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Politics Seeps In as Rosario Dawson Picks Up Hispanicize Award

Rosario Dawson discussed her personal journey and her recent verbal face-off with civil rights leader Dolores Huerta at the 2016 Hispanicize conference in Miami where she received the Latinovator award. NBC News/Brian Latimer

MIAMI, Fla. -- One event that created lots of buzz at this week's Hispanicize was Wednesday's luncheon where actress and activist Rosario Dawson received the Latinovator award - and discussed her recent spat with civil rights leader Dolores Huerta.

Dawson is one of the founders of Voto Latino, a non-profit which uses technology and social media to register and motivate young Latinos to vote. She also is a campaign surrogate for Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders and has spoken at his rallies.

She was feted at the five-day Hispanicize conference for her work, achievements and personal journey.

But it was impossible to keep her recent very public, verbal face-off with Huerta from seeping into the generally apolitical event that draws Latinos from various professions, including journalists and bloggers.

Related: Dolores vs. Rosario and The Fight For Young Latino Votes

Rosario Dawson discussed her personal journey and her recent verbal face-off with civil rights leader Dolores Huerta at the 2016 Hispanicize conference in Miami. NBC News/Brian Latimer

At the Latinovator award luncheon, which recognizes high achievers or those with inspirational stories, Dawson was interviewed by Telemundo and MSNBC host Jose Diaz-Balart before a standing room only audience.

Dawson discussed her upbringing in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a working class neighborhood at the time.

"When you have that underdog upbringing, there is nowhere to go but up,' she said.

Rosario Dawson campaigns for Bernie Sanders 8:25

The conversation quickly turned to politics, her support for Sanders and her exchange with Huerta via competing opinion articles.

Dawson said she is being attacked for not supporting another woman - Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

She said she was the author of the open letter published in the Huffington Post that triggered backlash. In the opinion article, Dawson rebutted Huerta's criticisms of Sanders' record and proposals.

But Dawson, who played Huerta in the movie "Cesar Chavez," also chastised Huerta in the article, asserting Huerta was doing her legacy as a labor and farmworker organizer and feminist a "disservice by becoming an instrument of the establishment."

Some have criticized those words as being disrespectful of Huerta and her lifetime of work on behalf of Latinos, but others supported Dawson.

"I was compelled to write that letter. I worked on it for a week," she said, adding that she was "absolutely not being divisive. I want to bring people together."

Telemundo and MSNBC host and NBC Nightly News Saturday anchor Jose Diaz-Balart at Hispanicize 2016. NBC News/Brian Latimer

In a press conference following the luncheon, Dawson refused to say whether she would support Clinton if the former Clinton wins the Democratic nomination.

"We are not there, so I don't need to speculate," Dawson said adding that this kind of question keeps framing the conversation and discourages people. "I really hope that people can start changing that narrative."

She showed discomfort with the question. "I really hope you stop asking people that question," she said.

In a separate event, Hispanicize founder Manny Ruiz, held a town hall called "The Latino Brand in Disarray," where the discussion topic was the need for a unifying Latino leader.

"We need to find our voice as a Latino first population -- as a Latino first community—for respect," Ruiz said and explained it's important to be assertive and not allow the status quo to remain as it is.

Others at the town hall disagreed, saying Latinos need multiple leaders because the community is so diverse with people from different countries advocating for their own issues.

"We can find our power if we have the heart and the mind and the creativity," Ruiz said.

In a separate conference panel organized by NBC Universal, NBC News Latino editor Sandra Lilley; Manager of Social Media and Community at MSNBC, Nisha Chittal; NBC News correspondent, Morgan Redford; and Diaz-Balart discussed how diversity in today's media and how social media is impacting and shaping today's news.

Lilley said journalists naturally include pictures and video with their stories. "I have yet to meet a contributor who'll not send us pictures or videos for the story. It's part of our DNA," Lilley said.

Later Wednesday, USA Network was to premiere their new drama "Queen of The South." The drama is based on the best-selling novel "La Reina Del Sur," by Arturo Perez-Reverte. The screening will take place with a VIP red carpet and cocktail reception.

Related: Who Is Kate del Castillo And What Did She Write To El Chapo?

The Spanish-language telenovela "La Reina Del Sur," also based on the book, starred actress Kate del Castillo. Castillo was recently in the news because of her role a meeting between actor Sean Penn and druglord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzman, while Guzaman was in hiding after escaping from a Mexican prison.

NBC News producer Olivia Santini contributed this report.

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