charts the international standard of excellence set by America’s artists, as well as the aesthetic inspiration provided by artists of other nations who have achieved prominence on these shores.

This year’s honorees included Oprah Winfrey, Sir Paul McCartney, Merle Haggard, composer Jerry Herman and director Bill T. Jones. They join an illustrious list of 168 artists who have been honored by the Kennedy Center Honors since it started in 1978.

However in all that time, only two Latino artists have ever been recognized — Placido Domingo in 2000 and Chita Rivera in 2002. If it were not for the fact that Latino performers/authors of music, dance, motion pictures and literature have historically contributed much in the evolution of what is now the American arts, such an oversight of more Latinos not being recognized by the Kennedy Center Honors might be a forgivable offense.

In this case, it’s not.

To say that there were not more than two Latinos in 32 years who deserved recognition, and only received it within this last decade, isn’t just an insult but a sign of complete ignorance on the part of the Kennedy Center.

To heighten awareness about this gross imbalance, a national Facebook campaign is underway to get the Kennedy Center Honors to start recognizing Latino talent that has already proven themselves to be worthy of such an honor.

One name being actively promoted is Puerto Rican “Feliz Navidad” singer Jose Feliciano.

The campaign is being spearheaded by Being Latino and the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. The two organizations sent a joint letter to the Chairman of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (those responsible for selecting the honorees); the President of CBS (the network that televises the awards show) and Caroline Kennedy Scholossberg, a trustee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, describing the discrepancy of Latinos among their roster of honorees.

In the letter, it’s pointed out that the Latino community has already lost talent that should have been included: Rita Hayworth, Ricardo Montalban, Celia Cruz and Anthony Quinn to name only a few.

The Kennedy Center Honors is indeed a great honor for artists who have excelled in their craft, but unless it becomes more inclusive it runs the danger of being seen as a program for elitists rather than being elite.

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