Latin superstar Juanes’ enduring impact through music and philanthropy

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Juanes performing on stage with his guitar during a concert

By Jovane Marie

When Colombian superstar Juanes takes the stage, the atmosphere shifts. His influence is apparent, from the fanatic cheers of the audience as they sing along word-for-word to the permanent fixture of phones poised to capture each moment. With more than 15 million albums sold worldwide, to say he is a legend is undebatable.

This was the exact scene this past September at L’ATTITUDE, a business-focused annual conference, which focuses on how U.S. Latinos are fueling American economic growth. The artist was in attendance not only to serenade the crowd with a moving rendition of “La Camisa Negra” (a favorite from his ground-breaking album “Mi Sangre”) but also to share his thoughts on how Latinos are dominating mainstream music and the importance of their contributions.

It’s a perspective Juanes is more than qualified to speak on.

With a career spanning longer than three decades, 26 awarded Grammys and Latin Grammys combined, a history of philanthropic endeavors, and his naming last June as the 2019 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, Juanes has firmly positioned himself as one of Latin music’s leading global ambassadors and a committed voice for advocacy and inclusion.

It may seem a massive undertaking to be such an influential artist—maintaining a long-standing industry presence, constantly expanding your creative artistry, supporting new artists, and managing philanthropic efforts—but Juanes insists that only one thing is necessary to make it so.

“Si quieres ser artista, sigue tu corazón,” he told the L’ATTITUDE crowd. “If you want to be an artist, stick to your heart.”

Follow the Music

Considering Juanes’ background, it comes as no surprise that he ended up so fully enraptured by the magic of music. Raised in his native Colombia, he began playing the piano when he was only 2 years old, and at 7 learned the guitar from his father and brothers.

Juanes and Camillo Cabello perform on stage
Juanes and Camila Cabello perform onstage during The Latin Recording Academy’s Person of The Year Gala. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

“I started to play guitar and sing because of my family, really—my brothers, sisters and parents all loved music,” he told NPR. “They were always singing folk music, so those beginning years were filled with sambas and chacareras and vallenatos and tangos.”

By the time his teenage years rolled around, however, his tastes had changed, leading to the start of a career with a musical sound far removed from the folk songs of his youth. At age 17, along with friends André García, Fernando “Toby” Tobón and José David Lopera, he formed the rock band Ekhymosis (Greek for “bruise”).

Inspired by the music of Metallica, the band aimed to “create

Colombian rock” through their thrash and heavy metal rhythms. Their first demo spoke to a simultaneous effort to describe the troubled environment of their hometown in Medellín, marking the beginning of a consistent pattern of speaking out against injustice and violence through socially conscious songs.

At the time, Medellín, influenced by the reign of Pablo Escobar and civil war, had the highest homicide rate in the world. Juanes was not spared from the effects of this harrowing environment, losing a cousin to violence in the early 90s. The experience encouraged him to try to use his gift of music to effect change.

“I realized that music has the power to bring people together, to change things,” he said. “That has been my mission.”

By the time Juanes made the decision to go solo in 1998—ten years after the band’s formation— the award-winning group had released eight albums.

“I just felt like I was missing something—that I needed to go back to my roots, my essence,” Juanes said of his solo journey. “And that’s what I’ve done ever since. I try to mix both the folk side and the rock side to create a contemporary sound.”

The formula has certainly paid off…in spades.

Juanes holds his big donation check for his Fundacion Mi Sangre foundation
Juanes poses for a photo with a donation made to his foundation, Fundacion Mi Sangre, at Hard Rock Cafe – Times Square in New York City.(Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Released in 2000, his first solo album, “Fíjate Bien,” earned him two Latin Grammy Awards, while his second, “Un Día Normal” (released in 2002), was certified multi-platinum in multiple countries across Latin America.

It was his third album, however—”Mi Sangre”—that positioned him as an international force and cemented him as a global ambassador for the Latin music genre. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart, produced three consecutive number one singles, was certified Gold, Platinum, or Multi-platinum in 14 countries, and won three Latin Grammy Awards.

Since the release of “Mi Sangre” in 2004, Juanes has released four more albums, including 2017’s “Mis Planes Son Amarte,” a full visual concept album featuring the artist’s first song in English.

