Kennedy Center Honors ignoring Hispanics?

Sept. 29, 2012 at 6:17 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington has effectively excluded Hispanics from its prestigious awards, the head of a Hispanic arts group says.

Out of 175 performers receiving Kennedy Center Honors, only two have been Hispanic, The Washington Post reported. Placido Domingo, the Spanish-born opera star, was honored in 2000 and stage star Chita Rivera, who is of Puerto Rican descent, in 2002.

Felix Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, said that when he attempted to discuss this with Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, Kaiser became enraged and hung up on him, using an obscenity. Kaiser apologized in a letter sent Thursday.

"I am writing to apologize for the language I used during our telephone call. It was an unfortunate choice of words, and I deeply regret using them in frustration during our conversation," Kaiser said.

Sanchez told the Post he accepts the apology. He said the larger issue is still open.

"But I still think the Kennedy Center has to acknowledge the exclusion and make a commitment to some systematic changes with the show, which was not addressed in the letter," he said. "You can't have excluded a community for a third of a century and not acknowledge it formally, that in fact this was a big mistake."

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