The underlying theme of this year’s Latino Trendsetter Awards may have been to inspire future generations “by redefining a star.” However, last week at New York City’s Symphony Space an overpowering display of women power was in full effect.
The show, hosted by April Lee Hernandez (Freedom Writers) and Luis D. Ortiz (Million Dollar Listing), featured a rather eclectic group of honorees. The list of people being honored included Sandra Harris (Columbia University Medical Center), healthcare professional Ed Salas, “The Princess of Salsa” La India, media marketer Sergio Alvarez, HBO executive Lucinda Martinez, music industry veteran Johnny Marines, Mercer CEO Julio Portalatin, Rafael A. Ortiz (Lenox Hill Hospital), veteran actor Victor Cruz, illustrator Dennis Calero, Kristie Gonzales of WABC-TV in New York and NYCFC’s David Villa. The show may have had blistering performances by salsa legend Frankie Negron and flamenco dancers from Argentina, but it was what some of the women being honored that spoke volumes.
“I’m with Hillary. I like Bernie. But Bernie should stick to the issues and not knock a woman down. He lost my vote because of that. And she’s going to beat him because of that. She’s also going to beat Trump because of that. We’re born from women. It’s time for us to stop discriminating and battering women. We need to respect women. We are here to save the world, believe it or not. You cannot knock someone who wants to be the first female president ever. And I think that’s empowering,” stated salsa diva La India upon accepting her award.
The “Dicen Que Soy” singer also thanked her mother for setting a positive example for her while urging women in the audience to not allow discrimination to impede on their progress in life. La India also shared that her mother once told her that “being a woman is a big responsibility” and “when you fall and you hurt yourself, don’t cry, get up and walk.” La India also acknowledged that throughout her life and career that she never did anything alone while giving thanks to a most unlikely individual.
“I did it with Louie Vega who happens to be very influential in my life,” La India told the audience. “I’m very proud of him. He believed in me. And he saw my voice as something different and special. He introduced me to John W. Benitez who is also a very important Nuyorican who discovered artists like Madonna and he discovered me. I am very grateful to be here and to also have the opportunity to meet the ‘Queen of Latin Music,’ my godmother Celia Cruz. She touched my life. She showed me that there isn’t anything you can’t do. As a woman you work hard. You give respect to others. You receive it back.”
Keeping with the message of empowerment Lucinda Martinez, HBO’s senior vice president of multicultural marketing, offered the following:
I am here today not because I am any more talented, nor smarter, nor any more hardworking than many Latinos in corporate America. I am here today because I have been fortunate enough to simply not have blown my chance. See as Latinos, especially as Latino women, many times we don’t get the opportunities we see our counterparts get. You know what I’m talking about. They get opportunities and we get chances. They get doors opened. We have to crack and pry windows. They get pats on their back. And we get pats on the head. We all know what it feels like. So I’m here today despite the way things are. I am hopeful and continue to work for a day when doors open and opportunities happen for all of us. Strictly based on our merit not just our luck and hard work. In the meantime, we have to let our work speak for us because many can’t get past our brown faces and Latino surnames. We have to continue pushing and using the power we achieve not just to sit on it. Or have it to selfishly serve ourselves. We have to be committed to advocating empowering and paving an easier path for the young Latinos that we hope will race past us.
Kristie Gonzales, promotion and digital brand manager for ABC-TV, rounded out the message of the night:
Part of the reason I’m on the stage right now is to see more Latinos represented in news and mass media. And if we are not a part of that change it’s not going to happen. I had the guts to ask my general manager at the time Rebecca Campbell out to lunch. And I asked her how did you do it? How did you run a powerful TV station, manage a family, do everything and be such a good person? At that moment she took me under her wings. And it was a life changing moment for me. She has been the angel of my career. And I’m going to pass on some of her words tonight. As you climb, lift. And that is my commitment to you guys in this room. As I climb in my career I’m going to lift as many diverse, smart, [and] amazing people who are passionate as I am to be in positions of power in media. And I want to look around the room one day and see colorful faces that I don’t see yet. And I hope you guys will join me. I love that you’re putting this online because doing stuff like this gets us closer to where we want to be.
Daniel Rivera is a host and entertainment reporter from New York City. Many know Daniel as media jack of all trades who has an all-out hustle, immeasurable knowledge of pop culture and geeky charm. Follow him @DanielRiveraTV.