His eighth solo album, set for release in November 2019, has already produced a Latin Grammy- nominated single in “La Plata”—a Colombian folkloric tune mixed with pop reggaeton that is close to the singer’s heart.

“This song is light and happy…I’m very excited,” he gushed about the single, which features emerging Columbian trap artist Lalo Ebratt of the collective Trapical Minds. “It has to do with Colombia, and with my roots, and with who I am.”

The Juanes Effect

Juanes’ worldwide appeal is undeniable. He has performed everywhere from the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo to Sesame Street, and has been recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People.

And while many Latin artists eventually “cross-over” to record English language albums in an effort to expand their audiences, he waited almost 30 years to record “Goodbye for Now,” his first English song. The move was deliberate and based, he said, on a desire to respect his fan base while adapting to the changing musical landscape.

“Singing in Spanish is very important because it is the language in

Karla Martinez, John Cena, Juanes and Ana Patricia Gamez are seen on the set of ‘Despierta America’ to promote the film ‘Ferdinand’in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/WireImage)

which I think and feel,” he explained. “But I am also conscious of the fact that the world and the way we communicate is changing. I do love Anglo music, and now that I’m a little bit more familiar with the language, I feel like it’s more honest for me to do it.”

It may have taken him some time to release a track in English, but Juanes has effortlessly maintained a presence in the mainstream American music scene, nabbing several groundbreaking firsts in the process of building his musical empire.

His performances at the 84th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (2010), The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2014), The TODAY Show Plaza concert series (2014), and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (2017) marked the first time any of these platforms had featured a performing artist singing exclusively in Spanish. And, in 2015, he performed “Juntos”—the first Spanish song featured in over a decade at the Grammys.

For Juanes, these historic performances speak to the ability of music to transcend language.

“It’s really a magical feeling,” he explained. “People come to our shows or listen to these performances, and they respect the fact that we sing in Spanish. They are paying attention to the melodies and the arrangement and the music itself, and it’s a beautiful gift. It’s just the magic of music.”

A Voice for Change

Growing up a witness to prevalent violence in his hometown of Medellín had a profound effect on Juanes that has reverberated beyond his lyrics into a passion for philanthropy.

In 2006, he created the Mi Sangre Foundation in response to Colombia’s needs in the treatment of landmine victims. Under the umbrella of psychosocial support, peace education, and peace building project programs, the organization “helps children, teenagers, and youth heal wounds of the soul by creating safe environments and strengthening social fabrics while enabling the participation of families, the community, and the educational sector.”  The venture, which has provided support for thousands of landmine victims, is a labor of the heart.

Recording artist Juanes performs onstage during MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Fleetwood Mac
Recording artist Juanes performs onstage during MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Fleetwood Mac at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

“The name Mi Sangre [My Blood] is inspired by the same sentiment as my album of the same name—it’s about my children, my children’s children, my land, my roots. It’s what’s important to me,” Juanes said of the foundation. “When I heard firsthand the stories of people who had been directly affected moved me to the point that I said, ‘I want to do something.’”

The artist also co-founded the Paz Sin Fronteras (Peace Without Borders) effort, a series of free outdoor concerts aimed at uniting people across borders and promoting non-violent conflict resolution.

His efforts have earned him a multitude of humanitarian awards, appointments, and recognition, including Colombia’s National Peace Prize, a position as a Goodwill Ambassador for nonprofit organization United for Colombia, France’s highest cultural honor for social activism (L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres), and a namesake recreational park in Medellín, which provides rehabilitation space for people with disabilities.

For Juanes, however, the recognition isn’t the end goal. In his eyes, it’s all about making a difference.

“I do these things because they matter for me and to me,” he explained. “I often think about what we as a people are doing here in this world and why we are here. And what I know for sure is that we are not alone…we need to help each other.”

A Continuing Legacy

Juanes’ legacy of artistic innovation, support for emerging artists, and humanitarian recently manifested into yet another recognition—one reserved for the most culturally impactful Latin musicians.

Last June, the Latin Recording Academy announced that as part of its milestone 20th anniversary, the singer, composer, musician, and philanthropist would be named the 2019 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year.

