Kennedy Center Adds Latino Honorees


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This year’s class of recipients of the Kennedy Center’s Honorees is the first since the Kennedy Center revamped its selection process this year, in response to criticism that the process lacked transparency and had yielded only two Latino winners.
Musician Carlos Santana and soprano Martina Arroyo are among those who will also receive the 36th honors medal in December, the Kennedy Center announced Thursday.
The annual award is presented for lifetime contributions to American culture in dance, music, theater, opera, Film or television. David M. Rubenstein, the Kennedy Center chairman, said the honorees “have spent their lives elevating the cultural vibrancy of our nation and the world.”
“It’s better than Fourth of July, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s,” said Santana, 66, who is receiving the award 50 years after he arrived in San Francisco from Tijuana, Mexico
He made a name for himself in the Bay Area at a time, he said, when it was “ground zero for the consciousness revolution.” But he shot to fame after his band performed at the Woodstock concert in 1969. Since then, he has racked up 10 Grammys and sold more than 100 million records with music that blends Afro-Cuban styles with blues, jazz and rock.
Arroyo, 76, pursued opera against her mother’s urgings to find a more practical skill. She became a star in 1965 after she replaced Birgit Nilsson in a production of “Aida” and has performed around the world.
Before Ms. Arroyo and Mr. Santana, the actress Chita Rivera and the opera star Plácido Domingo were the only Latinos among 185 artists who had received the award since it was created in 1978 with a single criterion: excellence.
Musicians Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel and Actress Shirley MacLaine will also be honored this year.
The medals will be presented at a dinner at the State Department on Dec. 7, followed the next day by a reception at the White House and tribute performances at the Kennedy Center. The performances will be taped and broadcast on Dec. 29th on CBS.

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