A call to action paired with the theme of resilience and resistance remained constant throughout the 28th annual Billboard Latin Music Awards. Over 200 million people around the world watched the award show hosted by actors Kate Del Castillo and Carlos Ponce which honors Latino music’s top artists.
The night kicked off with a performance by the Blue Man Group who was then joined by the “Big Boss” of reggaeton, Daddy Yankee. The Puerto Rican musical pioneer sang his chart topping hit “Hula Hoop” and was later joined by fellow reggaetonero Ozuna to finish off the performance with their latest hit, “La Rompe Corazones.”
The star studded event didn’t hold back when it came to political discourse regarding immigration, “Migrants, immigrants, and transmigrants, tonight on this stage we are all equal. We are all united by music,“ Del Castillo said early into the night.
The Puerto Rican pride was out on full display as some of the night’s biggest honorees all came from La Isla del Encanto.
The biggest winner of the night was reggaeton artist Nicky Jam who took home six of the nine awards he was nominated for. Nicky Jam performed his hit, “El Amante,” followed by “El Ganador” which included a surprise appearance by “Fast & Furious” actor, Vin Diesel. Nicky Jam dedicated his first two awards of the night to the people of Venezuela. The reggaetonero’s hit, “Hasta El Amanecer” took home the title of Hot Latin Song of the Year. During his speech, Nicky Jam was handed a flag of Venezuela and once again expressed his support for the South American nation currently rocked by political turmoil and poverty.
Nuyorican Jennifer Lopez turned heads in her metallic see through floor length black gown. The “Selena” movie protagonist was given the Telemundo Star Award for a career spanning over 25 years. A humbled and overwhelmed JLo shared her gratitude during her speech in Spanish, “Me siento bendecida de ser parte de esta comunidad Latina (I feel blessed to be a part of this Latino community).” She expressed pride about being able to represent her culture around the globe.
Lopez also won the Social Media Artist of the Year award and debuted a new song from her upcoming Spanish language album. The song titled, “Mírate” was written by Puerto Rican singer and songwriter, Kany García. Salsa sensation Marc Anthony, who won two awards of his own, is the producer of the forthcoming album. During the red carpet JLo was asked about her relationship with Alex Rodriguez, she kept it short and simple by saying the couple is very happy and enjoying their time together.
Finally, fellow Puerto Rican Luis Fonsi was also honored as the legendary Juan Luis Guerra presented him with the “Espirítu de la Esperanza” award for his work with St. Jude’s Hospital, and for his humanitarian programs to help battle childhood cancer. Fonsi brought the crowd to their feet during the performance of his hit song, “Despacito” featuring Daddy Yankee who joined him on stage. “Despacito” has remained at the top of the Billboard charts for four months. The dance hit’s remix features Justin Bieber who won the Crossover Artist Billboard award for his Spanish language participation on the song.
One of the most powerful moments throughout the night came from Guatemalan singer/songwriter, Ricardo Arjona. Arjona who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the iconic Don Francisco, began his performance with the song, “Mojado.” The song, which provided a somber tone as Arjona simply sat on stage with his guitar, is an ode to those who swim across the Río Grande on their journey to a better life away from their homeland. The remainder of his performance was a potpurri of some of his greatest hits including, “Desnuda” and “Fuiste Tú.”
Another big winner was the immensely missed and immeasurable Juan Gabriel. The Mexican singer, who was granted the Telemundo Star Award last year, posthumously won five awards for his album “Los Duos 2.” His son was present at the awards show and accepted them on behalf of his father who passed away in August of last year.
La Banda Sinaloense took home four awards in the regional Mexican music categories, Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias also won four awards, and Cuban duo Gente De Zona took home three awards. Other big names such as “Lowriders” actor Eva Longoria along with her co-star Damién Bichir served as presenters, as did famed director Eugenio Derbez.
The night concluded with a performance by reggaeton duo Zion y Lennox who also debuted a new song titled, “Mi Tesoro” and were later joined on stage by J.Balvin to finish off the night with their hit, “Otra Vez.”
Glitz, glamour, dazzling gowns, and a lot of Latino pride were in full splendor throughout the night as top Latino artists celebrated each other’s talents, successes, and richness in each other’s culture.