THE 15TH annual "Hispanic Heritage Awards," taped at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in late August, will air Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. on NBC. The awards are given by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, established in 1987 to honor the best the Latino community has to offer this country in the arts, literature, leadership, education and sports. It is considered the most prestigious honor among Hispanics and has come to symbolize the enormous impact Hispanics have in every area of American society.

Among those honored this year were Judith Baca and Gregory Nava. Baca fights racism, segregation and sexism through art and education. Among her best-known works: the half-mile long Great Wall of Los Angeles, which traces the history of California through images of farm union organizers, black activists fighting for equal housing and Japanese Americans interned during World War II. Director-writer Nava has created groundbreaking films on Latino topics, including the Academy Award-nominated "El Norte," "My Family/Mi Familia," featuring the first movie appearance of Jennifer Lopez, who subsequently starred in Nava's "Selena." He is executive producer of the PBS series "American Family" and is developing a film for Disney about Mexican revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata, starring Antonio Banderas.

Also honored: Liz Balmaseda, Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami newspaper columnist who has given the poor, the underrepresented, the immigrant and many other "statistics" a voice and a face through her journalism; journalist Cristina Saralegui, who reaches millions worldwide through her Spanish-language talk show "El Show de Cristina," her radio show and monthly magazine; and former tennis champ Mary Joe Fernandez. The television show features performances by Carlos Ponce and Gloria Estefan, who is heard both solo and in a rousing duet with the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz.

-- Richard Harrington