Awards Ceremony to Mark Hispanic Heritage Month in US

Awards Ceremony to Mark Hispanic Heritage Month in US
Photo: AP
Actress Eva Longoria Parker was seated with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at a state dinner for Mexican President Felipe Calderon in May


Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute will hold its thirty-third annual awards ceremony this Wednesday in Washington. The event is held every year on September fifteenth to mark the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month.



That was "The Glamorous Life" performed by Sheila E. The drummer, percussionist and singer will perform at this week’s awards ceremony.

Sheila E. is Sheila Escovedo. She comes from a long line of Mexican-American musicians. Her father, Pete Escovedo, and his brother Coke Escovedo both played with the rock and jazz band Santana. Her uncles Alejandro, Javier and Mario Escovedo are also musicians.

Sheila E. gained fame in the nineteen eighties when she performed with Prince. But the Grammy-nominated musician has been making music for nearly forty years.



The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute provides educational, career and leadership development services. Three Hispanic members of Congress formed the institute in nineteen seventy-eight. Edward Roybal, Kika de la Garza and Baltasar Corrada wanted to help prepare young Hispanics to become future leaders.

The twenty-first century has brought a historic change in the United States. Hispanics now outnumber blacks as the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority group. They are also the nation’s fastest-growing minority.

The Census Bureau estimates that more than forty-eight million people of Hispanic heritage were living in the United States as of July of last year.

At that time Hispanics were sixteen percent of the population. By the middle of twenty fifty, the agency predicts that Hispanics will be thirty percent of the population. They are expected to number nearly one hundred thirty-three million people.

Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September fifteenth through October fifteenth. It celebrates the history and culture of people with ancestry in Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking countries of the Americas.

September fifteenth was chosen as the starting date because several Latin American countries celebrate their independence on or near that date. This year marks the two hundredth anniversary of Mexico’s declaration of independence from Spain on September sixteenth, eighteen ten.

Each year the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute honors three members of the Hispanic community. One of this year’s honorees is actress Eva Longoria Parker. She is one of the stars of the television series "Desperate Housewives. "

Eva Longoria Parker recently learned something new about her Hispanic heritage. On the TV talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" she said she had a DNA test done to confirm her ancestry.

EVA LONGORIA PARKER: "My whole life, I’m like, I’m Mexican and I’m really -- I’m a proud Mexican-American and I swear I was an Aztec princess in my past life.

JIMMY KIMMEL: "Of course."

EVA LONGORIA PARKER: "And then I do the blood test and I’m seventy-five percent Spaniard."

JIMMY KIMMEL: "Seventy-five percent Spaniard."

EVA LONGORIA PARKER: "Yes, it totally screwed me up."

JIMMY KIMMEL: "But isn’t everyone, most everyone from Mexico, not most, but a lot of people?"

EVA LONGORIA PARKER: "Obviously it’s a mixture of indigenous people and Spaniards because of the conquest. But I thought I was mostly Mexican, not mostly Spaniard."

JIMMY KIMMEL: "And the other percentages are?"

EVA LONGORIA PARKER: "Mayan! I’m Mayan. I thought I was Aztec this whole time, but I do think I was a Mayan princess now."


In addition to acting, Eva Longoria Parker is active in charitable work. She will receive an award for leadership and community service.

Her organization, Eva’s Heroes, works to improve the lives of people with developmental problems. She is also the spokeswoman for Padres Contra el Cancer. This nonprofit organization works to improve the quality of life for Hispanic children with cancer.

Ms. Parker also works with several other organizations. These include the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation.



Arturo Sandoval performs the national anthem before the Orange Bowl college football game in Miami, Florida, on January 1, 2009

Arturo Sandoval is a Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and pianist. He is also being honored at this year’s awards ceremony. His mix of jazz, classical, rock and traditional Cuban music has been praised around the world.

The Cuban-born musician received political asylum in the United States in nineteen ninety. He became an American citizen in nineteen ninety nine.

He will receive an award for his work with music education programs. Here, Arturo Sandoval plays the title song from his Grammy Award-winning album "Rumba Palace."



Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer of "In the Heights," was excited to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in 2008

The third person who will be honored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute is Lin-Manuel Miranda. He is an award-winning actor, playwright and composer who comes from a Puerto Rican family. Puerto Rico is a self-governing commonwealth in the Caribbean.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is best known for writing the Broadway musical "In the Heights." The play tells the story of the Latino community where he grew up in the Washington Heights area of New York City.

The show won four Tony Awards during its first year on Broadway in two thousand eight. And it was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in two thousand nine.

Lin-Manuel Miranda often plays the lead part of Uznavi. Here he is with the title song from "In the Heights."


Lin-Manuel Miranda is being honored for his work with several organizations. These include Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Hispanic Federation. They also include the Latina Suicide Prevention Program of Woodhull Medical Center in New York.

The theme for this year’s awards ceremony is "Celebrating History, Heritage and the American Dream." More than three thousand Hispanic leaders from across the country are expected to attend.

Pop star Irvin "Pee Wee" Salinas will also perform. He was lead singer of the group Los Kumbia Kings, later renamed the Kumbia Allstars.

He released his first solo album in August of two thousand nine. "Yo Soy" reached number one on Billboard’s Latin Pop Albums Chart. Here he is performing "Cumbaya."



During National Hispanic Heritage Month, events are held around the country. The observance began as National Hispanic Heritage Week in nineteen sixty-eight under President Lyndon Johnson. In nineteen eighty-eight President Ronald Reagan and Congress expanded the celebration to a month-long event.

Here in Washington, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will sponsor a Latino Art and Culture Tour. The exhibit traces the work of Hispanic artists from the nineteenth century to the present.

The National Zoo will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a fiesta, Spanish for a party. There will be music, dancers, and traditional crafts and foods. There are also several events planned at the National Museum of American History, including films, performances and discussions.

We leave you with another performance from the Broadway play "In the Heights." This one is titled "96,000."



Our program was written and produced by June Simms. I’m Steve Ember. You can find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs at You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and iTunes at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.