There was laughter, reminiscence and plenty of tears at a Wednesday morning ceremony to honor the Latin Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement and Trustees Award winners.
Academy members and press crowded the Ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas in what has become an increasingly high-profile event. This year, the honorees for Lifetime Achievement were Spanish singer/songwriter Luz Casal, Argentine/Mexican singer Daniela Romo, percussionist Poncho Sánchez and Brazilian singer/guitarist Toquinho. Trustees Awards were given to Spanish flamenco guitarist Juan Carmona Habichuela and the late Puerto Rican cuatro player Yomo Toro.
"What is most exciting to me is that this award comes from my community," said Rita Moreno, who has won a Tony, an Emmy and an Oscar, and who must be the best-looking 80-year-old woman on the planet.
Milton Nascimento, who picked up his award after Moreno, couldn't help himself: "I am entirely passionate about Rita Moreno," he said, expressing his surprise at the fact that Moreno had greeted him earlier and knew who he was.
"Milton, there's a little island called Santo Domingo, divided between the Dominican Republic and Haiti," said Ventura. "They know who you are there as well."
Poignant moments of the morning came when Sánchez picked up his award and thanked his six sisters (he also has four brothers) who'd come with him. He also thanked his label, Concord, with whom he's recorded for 30 years.
In a story that resonated with the attendees, Sánchez told of how his family had moved from Matanzas Jalisco in Mexico to Laredo, Texas.
"I was about 10 years old and I asked my father, 'How did we get here?' And my dad said we got a little bag with our stuff and we took the train. And I said, 'That's nice that grandpa gave us tickets for the train to Laredo.' And my dad said, 'Train tickets? We weren't in the train. We came on the train [as stowaways on top of the train]. That's how we got there.'"
The most emotional moment of the event came at the very end, when Ashé Records president Rachel Foro spoke of how Yomo Toro got word of his award earlier in the year but died a few months later.
"Thank you for letting him know while he was alive and allowing him to appreciate it," said his wife in tears as she collected his Latin Grammy.
Also absent was Carmona, who was unable to travel. His son, Antonio Carmona, also a flamenco guitarist, picked up the award.
"Thank you for remembering my father," he said of one of the greatest living flamenco guitarist. "He still plays the guitar and still has every emotion when he does so."
The Lifetime Achievement Award is a Special Award presented by vote of the Latin Recording Academy's Trustees to performers who have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording during their careers.
The Latin Grammys will air live Nov. 15 on the Univision Network.