Latin Grammy Show Puts Miami to the Test
By MIRTA OJITO
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
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
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
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
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
Miami in a ceremony that will be broadcast on CBS.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
"Mi Primer Millón," Bacilos
"Es Por Ti," Juanes
"Hasta Que Vuelvas," Luis Miguel
"Já Sei Namorar," Tribalistas
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"Mundo," Rubén Blades
"Un Día Normal," Juanes
"Estrella Guía," Alexandre Pires
SONG OF THE YEAR
"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)
BEST NEW ARTIST