Obama to Give the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Gloria and Emilio Estefan

Gloria Estefan is 58 years old.
Gloria Estefan is 58 years old.
Photo by Ian Witlen

UPDATE: The White House has officially announced Gloria and Emilio Estefan as recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Obama said in a statement Monday afternoon: "From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans."

The Miami Herald is reporting that Gloria and Emilio Estefan will be among the 17 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor.

Though an official White House announcement of the nominees has yet to come and is expected later this afternoon, the Herald says a source tipped it off to the Estefans' impending honor. The other recipients include Bonnie Carroll, Lee Hamilton, Katherine G. Johnson, Willie Mays, Barbara Mikulski, Itzhak Perlman, William Ruckelshaus, Stephen Sondheim, Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, and James Taylor.

Yogi Berra, Shirley Chisholm, Billy Frank, Jr., and Minoru Yasui will be recognized posthumously. The ceremony will take place Tuesday, November 24, at the White House. 

Gloria Estefan (then Gloria Fajardo García) got her start as part of the Miami Sound Machine alongside Emilio Estefan in 1977. But it wasn't until the 1985 single "Conga" that the Cuban natives reached international fame. The Estefans are widely credited with introducing a Latin sound to mainstream music, paving the way for artists like Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, and Ricky Martin.

In 1990, both Emilio and Gloria were involved in a serious tour-bus accident just outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Gloria would be out of commission for more than a year before making a triumphant return at the American Music Awards in 1991.

Both Gloria and Emilio have remained beloved figures in Miami over the years and to this day are perhaps the most universally adored artists to ever emerge from our city. At least, until Pitbull finally perfects that potion. 

Their life story has been converted into a Broadway musical called On Your Feet!

The Estefans have yet to comment on the award.


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