September 22, 2000


Commentary

The Latin Grammies: Is there no End to the Egotism of the Miami Mafia?

by Willie Colon

New York - For the first time, a Latin Grammy is celebrated. And where is the surprise in that? Well, Grammies have always been celebrated, in New York and Los Angeles, those world capitols of the cinema, television, disco, theatre, etc.

So why the flood of tears and foot-stomping so that Miami would be the seat of entertainment power?

Could it be that the gluttons of Miami have lost all sense of shame?

We had arrived at a history-making moment in the unfolding of our Latin nation.

At first, we were all happy and proud that one of us, the Latino artists, would arrive at the levels of the English-speakers of the world.

However, soon, we who were at the bottom of the hierarchy began to feel a sinister force in what we thought was progress. Our radio stations, our magazines, television stations, newspapers, and even our record companies, all, little by little, had been bought off and re-established in Miami.

At first, all of us thought that this would signal a new dawn for every one. Then, in time, we began to understand and comprehend that it all dealt with an agenda geared to blend the politics of the Miami refugees with an avaricious economic and nationalistic intent that harbored no pity for anyone, not even pity toward other Latinos.

Now, late in my career, I experienced censure and marginalization because I was not completely sumissive to the wishes of the new bosses. Meanwhile, some of my compatriots, like Andy Montanez along with friends such as Veronica Castro, were, with impudence, boycotted for simply visiting Cuba or befriending Cubans. Others, such as myself, were boycotted for commiting a more minor crime, such as my attack against general Pinochet with a musical parody. We were blacklisted.

All doors were closed to us.

Gloria Estefan and her husband had become the point-guard of this Cuban-American mafia.

Their intent was to redefine all that is Latino as well as Cuban. Salsa, a musical concept that incorporates all the directions and manifestations of Latin America, has been redefined as just another variant of Cuban music. The clear goal is to erase the 35 yeat history of salsa. The intent also is to take Boricua talent, as well as the Colombian, Venizuelan, Dominican, Panamanian, Mexican, as well as all those who have contributed, in the past as well as in the present, and to bury all of these beneath the Cuban American monument of Gloria and Emilio.

To accept this concept of the Latin Grammy is to regress to those times when we had to travel in the rear of the bus. It would be like returning to the days of American apartheid. Separate but equal.

The Estefans and company, with their avarice, have soothed and cured a headache for the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, for now they are not obligated to do as the Movie Academy Awards with the Oscar, which permits all members to compete with each other. A French movie can compete with a German or an American production.

But, solely by the right of power to control all that is Latin, once again they have rendered us an insignificant footnote (un botin) for the Miami mafia.

This (the Latin Grammies) has to be a feast between the Estefans, Sony, and the other recording companies that they, the Cuban Americans control. The majority of the singers who monopolized the recognition, for example, the Columbians Carlos Vives and Shakira, with six and four nominations, were produced by Estefan or they belong to the large record companies controlled by the Miami forces.

The Cuban American producer, Emilio Estefan, led all other nominees with six nominations-while his wife, the singer Gloria, was included in three categories. In addition, she was one of the (leaders) of the show along with the Cuban-born actor, Andy Garcia, who is not a singer but a forceful opponent of Fidel Castro. Also participating was N'Sync who, not being Latins, have no reason to be included aside from their association with Estefan.

Though it may have a large audience, this show will only achieve a minor status. The prize should be valued as are those of the afro-americans or of country and western music. The Latin Grammies are second class, for they are not among those that compete with an entire industry. If it did, it would be a different Grammy. If that were the case, it would not be a Lammy (improvised word from the Spanish verb, lamber, to lick). A Grammy is still a Grammy.

I join with all those who scream ENOUGH! Enough of this artist who permits herself to be introduced as the world's biggest Latin star, as I witnessed in Mexico this past week.

Willie Colon is an internationally famous musician from Puerto Rico. Translated from the original Spanish by Octavio Romano

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