"This isn't about me," says Emilio Estefan. "It's about opening the door for other people and being able to recognize the Latin writers and artists. It's about having the opportunity to show the world the talent we Latinos have."
Estefan — along with Colombia's Héctor Ochoa Cárdenas, Chile's Myriam Hernández, Argentina's Gustavo Santaolalla and Diego Torres, and El Salvador's Álvaro Torres — will be inducted into the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame (LSHOF) at the La Musa Awards gala this Thursday at the Fillmore Miami Beach, smack in the heart of the city he and his wife Gloria adopted as their home nearly 40 years ago.
"It's like a family reunion," he elaborates. "These people have been with me for more than 35 years. We all grew up together, and we know how hard it was to be able to keep a language when there was no market for it. There was a lot of [Latin] influence in Miami at the time — you had [Willy] Chirino and so many groups that were famous. The thing is, we [Miami Sound Machine] were really the first group that mixed the Latino sound with English lyrics."
Although Estefan humbly explains he doesn't take full credit for the rise and popularity of Latin music in the Magic City, what he did with Miami Sound Machine definitely paved the way for Latin musicians not only in the 305 but also across the nation.
From Hollywood, where young actors like Miami's Aimee Carrero are landing starring roles (Carrero is the voice of Disney's first Latina princess), to Broadway, where the Estefans are receiving rave reviews for their autobiographical show, On Your Feet!, which opens November 5, Latinos are spicing up the arts world.
With musicians like Pitbull, el ritmo has congaed its way into the music industry, where multimillion-dollar record labels such as Sony Music hold a roster of Grammy-winning cantantes, including Marc Anthony, Shakira, and Ricky Martin, who were all discovered by Estefan.
"But you know something?" he continues. "The thing that happened with [LSHOF] — it brings opportunities to get recognized." Gloria was one of last year's inductees, along with Juan Luis Guerra, Ricardo Arjona, and other superestrellas.
Going on its third year, LSHOF is the brainchild of Latin music writers and producers Rudy Pérez and Desmond Child.
"I noticed there were so few Latinos inducted into the Hall of Fame, so I asked what we could do to have more Latinos represented, and that's when they told me about Rudy," Child told New Times in an interview last year. "Rudy and I had never collaborated before even though, when I lived in Miami, we were six blocks away from each other. He had his world, and I had mine, so we weren't really competitors, but it was wonderful to join with him and his wife, Betsy, and create the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame."
Aside from celebrating the inductees, this year's La Musa Awards will also honor two very important artists in Estefan's life: Quincy Jones, who will be recognized with the Desi Arnaz Pioneer Award, and Rita Moreno, who will take home the La Musa Legacy Award.
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"Quincy Jones is my hero," Estefan beams about the producer, who is also the godfather of Estefan's daughter Emily. "If there is someone I admire, it's Quincy Jones. What he did for black people, I did for Latinos. We had to fight. Quincy is a guy who's done so many things for so many artists, but he's so humble and nice to everybody."
At 83 years old, Moreno, who played Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, recently released her first Spanish-language album, Una Vez Más, produced by Estefan.
"I have a lot of respect for this woman," he says. "She won the Tonys, Emmys, Oscars, and Grammys, one of the few people to have won all four. Imagine in that era, a woman to be able to accomplish all of that. It's amazing."
The Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame's La Musa Awards with Emilio Estefan, Gloria Estefan, Quincy Jones, Rita Moreno, Alejandra Guzmán, Café Tacvba, and others. 8 p.m. Thursday, October 15, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; thefillmoremb.com. Tickets cost $103.75 to $253.75 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.