“I never knew what a foundation was, what philanthropy was,” says Cárdenas. “When you’re young, all you want to do is get ahead and receive. But I’m at a stage where I know I have to give back.”
Maestro Cares raises money through an annual gala (this year, that event brought in $1.8 million) and through all CMN shows, which donate $1.50-$2 per ticket to the foundation. But increasingly, “my mission is to involve others, especially artists,” says Cárdenas, who also works closely in his foundation projects with his concert promotion partners in different countries. For example, he has partnered with UNICEF and Bad Bunny’s foundation, Good Bunny, to rebuild baseball fields in Puerto Rico that Hurricane Maria destroyed.
“Before, the only artist who contributed was Marc Anthony,” says Cárdenas. “And I thought, ‘I have all these contacts. Why don’t I motivate them?’ Many people want to help, but they just don’t know how.”
While Maestro Cares is mostly focused on improving conditions for children in Latin America and the Caribbean, Cárdenas’ biggest concern at the moment is the immigration crisis in the United States, where he has lived since he left Siloé, one of Cali’s most notorious slums, to come live with an uncle in Chicago when he was only 16 years old.
“From conversations of building a wall to the separation of families -- these are critical issues influencing the music industry,” he says, noting that concert attendance has been affected as regional Mexican audiences shy away from gatherings that immigration officials could target.
“The political language of discrimination and fear, along with negative news coverage, is creating an environment of uncertainty,” he says. “Naturally, the Latin community is apprehensive. [But] I have high hopes this will change. Music is an art form that helps bring us all together. It encourages unity and inspires harmony in our communities.”
-- LEILA COBO