Juanes performs at the 2nd Annual L'Attitude Conference
Juanes performs at the 2nd Annual L’Attitude Conference – LatiNExt Live on September 26, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)

Bestowed upon musicians of Ibero American heritage in acknowledgement of their artistic achievements in the Latin music industry, fellowship, and philanthropic efforts, past honorees have included Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Shakira, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana.

“Juanes is young, but legendary, an artist who has inspired us through his amazing music for many years and—while doing so—he vigorously campaigned for political, social, and positive change around the world,” said Gabriel Abaroa Jr., president/CEO of The Latin Recording Academy. “His leadership and his philanthropic work, in addition to his positive messages that transcend music, speak volumes about his many contributions to the community, and we are truly honored to recognize him as this year’s Latin Academy Person of the Year.”

The designation is just the latest addition to the multi-talented artist’s ever-growing legacy, and a reaffirmation that he is fulfilling his destiny.

“I’m doing what I believe I was brought to do—to create music that raises awareness, renews hearts, and generates change,” Juanes shared. “And I hope I have many years left to connect through art, to play my guitar, and to continue chasing the sun.”

‘Gentefied’ leading actresses talk about Spanglish, tacos and being ‘Latina enough’

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The cast from Gentefied are seated on a couch during an NBC interview

The three leading female stars of the new Netflix series “Gentefied”say there’s a reason why the bilingual, bicultural show has been so fun to make.

“It’s fun because it’s us,” says Karrie Martin, who grew up in a Honduran-American household and plays a young artist, Ana, on the show. “The world is now seeing what we see at home.”

The series, executive produced by America Ferrera, features three Mexican-American cousins living in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights in L.A.

They’re trying to figure out their own lives, which are intricately intertwined with their grandfather’s taco restaurant — and the struggle to keep the business viable amid rising rents and the slow gentrification of the neighborhood.

Annie Gonzalez, who plays Lidia, a Stanford-educated, brainy young woman on the show, was born and raised in East LA. She is now an actress in Hollywood, and uses her own life as an example of the show’s title, which is a play on words.

“If I were to go back and want to buy a piece of property, I would essentially be replacing or displacing a group of people that live there — for my benefit,” she said. That’s gentefication: the process by which more affluent Latinos are gentrifying working-class Latino neighborhoods. The title is a play on the words gente, which means people in Spanish, and gentrification.

The issue of younger, affluent professionals displacing working-class Latino families is an ongoing issue in several parts of the country, whether it’s in Brooklyn, Los Angeles or San Francisco.

The show delves into serious topics about work, gender, economics and family, but with humor. It’s also one of the few shows that move seamlessly between languages, with the older Latinos speaking Spanish to the younger generation, who answer in English.

The bilingual nature of the series is personal for Gonzalez who, as a fifth-generation Mexican-American, didn’t learn Spanish at home because her family was reluctant to teach it.

“We were forced to assimilate,” said Gonzalez. “My grandma would get hit if she spoke Spanish in school.”

“Gentefied” deals with the themes of Latino identity and authenticity, which Gonzalez said were relatable for her. Growing up, she experienced being questioned by other Latinos over whether she was embarrassed by her culture or how Mexican she really was.

“I couldn’t be more Mexican if I tried,” she said.

Continue on to NBC News to read the complete article.

Oscars 2020: Jonas Rivera makes history as first two-time U.S.-born Latino Academy Award winner

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Toy Story 4 latino producer Jonas Rivera stands outside in Disneyland with two other producers

After winning the Oscar for animated feature, “Toy Story 4″ producer Jonas Rivera was stunned and pleased to be reminded that he is now the first U.S.-born Latino to win multiple Oscars.

Rivera previously won for the 2015 film “Inside Out.”

“As if my mind couldn’t be more blown about the last five minutes, thank you for that,” Rivera said. “I’m a little bit out of my body right now. It means the world to me. I can’t even really put it into words.”

And he had an inspirational message for others in the Latinx community dreaming big dreams, even if he couldn’t deliver it in Spanish.

