Emilio Estefan Jr.: The Current Q & A
What should we expect this year [at the People En Español Festival]?
It’s going to be a spectacular stage. We’re bringing the light person who worked at the Olympics and the MTV Awards. And the fact that it’s in San Antonio is very significant, because it was in SA that the first Spanish-language radio, TV station, and newspaper in the U.S. were born. It’s going to be a very beautiful event and people will have a lot of fun.
I hope so. Last year’s success took place more on stage than in the stands…
That was expected. When you organize a festival, you never know what’s going to happen. I heard not too many people showed up, but I also know this year [People En Español] wants to add more things and make everything bigger. … I remember the first time we did the Calle 8 festival [in Miami] only 30,000 showed up, and now we have more than a million people. It’s the biggest festival in the U.S. What we want is for this festival to keep growing and become part of the history of San Antonio.
Any confirmed artists yet?
The artists are being chosen by People [En Español], I only do the production. Of course, I’ll have my input, but they choose the artists. Obviously, if an artist has Billboard, Grammy, Premio Lo Nuestro presence, those artists must be there. I’ve been blessed to work with people like Alejandro Fernández, Carlos Vives, Christian Castro, Thalía… I mean: I work with several markets, not only Cuban, Mexican, or Dominican. We’re talking about people like Jennifer López, Marc Anthony, Shakira… People that have sold albums and tickets all over the world. But I don’t want to be racist and not use rhythms of other regions: we should go beyond borders. I want to use music from the Caribbean, Brazil, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Colombia… We’re a great family with lots of different rounds, and we’re all united by our culture. Thirty-five years ago it would’ve been impossible to do an event like this because there was so much racism against us Latinos. When institutions like People En Español and the City of San Antonio open their doors to an event like this, we should all highlight the union of all Latinos, our different flavors. This is the best time in history for Latinos not only in the United States, but all over the world. The idea is to have variety and for people to enjoy. And we want to use local talent too.
Really? On stage? Last year, the local talent was only found at the free events at the Convention Center…
Yes, but they used mariachi… [Luis Miguel was backed by Mariachi Sol de México]
The mariachi came from LA…
Look, I come to help… By the way, I’m producing Chris Pérez right now.
I’ve been working with him for about six months. I’m always looping for talent, no matter where it comes from.
When will the album come out?
We’ll see. You know, the recording industry has changed a lot. But I’ve always believed in rock en español.
I know. I remember when you gave me those Vallejo and Del Castillo CDs you had produced.
Of course… When Sony merged with BMG, acts that weren’t very popular became neglected and weren’t allowed to grow. Chris is a great person, a talent I respect, and I love him immensely as a person and as a musician. He liked what I wrote for him and I liked what he had been working on. When we finish the album, we’ll either release it through a major label or independently. When beautiful things come out of San Antonio, New York, Puerto Rico or wherever, us Latinos must unite and support each other.
Yes, but you’re well aware some people will have reservations, as they did at the launch of the Latin Grammy in 2000.
I was so frustrated by all the Latin Grammy controversy, I didn’t understand what was happening. The big confusion took place in the first year, when I was chosen as Personality of the Year and people started saying that the Latin Grammy was a birthday party for me [Note from the author: Some even called it “The Emilio Estefan Awards”]. But, really, that’s an award given to different people every year, and the first year they gave it to me.
Some of those who complained about the very existence of the Latin Grammy cooled off as soon as they became Personality of the Year themselves, like Vicente Fernández [Alejandro’s father].
[he laughs] You know something? [Vicente] once told me the best thing that happened to Alejandro was me, that I was his second father. I went to Vicente’s house six months ago and he gave me a mariachi suit and a charro hat as a present. So there you have it. In the long run, the truth always comes out. Even though Alejandro continues singing rancheras, what I did with Alejandro [pop] took him to a whole new, international level. Real artists transcend frontiers.
And in 2000 you happened to be the hottest Latin producer in the world, and it was the Latin Academy [LARAS] that voted for them.…
I fought for 14 years in order to give birth to the Latin Grammy, and now you see the benefits in all of our countries. We need to criticize less, especially when the criticism is targeted to people who work. Those who criticize are always people who don’t do anything. On that year we had Shakira, Jennifer López, Marc Anthony, Carlos Vives, Ricky Martin, Gloria [Estefan]… I had them all. What am I going to do? I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do: I’m not going to apologize for my work. I work to lift my race and my music. Those who like it, like it. Those who don’t, don’t, and I don’t care. All I can tell you is that [the People En Español Festival] will continue growing and it will be seen by a lot of people, not only from San Antonio. You’ll see. — Enrique Lopetegui