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Lin-Manuel Miranda received the President’s Merit Award at the Latin Grammys on Thursday (Nov. 16), and he dedicated it again and again to Puerto Rico.
Miranda gave his acceptance speech in both Spanish and English, describing himself as “the weird theater kid here (with the half-gringo accent).”
He thanked his wife, parents and many collaborators, and paid homage to his Puerto Rican roots. Miranda said he intended to remind the U.S. government that the residents of its island territory “are human beings, too.”
Miranda wasn’t the first winner of the night to dedicate an award to Puerto Rico. The island devastated by Hurricane Maria in September was a theme throughout the night.
The ceremony, broadcast live on Univision from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, opened with a moment of silence for Puerto Rico, followed by a performance by one of its native sons.
Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the Puerto Rican flag, rapper Residente performed his song “Hijos del Canaveral” (“Sons of Canaveral”), a tribute to his homeland.
Residente topped nominees with nine nods for his self-titled solo debut and he was an early winner Thursday, claiming prizes for urban album and urban song for “Somos Anormales” (“We Are Abnormal”).
Luis Fonsi also dedicated his record of the year award for “Despacito” to his native Puerto Rico. The global hit, which quickly became YouTube’s most-watched music video ever, made good on three of its four nominations early in the show and remains a contender for song of the year. It also won shortform video and urban fusion performance for the remix with Justin Bieber.
Other winners included Shakira, who won for contemporary pop album, Juanes, who claimed the pop-rock album prize, and Vicente Garcia, who was named best new artist.
Alejandro Sanz also received a special award. Juan Luis Guerra described him as “one of the most important composers in the Spanish-speaking world” as he presented Sanz with a golden gramophone statuette. As the Latin Recording Academy’s 2017 Person of the Year, Sanz was feted during a starry ceremony earlier this week. On Thursday, he dedicated his award to the “dreamers” affected by President Donald Trump’s suspension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“These are our children,” Sanz said, “the children of our community.”
He followed by performing a medley of his hits, closing with a group of young people onstage wearing T-shirts that read, “We have one dream.”
Most of the awards were presented during a pre-telecast ceremony, while the live broadcast is dominated by performances. Performers included Natalia Lafourcade, Maluma, Juanes, J Balvin and Carlos Vives.
The largest celebration of Spanish-language music comes at a time when many Latinos are wondering if there’s anything to celebrate this year as they’ve felt the effects of the Trump administration’s immigration agenda and their communities were destroyed by natural disasters.
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