“The only Spanish I learned was when my grandparents would fight,” he joked, before adding, “You work hard, you put your guts into it … and it does happen.”

Pictured left to right: “Toy Story 4’s” Oscar-winning producers Jonas Rivera, from left, Josh Cooley and Mark Nielsen at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Fla.

(Matt Stroshane / Disney)

Continue on to The Los Angeles Times to read the complete article.

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira delivered a red-hot Super Bowl halftime performance in Miami

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Jennifer Lopez Super Bowl draped in Puerto Rican flag during Halftime show

The Latina powerhouses were joined on stage by J Balvin and Lopez’s daughter.

Ever since Shakira and Jennifer Lopez were announced as headlining the Super Bowl LIV Halftime show, it was expected that the two would bring the Latino Power, and the singers did not disappoint.

The divas delivered a nearly 15-minute performance that began with Shakira, who opened with “She Wolf,” followed by a medley of her hit songs, including “Whenever, Wherever” and “Hips Don’t Lie.” Viewers at home and in the stadium were surprised to hear Shakira launch into “I Like It,” the song made famous by Cardi B., until Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny, who was featured on the track, joined in on a Super Bowl remix of sorts. Shakira also wowed with her guitar playing — or slaying — skills, nodding to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” as she belly danced atop a fiery projection.

J. Lo’s performance followed with a demonstration of her pole dancing talents, courtesy of the movie “Hustlers,” in which she stars. It was just one of a dozen-plus choreographed pieces which showed her versatility as a performer and, yes, as a singer. Among her greatest hits mini-set were the classics “Jenny from the Block” followed by snippets of “I’m Real,” and “Get Right.” She then changed into a silver and nude one-piece and launched into “Waiting for Tonight.”

Colombian artist J Balvin joined Lopez for a performance of “Que Calor,” while she sang “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” The two switched to “Mi Gente,” on which Balvin collaborates on with Beyoncé, who was also in the building. As Balvin exited the stage, Lopez went into “On the Floor” and touched hands with her daughter Emme, who led as a vocalist in a chorus of children performing a slowed-down moving version of “Let’s Get Loud.” This was followed by Emme, whose father is Marc Anthony (also present in the stadium), delivering the chorus to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” Referencing her own heritage, Lopez was draped in a coat bearing the Puerto Rican flag.

Continue on to Variety to read the complete article.

Selena Gomez, Cardi B and more Latina celebs you can find on this rising social platform

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Selena Gomez pictured smiling looking casual in a sweatshirt

Move over Instagram! Tik Tok is becoming the new IT app and some Latina celebs are already getting on board – including Selena Gomez, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez and more. If you were one of the millions of users who had Vine, then you might already love Tik Tok without knowing it.

The addictive app is a space where creativity abounds and you’ll get trapped in a rabbithole of hilarious clips that will make you LOL, see some serious dance moves and wild viral trends.

To get to know a little more, we spoke with the CEO of The Influencer Marketing Factory, Alessandro Bogliari, to get some insights on how the video app works. “You don’t even have to sign up and the app will show you some of the best videos,” he told HOLA! USA when asked why people are eagerly tapping to download.

“Then, when you sign up, the AI [algorithm] will recognize your behavior in the app and will start showing you only videos that you should like based on what you engage with. I can easily spend one hour just scrolling on the ‘for you page’ without getting bored, [the] contents are so original and funny that it’s highly addicting,” he added.

Continue on to HOLA! to read the complete article.

Why Bad Bunny Matters to a New Generation of Latinx Fans

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Bad Bunny performs before large audience

I switched off my uncle’s playlist of classic salsa tunes and turned up Bad Bunny. We sat poolside in Dorado, Puerto Rico, with a small Bluetooth speaker beside us. My uncle, a conservative lawyer in his 60s, rolled his eyes when he heard “Bad Bunny, baby.”

With sold-out stadium tours and features from top American artists like Drake on his records, Bad Bunny has graduated from Puerto Rican grocery store clerk to international sensation in the last three years. Millennials have embraced him, but many old-school Boricuas are turned off by the Bunny explosion.

