Panamanian salsa icon Rubén Blades was the man of the hour at the 22nd annual Latin Grammys ceremony, where he was honored as the Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year and received the evening’s top prize — album of the year — for “Salswing,” his collaboration with Roberto Delgado & Orquesta.
The ceremony, which aired on Thursday from Las Vegas’s MGM Grand Garden Arena, was hosted by actresses Roselyn Sánchez and Ana Brenda Contreras, and Mexican singer Carlos Rivera. Gloria Estefan opened the show with a rousing medley featuring Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown, Pedro Capó, Anitta and other guests.
That all-star performance set the tone for a string of lively sets from artists including Chilean singer-songwriter Mon Laferte, Mexican ranchera/banda outfit Grupo Firme and Puerto Rican crooner Ozuna. Christina Aguilera appeared at the show for the first time in 20 years, introducing a new single and belting out “Pa’ Mis Muchachas” (“For My Girls”), alongside collaborators Becky G, Nathy Peluso and Nicki Nicole.
But the most stirring performance arrived when Yotuel, Gente De Zona, Descemer Bueno and El Funky took the stage to perform “Patria y Vida.” The Cuban protest anthem later won song of the year — one of the event’s most prestigious honors — in addition to taking the trophy for best urban song.
The telecast featured just nine categories (out of more than 50) including best norteño album — awarded to Los Dos Carnales and Grupo Palomo in a rare tie — and best urban album, which went to Bad Bunny for “El Último Tour Del Mundo.” After running to the stage, in a fuchsia suit and crisp white gloves, he confessed he didn’t know if it’s “better to win or to lose” because he gets nervous either way.
The Puerto Rican superstar, who closed the telecast with a performance of “Maldita Pobreza,” was also among the early winners at the pre-show ceremony, where he took best rap/hip-hop performance for the braggadocious “Booker T.” Camilo, who led with 10 nominations going into the ceremony, picked up three trophies Thursday afternoon, including best pop song for “Vida de Rico.” During the telecast, he accepted his fourth trophy — best pop vocal album — for “Mis Manos,” tying with Dominican musician Juan Luis Guerra for the most awards.
This year’s ceremony also featured several poignant moments including Residente’s emotional tribute to Blades. “You are my mentor, my friend and like a father to me,” the Puerto Rican rapper told the salsa/Latin jazz icon. Anitta paid tribute to Marília Mendonça, a beloved Brazilian singer who died in a plane crash earlier this month. Guerra, meanwhile, honored Johnny Ventura, the late Dominican merengue legend and politician.
Whether you missed the full telecast or a few categories, this breakdown of the evening’s biggest moments should get you up to speed.
The Cuban protest looms large
“Patria y Vida’s” victory in the song of the year category is somewhat surprising given its political message — and the category’s other contenders, which included Rauw Alejandro’s chart-topping “Todo de Ti” and Camilo’s “Vida De Rico.”
Released in February, the song has become a symbol of defiance — and a literal rallying cry — against Cuba’s communist regime. The accolades arrived as one of the musicians behind the song — Maykel Osorbo — remains imprisoned in Cuba, according to the New York Times. Accepting the award alongside his other collaborators, Yotuel recounted the advice his mother gave him: “Have the courage to do what my generation did not do.”
Christina Aguilera’s return to the Latin Grammys stage
Aguilera, Becky G, Peluso and Nicki Nicole staged a sultry performance of “Pa’ Mis Muchachas,” which marks Aguilera’s return to Latin music. Her debut Spanish-language effort “Mi Reflejo” won best female pop vocal at the second Latin Grammys ceremony in 2001.
Aguilera’s performance confirmed that more Spanish-language songs are on the way, as she performed her latest single, “Somos Nada,” (“We Are Nothing”) less than an hour after it dropped on YouTube and music streaming services.
Yes, that was Bella Thorne
The actress, who has Cuban ancestry, appeared early in the telecast to co-present the award for best traditional pop vocal album, which went to Guerra for “Privé.” Cuban baseball star Jorge Soler also showed up to present an award, alongside Sofia Carson (a singer and actress, of Disney’s “Descendants” fame).
Women triumph in key categories
While male artists dominated the ceremony’s top categories this year, several important prizes went to women. Laferte won best singer-songwriter album, a typically male-dominated race, for “Seis.” Juliana Velásquez won best new artist, which prompted an emotional acceptance speech that began with her singing and ended with a shout out to her native Colombia. And Karol G, whose ascent in Latin hip-hop has been somewhat controversial, won best reggaeton performance — a category that was first awarded last year — for “Bichota.”
Album of the year
“Salswing,” Rubén Blades y Roberto Delgado & Orquesta
Song of the year
“Patria y Vida,” Yotuel, Gente De Zona, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Osorbo and El Funky
Best new artist
Record of the year
“Talvez,” Caetano Veloso and Tom Veloso
Best pop song
“Vida De Rico,” Camilo and Édgar Barrera
Best reggaeton performance
Karol G, “Bichota”
Best urban album
Bad Bunny, “El Último Tour Del Mundo”
See the full list of winners here.