For several years now, the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts has been criticizing the Kennedy Center for consistently overlooking Latino artists when naming recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, an award given to artists for their lifetime achievements in the arts.
The heavy criticism resulted in changes being made last year that led to opera singer Martina Arroyo and musician Carlos Santana being named among the 2013 recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors. But on Thursday, the Latino arts foundation was shocked to learn that no Latinos were named for this years Kennedy Center Honors.
It now appears that those structural changes were only window dressing and that we are back to the same outcome that has plagued these awards for over 35 years, Felix Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, said in an interview with VOXXI on Friday.
Since the Kennedy Center Honors was created in 1978, only four of the more than 190 artists whove received the award have been Latinos. Besides Arroyo and Santana, the other two Latinos whove been honored with this award are singer Chita Rivera and opera star Placido Domingo.
Sanchez said there are plenty of Latino artists who deserve to receive the Kennedy Center Honors. Some of the Latinos he mentioned were actress Rita Moreno, actor Edward James Olmos, singer Julio Iglesias, singer Linda Ronstadt, and singer Gloria Estefan.
He said that by not selecting any Latinos for this years award, it becomes evident that there is a pattern and practice of exclusion of Latinos at the Kennedy Center.
This is not about a quota, Sanchez added. This is about how there is a three-decade backlog of Latino artists who have not been acknowledged by this American award.
Kennedy Center to honor more Latinos ‘in the years to come’
Kennedy Center spokesman John Dow said in an email to VOXXI that in 2012, the Center embarked on a seven-month review of the Kennedy Center Honors program that resulted in a revised process to select award recipients.
The new selection process took effect last year. It includes solicitation of recommendations from the general public as well as from an advisory committee that includes Kennedy Center board members many of whom are appointed by President Barack Obama.
The selection process we used in 2013 yielded the Honorees we announced yesterday and we expect the process to begin anew next year, Dow said in an email to VOXXI. We were proud to honor two Latinos last year and expect to honor more in the years to come.
Dow also noted that Kennedy Center has a new president, Deborah Rutter, who is on the fourth day of her job. He said Rutter is extremely interested in engaging in dialogue with the Latino community and is planning to meet soon with the recently established Latino Advisory Panel.
This years recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors are singer Al Green, actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks, ballerina Patricia McBride, singer-songwriter Sting and comedienne Lily Tomlin.
They will be honored at a gala scheduled for Dec. 7 at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C. Prior to the gala, the honorees will attend a reception at the White House with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.