Latin Billboard Awards + The Red Carpet

I intended to share my trip chronologically but it wouldn’t be nice to make you wait more for the part you really want to hear about – la alfombra roja (red carpet), and the actual Latin Billboard Awards show.

Cuban sandwiches and other randomness, while worthy of sharing with you, are not as exciting as the main event, so here we go. (I’ll tell you about the sandwich más tarde.)

My ticket!

The Red Carpet

We arrived at the red carpet and first we were seated in the bleachers with the fans. After a little while, we were given the option to move to the press area where it would be possible to actually speak with celebrities who chose to stop, with the caveat that we would have to stand for over 2 hours. I didn’t think twice – I wanted to be with the press.

Press area near the red carpet.

(Thanks to for the dress!)

When I got to the press area my hands started to shake. I caught a glimpse of a white cowboy hat and my heart fluttered, thinking it was Espinoza Paz. One of the blogueras who has a lot more experience with these kinds of events, kindly gave me some advice, reminding me that to gain respect I couldn’t freak out.

I think I did pretty well, despite an unintentional gasp here and there – like when Prince Royce gave me a shout-out.

Many celebrities stopped to talk, even shaking hands and giving hugs or a kiss on the cheek. One handsome telenovela actor was so close to me that I could smell the cologne on his skin and it wasn’t like he had put too much on or anything, (can’t remember which actor it was pero qué rico se huele!) I chatted up the cast of the new mun2 show, RPM Miami for a minute or two – but you know my heart was set on finding Espinoza Paz and Pitbull.

Pitbull did walk by, but didn’t stop to chat.

Ay Pitbull! So close, and yet so far away!

And it was cool to meet El Trono de Mexico.

El Trono de Mexico

El Trono de Mexico - botas picudas

I told one of the guys from El Trono, “Me gustan tus botas picudas!” and he smiled.

More photos! (From Gloria Estefan to Marc Anthony and actors from telenovelas like Reina del Sur…

Here are some photos of the celebrities that came into the press area of the red carpet. Some stopped to talk, others just posed for photos. How many musicians and actors do you recognize?

My Flickr Slideshow of Latin Billboard Awards 2011


Espinoza Paz never did pass by the press area – I’m not even sure he walked the red carpet. I felt a little heartbroken. I tried to spot him in the audience but wasn’t sure. At one point, I saw someone in a black cowboy hat come in late. I wonder if it was him?

I spotted Pitbull in his seat.

Pitbull seated at the Latin Billboard Awards 2011 (white jacket)

The stage set-up was super awesome. There were three stages and the one in the middle extended further into the audience. The stage had areas cut out that looked like little pools, where some very lucky fans got to stand. Stages left and right were cube shaped with walls that moved up and down. I loved the colorful lights and the feeling of the bass.

I video taped some of my favorite performances between tweeting:

One song I absolutely love that I neglected to video tape: Me Duele by Roberto Tapia. I loved the couples dancing quebradita during this performance.

The last performance of the evening – Pitbull. I don’t understand how he didn’t win anything. He brought the house down, (the shaky video is evidence of this. I was dancing.)

The last award of the night, “Artist of the Year” – went to Enrique Iglesias. To thank his fans he ran out into the audience. He ran by my section, maybe 20 feet away but I didn’t try to touch his hand. A lot of people were out of their seats and trying to do just that. I like Enrique but not enough to risk falling down stairs or getting crushed. Had it been Espinoza, that’s another story.

Disclosure: I went to the Latin Billboard Awards in Miami at the invitation of Telemundo. All opinions are my own.

Is Gringo offensive?

I use the word “gringa” to describe myself – knowing that some people are uncomfortable with the word. I’ve simply found it to be the best description of who I am. To me, its meaning is a non-native Spanish speaker, (or one who doesn’t speak Spanish at all.) It helps me identify myself as non-Latina, but someone with enough interest in the language and culture to have learned the word and have a sense of humor about it.

Some claim that the word “gringo” has negative connotations due to the way this word entered the lexicon. There is an urban legend that says the Mexican Army told American soldiers to leave the country saying, “Green – GO! [home]” (green for the color of their uniforms.) There is no proof that this is actually true. (Read other etymological possibilities here.)

I don’t like the words “White” or “Caucasian” because of the focus on skin color. I prefer not to use Anglo because it isn’t descriptive enough. I also avoid using “American” or “Americana” – because those from Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America are all “Americans” too. (Some even dislike that the United States has co-opted this word for its citizens, but calling oneself a “United Statesian” is awkward.)

And so this is why I use the word “gringa” and feel that it doesn’t have a bad connotation unless used in certain contexts.