Upset by the lewdness of the lyrics of “Sensualidad,” my uncle picked apart each sexual innuendo and remarked on the raunchiness of today’s reggaeton culture. On a mission to change his mind, I chose to play to him Bad Bunny songs with underlying depth. First, I played “Estamos Bien,” an uplifting anthem released nearly a year after Hurricane Maria. Next up, “Desde el Corazón,” a love letter to Puerto Rico dedicated to his neighborhood and the local artists who inspired him to write music.

As a rebuttal, my uncle put on “Burbujas de Amor” by Juan Luis Guerra, a melodic, classic love song full of imagery. He rocked back and forth proclaiming, “He is a poet.” I had to admit, Bunny to Guerra was a stark contrast, but then again so were we.

For Latin Baby Boomers like my uncle, the archetype of a man was the head of the household who rarely showed his vulnerable emotions. There was dignity in the unity of marriage, and cursing was seen as inappropriate or low-class. The lyrical, heartfelt singers of my uncle’s childhood provided a way for those same men to connect with and express the deeper romantic sentiments in the clean music.

The themes in Latin music are largely the same throughout the generations — love, loss, hardship — only with different mouthpieces using forms of expression that reflect their audience.

In the 1990s, Latin music in Puerto Rico fused with reggae and American hip-hop to create reggaeton. This new wave of music, created by underground youth culture in the clubs of Puerto Rico, was a creative outlet during inner-city sufferings. Typical of Caribbean culture, it was done with a great dance beat. From the streets of the island to worldwide dominance, reggaeton burst through the English-speaking Western market, and now we are all living in a post-“Despacito” world.

Our music today is a celebration of Latinx culture. What was once understated is now screamed from the rooftops, or rather rapped to sold-out crowds at Madison Square Garden. Latinx Millennials and Gen Z are unapologetically ourselves. We choose our pronouns, our lovers, and express ourselves freely.

This is mirrored in one of our hottest artists, Bad Bunny. His music videos and style defy gender norms and pave the way for further inclusivity and acceptance for all. Bad Bunny is a part of the movement of today’s youth to speak up and speak out. His uniqueness emulates this generation’s custom-made individuality and Latin pride.

As my uncle and I playfully debated the rise of Bad Bunny, taking turns as DJ, I realized why his music means so much to me personally. In not taking himself so seriously, I’ve learned to do the same. It’s OK that I’m a mix of cultures both Puerto Rican and European. It’s OK that I’m the gringa of the family. It’s OK that I was born on the mainland, where I’m not American enough, yet on the island I’m not Boricua enough. It’s OK that when I can’t think of a word in Spanish, I switch to English. It’s OK for me to be exactly as I am.

Continue on to Pop Sugar to read the complete article.

Demi Lovato Will Sing National Anthem at Super Bowl LIV

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Demi Lovato singing on stage

Demi Lovato will sing the National Anthem before kickoff at Super Bowl LIV, taking place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on February 2nd.

The news comes shortly after she was announced as a performer for the 62nd Grammy Awards on January 26th.

The singer confirmed the news on Instagram, writing, “Singing the National Anthem at #SBLIV 🏈 🏈 🏈 See you in Miami 🌴 @NFL.”

The National Anthem will be broadcast around the world as part of the Super Bowl’s pregame show. Past National Anthem performers include Whitney Houston, the Dixie Chicks, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Mariah Carey, the Backstreet Boys, Pink, Alicia Keys and Idina Menzel.

Christine Sun Kim will sing the National Anthem in American Sign Language on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).

The NFL and Fox previously announced that Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will be the halftime performers for Super Bowl LIV.

Continue on to MSN to read the complete article.

‘Ugly Betty’ Gave Television An Unlikely Latina Heroine

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Silvio Horta pictured with America Ferrera on red carpet at Hollywood event

Betty Suarez, the lead character in the ABC dramedy “Ugly Betty,” was the unlikeliest of heroines and everyone ― from those who taunted her on the job at an upscale fashion magazine to her close-knit family to the audience watching the show at home ― thought so.

“All the stuff you want to do, owning a magazine … it doesn’t happen for people like us, unless you’re J.Lo or something,” her nephew Justin (Mark Indelicato) told Betty (America Ferrera) on the stoop of their home in Jackson Heights, Queens, where they lived with her undocumented father, Ignacio (Tony Plana), and her spirited sister, Hilda (Ana Ortiz).

