The Latin Grammy Awards, yanked from Miami by organizers who feared protests by Cuban exiles, may still face picketers at the ceremony Tuesday (Sept. 11) near Los Angeles. Yesterday (Sept. 6), groups for and against Cuban artists performing at the awards promised to hold their own demonstrations outside Inglewood, Calif.’s Great Western Forum, where the ceremony will be held.
The Junta Patriotica Cubana, an anti-Castro group in Southern California, hopes to resurrect the cause of anti-Castro demonstrators on the West Coast with about 400 people. “We’re not against the Cuban artists who come over here to participate,” spokesperson Juan Vila said. “We’re against the chance that these people might make some revenue here and have to hand it to Castro, which would make Castro stronger.”
About 60 anti-Castro groups had planned to protest the Latin Grammys in Miami, saying the nomination of Cuban musicians and artists represented an endorsement of the island’s communist leadership. Cuban nominees include Francisco Cespedes, Chucho Valdes, Isaac Delgado, Celina Gonzalez y Reutilio, and Omara Portuondo.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Coalition in Solidarity with Cuba hopes to assemble about 100 people outside the ceremony to welcome Cuban artists. “No artist should be excluded from attending or performing at the Latin Grammys for political reasons, nor should they exclude themselves,” spokesperson Jon Hillson said.
Latin Grammy officials said they were “well aware of the protests” and “are confident about the safety of our guests.”
“I personally met with protest organizers who represent different Cuban exile groups,” said Enrique Fernandez, executive director of the Latin Recording Academy. “I explained to them that we are here to celebrate excellence in Latin music, regardless of who produces it or where it’s produced.”
The inaugural Latin Grammys ceremony was held in Los Angeles last year after Miami rejected it, citing an ordinance barring Miami-Dade county from doing business with those who have dealings with Cuba. That ordinance was later overturned.
In April, after much debate and compromise, the Recording Academy and city officials reached a pact to hold the ceremonies in Miami. But three weeks before the ceremony, Latin Grammy officials decided to shift the event to Los Angeles because they feared anti-Castro demonstrators would disrupt the show and threaten guests.
Miami officials had also enraged the show’s organizers by altering the security perimeter around the show that both sides had approved months earlier, allowing the demonstrations within a half-block of the entrance.
Although Inglewood law enforcement had little time to prepare, police say they have already organized a public safety plan to prevent disruptions outside the show.
There are about 38,600 Cuban-Americans in Los Angeles County. Nearly 1 million live in Florida — mostly around Miami.
Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.