Not everyone agrees with me. Recently columnist Daisy Hernandez, (co-editor of Colonize This! Young Women on Today’s Feminism), used the word “gringo” in what I would consider “appropriate context” – as a result there has been quite a controversy.

Read what happened on NPR, and come back to weigh in. What do you think? Should she have avoided use of the word, or was it appropriate?

Discuss in comments.

(Thanks to Aisha for sending me the link to this news story.)

Fútbol, no sólo para los hombres

My love of fútbol was made well-known during this year’s World Cup. Since then I have had to find other ways to entertain myself, from playing fútbol with the kids, to watching Javier Hernández play for Manchester United, (I like him better with El Tri, but I’ll take my “Chicharito” any way I can get him.)

I also spent some time encouraging people to sign a petition in support of our bid to bring the World Cup to the United States in 2022, which we ended up losing to Qatar. ¡Qué desilusión! … I have to say though, their proposed stadiums are absolutely breathtaking.

Still don’t feel better about losing our bid for the World Cup? Okay, here are some events to look forward to: The 2011 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, the 2011 Copa América and the Women’s World Cup 2011!

Speaking of women, I just saw a report this evening about a Salvadoran woman named Eva Linares. Ms. Linares is newsworthy because she is the only female fútbol commentator in El Salvador, most likely the only one in Central America, and possibly even the only one in all of Latin America. I think she is super chévere.

Meet Edison Peña’s Translator! (interview!)

All of you remember how excited I was about the Chilean Miner, Edison Peña appearing on David Letterman, right? Remember the hilarious video I shared with you and the charming female translator we fell in love with? Well, I managed to find her and had the distinct pleasure of interviewing her for!

Cassandra was hired to translate for Edison Peña by the David Letterman Show through Geneva Worldwide, a company in New York that provides interpreters, translators and other language services. They kindly put me in touch, and Cassandra generously agreed to answer a few questions. I was surprised to find out that interpreting is just one of many things Cassandra does. I think you’ll find her as interesting, amazing, clever, and fun as I did. Here is the interview below.

Cassandra interpreting for Edison Peña.
Hello, Cassandra! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. After seeing your appearance on David Letterman as the translator for Chilean miner Edison Peña, the internet has been buzzing with the question, “Who is that translator?” … Everyone loved you and I’m so pleased to speak with you. Please, tell us a little about yourself.

Cassandra: Hola, everybody! ¿Qué tal? Mucho gusto y muchas gracias, Sra. López. First of all, Congratulations for creating este espacio de reflexión on having one foot on each side of the cosmic cultural canyon! I think we all do in one way or another, even if we don’t know it.

Pues, la pura verdad es que estoy un poco chiveada pero, bueno, here goes. Soy Cassandra, a sculptor by trade who freelances as an interpreter for Indigenous Peoples in United Nations negotiations on the environment and human rights. I have also been known to sell roses at the farmers’ market and teach English to Otomi mariachis at dawn.

I am currently building my dentist a yacht. So forgive the unabashed self-promotion but if you have work for me, definitely holler. No job too small. Según el sapo, la pedrada. I can travel at the drop of a hat and have my own translating equipment.

Además if you wanna see me out of UN drag, verify that women do, in fact, weld, commission a major monument or personal altar or just check out my sculptures, pica la salsa aquí: OJO: Bronze statues ain’t chilaquiles. So piensa en what a small used car costs. Now, we know that you speak Spanish since we saw you translate for Edison Peña. How did you come to learn Spanish? Are there any other languages you speak? Have you always loved language?

Cassandra: Aprendí a medio-masticar español cotorreando en las calles de Tenochtitlan. When I was 19, I went to México with three words: hola, amigo, and adios which, when you think about it, sort of covers the span of el convivir. I wanted to read Neruda without translation and hunt down l@s niet@s de Siquieros. For twelve years, I basked in México’s phenomenal legacy of la plástica concientizadora.

Por otro lado, I am the sheepish runt of a long line of linguists. I can chew the fat in French and Portuguese, too. I adore the crazy salad of speaking several languages all at once because it makes the colors in your paintbox shimmer infinitely.

Creo que slang is the cutting edge of language, the wiry green potato shoots of parlance. Homemade slang allows you to playfully skate the idiom and plasmar tu realidad mágica in your own terms. I especially love el huapango del albur.

Asímismo considero que la alegría es el secreto de la resistencia – joy is the secret of resistance -y contar un buen chiste que ilumina una sonrisa o un knee-slapping carcajada es unos de los mejores regalos que se puede brindar. I also have a special fondness for translating prayers.

