Powerhouses from the Latino community, including Mario Lopez, “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria and the iconic Charo, are descending on Los Angeles for what might be the largest quinceañera, or 15th birthday celebration, ever.
Friday night on msnbc, the National Council de la Raza (NCLR) will broadcast the 15th Annual ALMA Awards, which will honor Pitbull, “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro and the creative teams behind “Ceasar Chavez” and “Orange is the New Black” for their contributions to music, film and television.
“It’s not often that we get to see so many positive examples … by Latinos, and seeing that demonstrated as part of the American fabric, the American culture,” NCLR Vice President Delia de la Vara said about her organization’s flagship event, “that it’s not a separate thing; it is part of who we are in this country.”
Lopez and Longoria will co-host this year’s awards show. Longoria was forthcoming about her nervousness when she took a break from preparations to speak with reporters on Thursday.
“We have such a short-hand and such an energy between us, because we’ve known each other for so long,” Longoria said. “I kind of just lean on him and throw everything to him, as he’s the professional host.”
What makes the ALMAs unique from other awards shows is its effort to strengthen Latino voices in every part of society, not just the entertainment industry.
“Every year that we’ve had the opportunity to remind people of their civic duty whether it was the presidential election or midterm elections, we definitely take advantage of having this audience available to us,” Longoria said.
Eva Longoria wants to hear from you! Ask her a question about the upcoming 2014 midterms using the hashtag #ALMA14, and she may answer it live on After the ALMAs, which will be hosted by Alex Wagner live on msnbc at 11 p.m. ET tonight.
For the issues most important to the Latino community, including health care, the economy, education and immigration, the stakes in this year’s midterm elections are high, according to de la Vara.
“If we want solutions and change on these issues, we need to vote in numbers as large as our population in this nation,” she told msnbc.
The NCLR has more than 300 affiliates across the nation, and viewers will have the opportunity throughout the show to find out how to get involved in issues important to them and across all platforms.
For Longoria, who is also one of the show’s executive producers, this is perhaps the most important part of the ALMAs, and she hopes that young Latinos watching the show will take note.
“There’s many ways to be famous. It doesn’t have to be through acting or singing,” Longoria told msnbc. “And so I think that’s why we put a really big effort into recognizing those humanitarian efforts on our show of people who have done amazing things that are, as we call civilians, outside of the entertainment industry.”
Among those civilians are the 17 Latinos who were honored with the Congressional Medal of Honor this past march. Actor Michael Peña will lead a special tribute to those who served with remarkable valor and courage in the U.S. military.
Receiving the Ricardo Montalban Award for Lifetime Achievement is the legendary singer, actress and comedienne Charo, who Longoria described as “the Latina Lucille Ball.” Known as much for her talent as for her flamboyant costumes and catch-phrase “cuhi-cuchi,” Charo knocked down racial barriers for a generation of Latinos.
In addition to recognizing those who paved the way, like Charo, the ALMAs have long been a platform for emerging talent, including Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, and Shakira, who made her ALMAs debut long before she was a household name in the U.S.
The ALMA Awards were first introduced by the NCLR in 1995. For 15 years, the show has promoted the inclusion and impact of the Latino story within larger American entertainment, media and society.
In honor of this year’s milestone show, the NCLR has created a group of 15 ambassadors known as the “Los Quinces,” or “ALMA’s 15,” who will share the most memorable moments from ALMA history.
“It’s going to be a great show, and we are eager what a great year this was for Latinos in entertainment, especially when it comes to music and television,” de la Vara said.