Gloria Estefan Becomes First Cuban-American to Receive Kennedy Center Honors

It’s an extra special honor for Gloria Estefan

The 60-year-old Cuban singer, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman, who became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1974, was among the honorees at Sunday night’s 40th edition of the Kennedy Center Honors, becoming the first Cuban American to receive the special recognition.

Gloria Estefan

Estefan, a seven-time Grammy winner, was lauded by longtime friend Eva Longoria and received musical love from Jon Secada, the cast of On Your Feet! (the Broadway musical based on the life and music of the honoree and her husband/collaborator Emilio), and Becky G and Chaka Khan, whose rendition of “Coming out of the Dark” was a show highlight.

Estefan received the award from her role model and friend, Rita Moreno.

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is the stuff of the American dream, and Gloria and I are living every, single minute of it,” said in a video shared by Estefan.

During her touching acceptance speech, Estefan said, “Every one of the honorees in this room, in their own beautiful way and by putting their lives as examples, and as beautiful ways of expressing through music, through art, through the film, through dance, showed who we are in this country. And we are that amazing tapestry of so many colors and vibrant backgrounds, and that’s what makes this country great because when you weave those things together, it’s just such a strong force. And we need to keep that alive.”

Marking only the fourth time in four decades the sitting president hasn’t attended the event, Donald Trump in August opted to sit this one out amid several suggested boycotts.

Estefan called Trump’s decision to stay away “very thoughtful… I’m thankful he chose not to come because all he does is overshadow the accomplishments of people who have spent a lifetime trying to do something. It’s kind of a bummer when that moment is overshadowed by politics and controversy, so I’m very thankful he allowed us the freedom to just revel in this accomplishment.”

She said she wished “certain things could be improved” about Trump’s governance, citing in particular his current policies regarding Cuba, from where she and her family emigrated when she was young. “I wish he wouldn’t have pulled back the travel restrictions on Cuba because I think person-to-person travel is incredibly important, although I don’t particularly like the Castros.”

The celebration honoring Estefan, LL Cool JLionel Richie, Norman Lear and dancer/choreographer Carmen de Lavallade was a lively, hitch-free night that will air as a special December 26 on CBS.

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