Perhaps this sounds nerdy but etymology actually excites me. Digging for the twists and turns of meaning is like foraging for sassafras in the swamp. It gets you muddy, makes you bow in reverence to the Earth and, ultimately, heals you.

Para mi, consciousness of origins goes hand and hand with la vida’s invitation to Signify. There is nothing more deadening than the flight from significance and the copout of being innocuous As Le Chic says, “Don’t be a drag, participate.” Daring to give a damn is where it is at. What is the best thing about being a translator/interpreter?

Cassandra: The best thing about being an interpreter is bringing people together and helping the voiceless have a voice. Ya sabes, ¡la traducción de la liberación! What is the most challenging thing about being a translator/interpreter?

Cassandra: Whether at the UN or at the grassroots, getting caught in the crossfire can be dangerous and draining. Sometimes I really wanna hold up a sign that says “Don’t shoot me, I’m only the piano player!” Are there any Spanish accents/dialects you like best?

Cassandra: I enjoy working with Indigenous Peoples because the poetry of their cosmovisión moves me. How did you feel appearing on David Letterman? Is this your most exciting moment as a translator/interpreter so far or have there been others?

Cassandra: Truth is bright lights don’t float my boat. What turns me on as an interpreter is when people feel each other. Memorable moments include sitting on a dock on a bay watching dolphins play in the turquoise waves while helping an Inuit and a Kuna compare notes on kayaks and canoes. Another special chat was between a German geneticist and a Zapotec curandero on the effects of consuming GMO corn. (They both agreed it hinders digestion and depresses you aka te empacha y te debilita el espíritu.) I also treasure the time I translated for Berito KuwarU’wa in front of the International Court of Justice. So many readers and friends of have said to me both publicly and privately that they adore you. Did you realize how many people were charmed by your performance on David Letterman, or were you shocked at the response?

Cassandra: I am thrilled that Edison rocked the house. The man has been there and come back. (Goya and Dante ain’t got nothing on this dude.) One can only be dazzled by his wonderfulness and luminous afán to live life to the hilt. So, frankly, I didn’t give a thought to myself. But the other day at the Laundromat, I heard Carol King sing “Show the world all the love in your heart!” and realized that is certainly my aspiration.
The way you and Edison Peña interacted, you seemed like old friends! After working closely with a client, do you often have the opportunity to stay in touch? If not, do you ever feel a little sad to have made friends and then have to say goodbye?

Cassandra: Pues, I am very blessed to interpret for people that I care about and believe in so I almost never conceive of them as a “client” and almost always stay friends for life. Cassandra, thank you again for taking the time to speak with me. It is a real pleasure and I know my readers would also like to extend their thanks and good wishes to you. Buena suerte in everything you do!

Cassandra: Thank you! ¡Pórtense mal y cuídense bien!

Chilean Miner, Edison Peña (and the art of translating the untranslatable?)

I shared this video interview already via FB and Twitter. I’ve also watched it about a dozen times and it still makes me laugh. When the Chilean miners were rescued, everyone thought for sure that “Super Mario” was going to be “the funny one”, but I think he’s got some competition. Edison Peña, (the one who loves Elvis and used to run in the mine for exercise), is hilarious. He’s visiting the U.S. on an invitation to run the N.Y. City Marathon and see Graceland. He was also interviewed by David Letterman where he broke into a spontaneous Elvis impersonation mini-concert.

I have a little trouble understanding Edison’s accent, so I’m not totally sure, but does any native Spanish speaker, (particularly those familiar with the Chilean accent), agree with me that the translator isn’t exactly translating word for word? She seems to add more on to what he’s said, (maybe she’s answering with things he’s said to her in previous conversations.) Maybe there wasn’t a way to literally translate what was said by Edison or David Letterman, but she’s quite funny herself and did an admirable job.

Hopefully Edison will love Graceland, but apparently he isn’t all that impressed with New York. When taken to see the Statue of Liberty he’s quoted as saying, “It is not white? I thought it was bigger and whiter…In the movies, it looks whiter.”

Then after eating a hot dog with ketchup and mustard from a cart downtown he gestured that they were “so-so” and explained, “In Chile, they are better!”

While some Americans might take these sorts of comments as insults, I find them hilarious. Edison reminds me very much of my Salvadoran in-laws when they come to visit. I guess watching so many Hollywood movies gets the expectations up a little too high and reality just can’t compete.

[Quote source: Flores.]

Push Carros

On the border between Guatemala and El Salvador, people use push carts on tracks to travel back and forth. A resident interviewed by Univision who uses the “push carros” says, “Para nosotros, no hay frontera. [Somos] iguales.” (Translation: “For us, there is no border. We are equals.”) … What a beautiful thought.

Click the image below to go to the video on