Gloria Estefan is the first Cuban-American artist to be honored at the Kennedy Center
The "Madre del Pop Latino" said that "it is important to have an example of what immigrants offer to this country."
There is no greater sense of pride than the one you feel when one of your idols is honored at the Kennedy Center. For Latinos - especially those of us who already have some years in the pocket - knowing that Gloria Estefan received the multicolored medal, it’s a joy that overflows the soul.
There were many parties and multiple memories with her voice in the background. From the sticky "Come on, shake your body baby, do the conga" to the melancholic "Dame Otra Oportunidad", Estefan’s contralto has marked the history of a whole Hispanic and immigrant population that became the engine of America during the last decades of the twentieth century.
Singer, composer and actress, Gloria Fajardo (better known as Gloria Estefan) was born in Havana, Cuba, at the end of the 50s. Together with her family, she had to leave the island after Fidel Castro’s Revolution, as her father was the bodyguard of the wife of the dictator Fulgencio Batista.
The Fajardo family settled initially in Miami and later moved to Houston when Gloria's father joined the US Armed Forces to fight in Vietnam and to participate in the failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs.
From the hand of who would later become her husband, Emilio Estefan, Gloria joined the Miami Sound Machine band in 1977, setting up private parties and meetings of Latinos in the city, and struggling to obtain national recognition as a group. That is why their first hit "Conga" was sung in English, and forever transformed the image of Miami.
"Dr. Beat”, “I Need Your Love" and "Conga,” allowed this band to enter the national scene.
After starting her solo career, Estefan managed to represent the Latino community in the highest ranks of music, being recognized by her album Mi Tierra of 1993 at the Grammy Awards. That same album would be the first to reach the top of the Billboard list of Latin albums when it was first launched. She also has a star on the Hollywood and Las Vegas Walk of Fame; in 2015 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to American music and now joins characters such as Carlos Santana, opera singer Martina Arroyo, actress Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno in the list of Latinos honored by the Kennedy Center.
After years of omission, this award has finally recognized Latino citizens in the arts for their "long contribution to American culture”. Since its founding in 1978, there have been few artists of Latin American origin celebrated by the Kennedy Center Honors, but in a politically convulsive era for the US, Gloria Estefan’s addition is an important gesture.
This year was the first time in more than 20 years that a president omitted the annual celebration, as CNN reported. While the White House had previously announced that both Trump and his wife would reject the invitation to avoid "political distractions," his absence was a symbol of "hostility between Trump and Hollywood," the media continues.
For Estefan, though, the message is clear: "I think the image of the celebration of our music in that scenario says it all because I don’t think there is anything that (the president) can say to change our mind about anything", she assured. "But I think it's important to have an example of what immigrants offer to this country."