On the night of Friday the 13th, Carlos Santana electrified the audience at Los Angeles' Greek Theater with his signature guitar solos. But the show was no ordinary Santana gig: the thousands in attendance were even on their feet and singing long before the famed rock guitarist ever took the stage due to the good works of human rights activist Delores Huerta.
Santana was just one of the many musicians, actors, politicians and activists who had gathered celebrate Huerta's 80th birthday. On a night filled with superstars, the biggest one of the show was the iconic activist, who still continues to promote human rights for women, immigrants, workers and the gay community.
Under the title "Weaving Movements Together," the benefit concert for the Delores Huerta Foundation featured performances from Santana, Zack de la Rocha, Lila Downs, and Pete Escovedo. Others paying tribute throughout the night included actors Ed Begley Jr., Danny Glover, Benjamin Bratt, Martin Sheen, and Edward James Olmos, along with U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who led the audience through English and Spanish renditions of "Happy Birthday" for the guest of honor.
The highlight of the night was a recorded message from President Barack Obama, broadcast on the theatre's big screens.
"Delores has dedicated her life to lifting up those who too often fall through the cracks… She's traveled a long and often difficult road to make our nation more perfect. And even as she enters her ninth decade, she continues to advise and inspire me and so many others as we work together to make our country stronger," Obama said. "Delores is famous for issuing a challenge: Walk the street with us into history, she says, get off the sidewalks. Delores, your life has moved so many people to get off the sidewalk. Your example has taught us all to believe the words, 'si se puede'."
The evening had begun with performances by Latin percussionist Pete Escovedo and his band, followed by Mexican-American singer Lila Downs. Between the musicians' sets were interludes by a variety of speakers and acts, including comedic trio Culture Clash, who performed a satirical sketch about the State of Arizona's recent controversial immigration law.
Zack de la Rocha, frontman of Rage Against the Machine, took the stage with his new three-man group One Day As A Lion and performed a selection of tracks from the band's 2008 self-titled EP, including the single "Wild International" and the title track "One Day as a Lion," which de la Rocha dedicated to Huerta.
Backed by a 12-piece orchestra of horns, percussionists and singers, Santana closed the night with renditions of classics such as "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va." The guitarist occasionally addressed the audience on the microphone, but as is his manner, he expressed most of his emotions through his dynamic guitar playing.
Shortly before Santana's set, Delores Huerta took the stage, surrounded by family members and nearly every guest on the show up to that point. She received a standing ovation from the audience.
"We're in a critical time in our country, and we are the only ones that can make the difference. But we've got to get out there, and we've got to do the work," said Huerta.