Carlos Santana believes in angels. He believes everyone has a designated being helping them achieve their dreams. So when the guitarist and his family created a foundation in 1998, they called it Milagro — Miracle — a nod to unexplained events that can bring about change.
Santana, 67, who will receive the 2015 Billboard Spirit of Hope Award for his philanthropy at the Billboard Latin Music Awards, spoke about Milagro and how it connects to his music.
What inspired the creation of Milagro?
I grew up in San Francisco watching Cesar Chavez, and Martin Luther King, the freedom movement, all kinds of stuff. And also Bill Graham [the legendary promoter known for his benefit shows and social causes]. So while I was learning about [music] I was also learning to become who I am — a person who cares really deeply about helping others, especially children, to have a good education, good food and clothing.
Where is the foundation’s focus right now?
The Native American children of Dakota. [North and South Dakota have seen a spate of suicides and attempts among youth]. My wife Cindy and I want to go and play the guitar and talk with them — not to them — about how life is a blessing and there’s a way to shift the way you’re thinking so you don’t become a victim. You become a victim when you give up.
You came to prominence in the ’60s. Has the corporate world today stifled creativity?
There are only artists and con artists. Seems like there’s more con artists on the radio now. They know who they are. Maybe they’ll become real musicians, instead of impersonators. But we had impersonators in the [past]. Unfortunately, it’s that kind of planet. But you have the choice to have mud or chocolate cake.