Justin was only in middle school and yet he already understood that success was limited to a select few from his family’s working-class background. For him and so many others, the American Dream was exemplified by the beautiful Jennifer Lopez, one of the few examples of U.S. Latino representation in Hollywood in the 2000s.

But Silvio Horta, the creator and showrunner of “Ugly Betty” who died earlier this month, offered an alternative version of prosperity for new generations of Latinos through a character who was less aspirational and more relatable, a young woman who wasn’t conventionally attractive but was still the daring protagonist of her own life.

Betty had bushy eyebrows, braces, glasses and frizzy hair — pop culture’s hallmarks of the ugly duckling. She was also curvy, which was unfortunately groundbreaking for a show in 2006, as evinced by the second episode of the series. Drama arose over releasing an actress’s unretouched photos at Mode, the fashion magazine where Betty worked. Sure, there had been curvy girls on television before, but they somehow always seemed to be the butt of the joke, a caricatured sidekick to the more traditionally good-looking lead. Not Betty.

Let’s not sugarcoat it. Betty was harassed by her co-workers because of her looks, lack of fashion sense and Latinidad. It was no secret around the office that everyone knew she had only been hired because her supervisor’s father didn’t want his son, Daniel (Eric Mabius), sleeping with his assistants anymore. In an attempt to embarrass her and drive her to quit, Daniel has her fill in for a model at a photo shoot. Watching Betty stand alongside those models, attempting to strike sexy poses in a revealing outfit she is wholly uncomfortable in while everyone laughs at her, is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the series. She is also routinely called fat and one of her co-workers, Amanda (Becki Newton), has a penchant for using an exaggerated Spanish accent around her and warning her not to get chimichurri sauce on important documents.

Yet somehow Betty remained strong. She never buckled under the pressure of her hostile work environment — though doing so would have been understandable. Instead, she focused on her dream of writing for magazines.

Continue on to Huffington Post to read the complete article.

Historic rock festival at sea to benefit Native American Heritage Association (NAHA)

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Poster promo for the 2021 Rock Legends Cruise

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida – Since 2010, Native American Heritage Association (NAHA) have chartered an entire Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship, and created a historic rock festival at sea known as Rock Legends Cruise (a “cruise for a cause”).

Now in 2021, (The Rock Legends 2020 cruise is sold out) Don McLean will join Styx, Blue Öyster Cult, Warrant, Lita Ford, Walter Trout, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush along with to be announced artists for the Rock Legends Cruise IX setting sail from Ft. Lauderdale on February 18, 2021. For cruise packages, pricing and more go to www.rocklegendscruise.com!

With previous performers like Sammy Hagar & The Circle, Bad Company, Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo, REO Speedwagon, ZZ Top, Foreigner, The Doobie Brothers, Alice Cooper, Paul Rodgers, Peter Frampton, Gregg Allman and so many more, each cruise is a guaranteed blast, while raising awareness about NAHA’s Mission. Although the cruise has drawn adults of all ages, most are of an age that placed them at the beginning of the rock revolution and who appreciate our artists’ places as cultural icons. After all, rock and roll is for everyone!

About NAHA:
For nearly a quarter century, Native American Heritage Association (NAHA) has been front and center in responding to a quiet crisis among our Nation’s Forgotten People, the Lakota (Sioux) on Reservations in South Dakota and Wyoming. Founder David Myers literally began NAHA by delivering food & clothes in the back of a station wagon on weekends. From those humble beginnings, and through the commitment of NAHA’s faithful donors, staff, and affiliates, the most recent fiscal year saw over $52 million in direct aid (food, clothing, and basic life necessities).

These Reservations are on some of the most desolate and remote acreage in the country, remaining out of the sight and headlines of mainstream America. With desperation, hope is easily lost, and leads to statistics most people would say, “Can’t possibly be true in America.” But it is. Up to 80% unemployment, suicide rates 70% higher than the population at large, infant mortality exceeding many third world countries, diabetes and resultant death at twice the national rate…these and many more statistics are the bitter reality that face this proud group of people every day. Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Crow Creek, and Cheyenne River are not mythical names in some western novel. They are real places, with real people, who often live out tragic lives.

