MIAMI, Florida -- When I was invited to the 2016 Billboard Latin Music Awards, I hesitated. Buried under a looming deadline, I wasn’t sure if I could spare a night, but my mother and sister were going. My fear of missing out won over my concern for missing a deadline. So off in the cab we went.
We had strict instructions to be in our seats by 7:15. Waiting in line to get it in at 7:20 I realized I’d been had, organizers smartly anticipated that in Miami a 30-minute cushion is a must.
I didn’t mind waiting in line though, I was plenty entertained. Miami turned it out for the awards. Men in sharp suits and women in sky-high heels moved through security with the kind of confidence that made it hard to distinguish the fans from the artists taking the stage. Miami is a Latino city - we dress up nicely.
When we asked the security guard where the elevator was for my mom's sake, he offered his arm, which my mom accepted. Forget the elevator — my mom got the red carpet entrance.
As we wove through publicists, back-up dancers and excited artists, I marveled at the diversity in the room.
Every Latin American and Caribbean country was represented by a superstar and every generation of Latino music lover had something to look forward to.
But I never imagined the way these very different artists that represented the spectrum of genres would meld together.
Mexican legend Juan Gabriel performing with Colombian Rock star Juanes and they sang their hearts out to the classic ‘Querida’ as the entire stadium joined them. We were all singing.
We sang, danced and celebrated the fact that the sum or our community will always be greater than our parts.
But beyond these curated cross-generational collaborations, there was a deeper story being told.
When Puerto Rican Nicky Jam accepted one of his multiple awards he thanked his Colombian producer. Mexican Marco Antonio Solis thanked his fans in Ecuador and let them know his heart was with them in this difficult time. The Cuban Gente de Zona jumped onstage with Puerto Rican Marc Anthony, the three men embracing like giddy school yard buddies, thrilled at what they had accomplished together. By celebrating each other’s work, they were celebrating not only each other’s cultures but also the ways in which they thrive.
Presidential hopefuls may be using the Latino community as a punching bag, but Billboard smartly tapped into our newfound sense of unity and put together an evening that showcased what the community is capable of when we work together.
While political pundits discuss the importance of the Latino vote, we lived it. We sang, danced and celebrated the fact that the sum or our community will always be greater than our parts. At the end of the night I was very happy I decided to go. Very much like voting, I would have missed out had I chosen to stay home.