The New York Times
September 3, 2003

Latin Grammy Show Puts Miami to the Test


MIAMI, Sept. 2 The Latin Grammy Awards will be broadcast from downtown Miami on Wednesday night in an internationally televised ceremony, more
than three years after Latin music producers and civic leaders here first tried to transcend local politics over Cuba to lure the event from Los Angeles.

"It's a victory for the city," said Emilio Estefan, the music producer, who lives here with his wife, Gloria Estefan. "We will show that we have matured as a community."

For years the Latin Grammys have been mired in a debate centering on whether arts and politics associated with Cuba can ever be separated. If the event succeeds, it
could greatly bolster Miami's position as the Latin entertainment capital, organizers say. If it doesn't, it would be another strike against a city that for years has
struggled with an image of intractable political strife over Cuba.

Two groups representing wildly different views on Fidel Castro and Cuba have obtained city permits to demonstrate in front of the American Airlines Arena, where
the show will take place and be broadcast on CBS at 9 p.m., Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time. One group opposes the presence of Cuban artists in Miami;
the other supports their presence.

Ten of the 41 Latin Grammy nominees either live in Cuba or have not openly cut their ties to Mr. Castro's government. Because several of the nominees are musical
groups, the Cuban delegation, if granted visas, could have more than 70 people, said Gabriel Abaroa, executive director of the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and
Sciences, which sponsors the awards.

It is unclear who among them will be able to come to Miami because some of the artists who live in Cuba need visas to travel to the United States while others, who
live in Europe, may not.

For many Cuban-Americans who grew up on the island and witnessed some of these artists singing the praises of Mr. Castro, an event that rewards them is a slap in
the face, said Francisco García, a spokesman for a group of exiles, many of them former political prisoners, who plan to protest.

"In any other country in the world perhaps arts and politics are truly separate, but not in Cuba," said Mr. Garcia, 54, who spent five years in a Cuban prison and three
in a labor camp. "Castro has said many times, he said it from the beginning, that within the revolution, all was allowed; outside, nothing."

For others, like Mr. Estefan and Mayor Manny Díaz, the actions of Mr. Castro and his apologists must be exposed and criticized, they said, but not at the expense of
robbing the city of the opportunity to shine with the Latin Grammys.

The event, with the Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso and the Panamanian salsero Rubén Blades among the nominees, is expected to attract 12,000 people. Artists like
Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin and Thalía will perform; George Lopez, star of his own ABC sitcom, will be the host. Through an arrangement with CBS, the show will
be seen in 110 countries, 40 of them through a live broadcast.

"My heart is always divided in two," said Mr. Estefan, who left Cuba in 1967, when he was 13. "One part feels the pain of my country and my people and the other
half refuses to do what Castro does. I have to support freedom of expression in all of its manifestations."

Mr. Estefan is not alone in his views. In a poll conducted three years ago by researchers at Florida International University, the local state university, more than 50
percent of Cuban-Americans were opposed to banning Cuban musical groups from performing in Miami. In fact, for the last few years, many Cuban artists, from
singers to painters to actors, have come to this city to exhibit their work and perform without provoking the public ire of Mr. Castro's critics.

But this year the event comes after a wave of repression in Cuba that provoked immediate and widespread international repudiation: Three young men were executed
in April for attempting to steal a government boat to leave the country, and 75 dissidents and human rights activists were jailed for terms ranging from 6 to 28 years.
At least two dozen prominent Cuban artists signed a letter asking other artists around the world to stop their condemnation of the Cuban government. The jazz pianist
Chucho Valdés, who reportedly signed the letter, is one of the nominees.

Right after the nominations were announced about six weeks ago, Mr. Estefan, who is co-producing the show but says he has no control over who goes onstage, said
that if any of the Cuban nominees were to perform, he would walk out. His statement underscored the balancing act that elected officials and civic leaders must
conduct here, pitting the interests of the city against the feelings of some of its most vocal and politically active citizens.

"This is about an industry that the city hopes to keep and expand," said Mr. Díaz, the Cuban-born mayor of Miami. "We are always hoping to diversify our economy,
and not be so tourist-dependent. This is one way to do it."

Miami is already home to a number of Latin stars, like Julio Iglesias, Enrique Iglesias, Ms. Estefan and Mr. Martin. The two largest Spanish-language television
networks in the country and one of the largest Hispanic radio groups are based here, as are most of the labels that record Latin artists.

Since the Latin Grammys were begun four years ago, many in the music industry thought that this was the ideal place to hold the awards show. But back then
Miami-Dade County, in a bow to local animosity toward Mr. Castro, had an ordinance that, among other things, prevented the county from doing business with
organizations or people with ties to Cuba, including artists.

When the ordinance was struck down by a court three years ago, the Latin Recording Academy decided to hold the show in Miami in 2001. Several groups of
Cuban exiles announced that they wanted to protest the presence of Cuban artists from the island. After failing to agree on where the protesters would be allowed to
stand on the night of the event, organizers decided three weeks before the show to return it to Los Angeles, where it remained until now.

Earlier this year, the academy moved its headquarters to Miami, and brought the show back. Soon after, City of Miami commissioners urged the academy to refuse to
recognize or invite any Cuban artists to the Grammys and passed a resolution forbidding the city from spending any funds on the event, except those necessary to
cover police and fire rescue.

Once again, the protesters demanded a space to vent their feelings. With the help of lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, they were granted a permit to
stand 168 feet from the entrance to the arena.

A group that supports the presence of Cuban artists in the Grammys has also been granted a city permit to demonstrate, about three blocks from their opponents.

Despite the hurdles, the planned protests and the slight from city commissioners, Miami proved to be the best choice this year, Mr. Abaroa said, but there are no
promises for the future.

"The show must go on," he said, "wherever that might be."

The Top Nominees

These are the nominees in the four top categories of the Fourth Annual Latin Grammy Awards, which will be presented tonight at the American Airlines Arena in
Miami in a ceremony that will be broadcast on CBS.


"Mi Primer Millón," Bacilos
"Es Por Ti," Juanes
"Hasta Que Vuelvas," Luis Miguel
"Frijolero," Molotov
"Já Sei Namorar," Tribalistas


"Caraluna," Bacilos
"Mundo," Rubén Blades
"Un Día Normal," Juanes
"Estrella Guía," Alexandre Pires
"Tribalistas," Tribalistas


"Caraluna," Jorge Villamizar, songwriter (performed by Bacilos)
"En el 2000," written and performed by Natalia Lafourcade
"Es Por Ti," written and performed by Juanes
"Mi Primer Millón," Sergio George and Jorge Villamizar, songwriters (performed by Bacilos)
"Tal Vez," Franco de Vita, songwriter (performed by Ricky Martin)


David Bisbal
Tiziano Ferro
Natalia Lafourcade
Fernanda Porto
Alex Ubago