Ahead of the Latin Grammys’ 20th anniversary in November, Latin music executives share the standout moments from the awards’ first twenty years.

Nelson Albareda, CEO, Loud and Live: “The Latin Grammys brought together the community of Miami in the midst of the controversy [in 2003] over Cuban visas. It’s that controversy that gave birth to the Latin Grammy street parties, which have reached millions of fans and produced 60 music festivals across the U.S. Why? Because the academy said, ‘We are community partners.’ ”

Carlos Alvarez, director of A&R and music publishing, Azteca Music Group: “During Person of the Year Juan Gabriel’s performance in 2009, the world saw how he commanded the stage. The mariachi and dancers were an extension of himself as a songwriter, interpreter and representative of ranchera music. I have been a mariachi for many years, but when this guy did that it was like, ‘Hell, yeah. We’re not just restaurant musicians.’ It made me super proud.”

Alex Gallardo, president, Sony Music U.S. Latin: “Calle 13’s interpretation of ‘Latinoamerica’ with the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar [in 2011] was very representative of what the Latin Grammys are about: pride, music, roots and to see the industry from a global perspective. Calle 13 was one of the most transgressive bands in those years singing with that pride, identity and root that symbolizes our culture, folklore, language and countries.”

Emilio Estefan Jr., musician/producer: “I was nominated at the American Grammys in 1990. At the time, Latinos only had three categories. I went directly to Mike Green, the chairman, and told him, ‘We have to create the Latin Grammys.’ I was fighting for my people, for new generations. Our biggest power each day is our union — that there is no difference between a Puerto Rican, Argentine, Brazilian, Cuban, Mexican. We are all one big family.”

Joel Katz, founding chairman of world leisure/media follow Greenberg Taurig: “It’s a global brand that competes financially with the Grammys, [Country Music Association Awards] and [American Music Awards]. The fashion, pagentry, quickness, costumes — it all blows you away in terms of how beautiful this show really is. It has excelled beyond anyone’s expectations: financially, culturally and also in the ratings.”

Rosa Lagarrigue, founder/CEO, Rosa Lagarrigue Management: “My first Latin Grammys were scheduled for Sept. 11, 2001, the day the Twin Towers were hit. We had prepared a performance with Destiny’s Child and [nominee] Alejandro Sanz, but the show was canceled. The Latin Academy approached The Recording Academy about them performing at the 44th annual Grammy Awards instead. It was a beautiful performance, supported by everyone.”

Jorge Mejia, president, Sony/ATV Music Publishing Latin America & U.S. Latin: “2017 was the 12 months of ‘Despacito.’ It gained 4 Grammys, together with tune and file of the 12 months. I keep in mind considering, ‘Wow, here we go…’ You know you’ve got huge hits, however they go away and there’s no crossover. This felt like the start of a brand new time for all of us. After ‘Despacito,’ there are worldwide hits. The Latin Grammys are a worldwide cultural reference, not only a Latin one.”

Horacio Rodriguez, senior vp advertising, Universal Music Latino, Machete Music and Capitol Latin: “Karol G’s new artist win in 2018 was the culmination of three years of blood, sweat and tears. When they called her name, it was one of those magical moments you only live a handful of times in your career. Backstage, she broke down and started crying with happiness and fulfillment, and we held her. I felt extremely proud. We came full circle.”

This article initially appeared within the Oct. 12 challenge of Billboard.


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