Actress Dania Ramírez: It’s a ‘dream’ playing an avatar in ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’

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Actress Dania Ramirez on red carpet at Jumanji movie premiere

By Arturo Conde

Video games allow ordinary users to transform into extraordinary heroes. For Dominican American actress Dania Ramírez, who plays an avatar in “Jumanji: The Next Level,” video games made her American dream come true.

“I grew up in a crowded apartment with my family living in one bedroom, and a second family living in another bedroom,” she told NBC news. “And for a Dominican girl who played video games for the first time in the United States, and is now acting in a big movie about a video game, this is my American dream.”

The actress emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights when she was almost 10 years old. She said video games can help players build up confidence to follow their dreams.

Dania Ramirez arrives for the premiere of “Jumanji: The Next Level” in Hollywood.Jean-Baptiste Lacroix / AFP – Getty Images

“We live in an age where everything is electronic. And many kids are not ready to be judged by the Internet and social media,” said Ramírez, known for her roles on TV shows including “Heroes,” “Devious Maids” and “Entourage” and whose movie credits include “X Men: The Last Stand.”

“But video games can make them feel more confident, teach them to solve problems, move faster, and go after their dreams,” Ramírez added.

“Jumanji: The Next Level” opened last Friday, and is the sequel to the 2017 adventure comedy blockbuster that pulled four high school friends—Spencer, Martha, Bethany and “Fridge”—into a video game console. Locked inside, they had to survive dangerous and at times ridiculous obstacles to find a way out.

Now in 2019, Spencer has been sucked back into the fantastic world of Jumanji. And this time, Martha, Bethany and “Fridge” will team up with Spencer’s grandpa (Danny DeVito) and a family friend (Danny Glover) to help bring him home.
On screen, Ramírez plays an avatar in Jumanji that guides players with clues. And off screen, she says that video game avatars are also guiding players on a journey to explore their identity.

“When my children play video games, they sometimes get excited figuring out how they can make their avatars look more like them,” she said. “As a Latina, representation in video games and media is important because they need to represent the diversity we live in. And avatars are helping players explore who they are.”

Continue on to NBC News to read the complete article.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘In The Heights’ Trailer Celebrates Latinx Stories On The Big Screen

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Lin Manuel Miranda pictured in suit and tie at a premeire event

Piraguas, acrylic nails and the GWB! The first full-length trailer of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s upcoming “In The Heights” film has dropped, and for fans of the hit Broadway show, which the movie is based on, it feels like they’ve won the lottery.

Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon Chu has joined Miranda in recreating the Grammy and Tony award-winning musical about a Dominican bodega owner and his neighbors in the New York City barrio, Washington Heights. The star-studded and nearly all-Latinx cast includes Anthony Ramos, Marc Anthony, Dascha Polanco and Stephanie Beatriz.

The trailer depicts a dramatic, lyrical day-in-the-life narrative of the Hispanic-American community in Washington Heights. The Heights is vibrant and bustling, and this first trailer promises to stay true to the neighborhood’s spirit.

The film also nods to the growing threat of gentrification to New York City neighborhoods — “the story of a block that was slowly disappearing,” as the main character, Usnavi, says in the teaser.

The trailer suggests that the movie will put a new spin on the original musical. The narrative follows Usnavi as he tells modern-day stories about his neighborhood to a group of children.

The characters in his tales face timely Latinx issues that have become part of the national political and social conversation, including immigrant rights and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

With “In The Heights,” Miranda and the cast are taking a rare step in a predominantly white Hollywood by centering powerful and gripping Latinx stories on the silver screen.

A recent study from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California found that only about 3% of lead or co-lead roles in the top movies have gone to Latinx actors in the last 12 years. And Latinx speaking roles were nonexistent in almost half of the sampled films. The community’s small presence on the big screen is a harsh contrast to the growing Latinx population in the United States. Nearly 60 million Hispanic people live in the U.S., and they account for almost 17% of the population.

Continue on to Huffington Post Latino Voices to read the complete article.