Politics Dominates the Night at Imagen Awards: "Our Vote Is Very Important"

Imagen Awards - H Publicity 2016
Eddie Sakaki/The Imagen Foundation

The Imagen Foundation encouraged Latino entertainers to help get out the vote.

The specter of Donald Trump loomed large at the 31st Annual Imagen Awards, held Friday night at the Beverly Hilton, even as he was treated like He Who Must Not Be Named.

“I’m not gonna address the big bloated orange elephant in the room,” said stand-up comedian Aida Rodriguez, hosting the ceremony for the third year in a row. “The only type of orange even a Mexican would not sell on the side of the street.”

But raising awareness about the upcoming election was the overt theme of the night, which coincided with the launch of the Imagen Foundation’s #WeCount campaign, aimed at encouraging Latinos to make their voices heard through positive media portrayals as well as through their votes.

Several presenters and guests already are involved in getting out the vote among the Latino community, such as Major Crimes’ Jonathan Del Arco, who is a surrogate for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “People have actually been able to be citizens and have waited until this moment [to become naturalized],” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m really hoping we have a surge in voters that turn up. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s the scariest election in my lifetime.”

Although Luis Guzman, now starring in CBS’ Code Black, supported Bernie Sanders in the primary -- “he woke up a sleeping giant in this country, which is the independent voters” -- he tells THR that he will be voting for whom he refers to as the “Democratic nominee” while holding her to her word: “People will need to keep that person accountable.”

But most of the focus was on Trump and his anti-immigration platform. The two trophy presenters at the Imagen Awards were DREAMers, or beneficiaries of California’s DREAM Act, which allows undocumented students who grew up in the United States and meet certain academic requirements to apply for higher education financial aid. One of them, Alvaro Castillo, addressed the room in a stirring speech that was one of the night’s highlights.

“I can’t vote,” said Castillo, who is pursuing his master’s degree in creative writing from Cal State Northridge. “Come November, for all the DREAMers and all the 11 million undocumented in this country, our future is uncertain. This is a crucial election. Exercise your right to vote, and show that we count.”

The Republican nominee’s rhetoric throughout the campaign struck a personal chord with many attendees. “It’s very sad to have witnessed a full campaign based on hatred towards Mexicans,” says Mexican director Patricia Riggen, best director winner for Chilean miner drama The 33. “And I find it unfortunate that the Mexican president helped give this candidate a push,” referring to Trump’s recent visit to Mexico at the invitation of President Enrique Pena Nieto.

One of the few people to invoke Trump by name was Cenk Uygur, whose political digital network The Young Turks was honored with the Imagen Vision Award. During their acceptance speech, TYT chief business officer Steven Oh announced the launch of a new weekly bilingual news channel focused on the Latino community.

“This is the most powerful room in the world right now, because Latinos have the opportunity to swing an election that affect the entire world,” said the Turkish-born Uygur. “If Trump wins, they don’t let my family back into the country. If Trump wins, they kick some of your family out. Latinos have the opportunity to build a wall -- between Trump and the White House.”