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Kennedy Center Honors Exclude Latinos Again, Says Group

After high-profile criticism several years ago led to changes in the selection process, a Latino group said it is surprised at this year's selection.
President Barack Obama (R) and First Lady Michelle Obama (2nd R) stand alongside the Kennedy Center Honorees for the national anthem as they attend the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors award ceremony at the Kennedy Center in Washington on December 8, 2013. SAUL LOEB / AFP - Getty Images

The Kennedy Center list of honorees was announced on Thursday, and a Latino arts foundation said it was surprised at the exclusion of Hispanic artists following heavy criticism that led to changes and the selection of two Latino artists last year.

“I was absolutely astonished that after all of the efforts and the safeguards that were supposedly enacted that we would still come up with the same results,” said Felix Sanchez, chariman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, who led efforts to demand inclusion of Latinos among honorees.

In 2012 Latino groups publicly criticized the Kennedy Center for excluding Latinos for a decade from the awards, which honor lifetime achievement.

As a result, the Kennedy Center revised its selection process and two Latinos, Carlos Santana and opera singer Martina Arroya, were honored in 2013. Before then, only two Latinos - actress and singer Chita Rivera and opera star Placido Domingo - out of 180 artists had been honored since the award was created in 1978.

“There is a backlog essentially of Latinos they have overlooked. Let’s just begin with (actors) Rita Moreno and Edward James Olmos. “People who deserve the recognition and who are basically marginalized.”

The Kennedy Center, most of whose board members are presidential appointees, did not immediately respond to a request for comment left on a spokesperson’s voicemail.

The 2014 honorees announced Thursday are singer R&B singer Al Green, comedian Lily Tomlin, actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks, British-born rock musician Sting and ballet dancer Patricia McBride. The honor includes a performance salute Dec. 7 and a White House reception.