Washington, Sep 22 (EFE).- U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday hailed Hispanic culture by presenting awards to key Latino figures, including Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros, Spanish chef Jose Andres and activist Luis Valdez, who uses theater as a tool for social change.
Obama personally presented the National Medal of Arts and Humanities awards at a White House reception, honoring not only key representatives of Hispanic culture but also other great cultural figures such as actor Morgan Freeman and comic Mel Brooks.
Brooks, 90, was the first of the 24 honorees to mount the stage to receive his award “for a lifetime of making the world laugh,” said Obama before presenting him with the medal.
With the medal around his neck, Brooks joked broadly with Obama and the audience, setting a lighthearted tone for the normally “staid” ceremony, as the president said.
Then it was the turn of Cisneros, the author of “The House on Mango Street” and considered to be one of the main creators of Chicano literature and whom Obama honored for “enriching the American narrative” through her stories of race, class and gender.
After the ceremony, in an interview with EFE, the author, born in the United States but who moved to Mexico, said that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is a man who hides his fear behind a “macho” public front.
Cisneros said she would love to talk with Trump and ask him questions, adding that it would be fascinating to know how a mature man gets to that age without being wise. She said that she would like to chat about the truth and listen to him because he’s an “enigma.”
With the presidential campaign as a backdrop, the award presented to Luis Valdez took on special significance. The activist in the defense of Mexican-American rights during the 1960s founded “El Teatro Campesino,” which served as a tool for social change for decades in organizing field workers, many of them Latinos, and he currently remains active in projects denouncing Trump’s attacks on immigrants.
He said that if the New York mogul becomes president the country will see “a lot” of protests via the arts and on the streets.
Also honored at the ceremony was Rudolfo Anaya, one of the founders of Chicano literature who, in his novels, revealed universal truths about the human condition and “spread a love of literature to new generations.”
Very popular for his novel “Bless Me, Ultima,” Anaya told EFE that the United States does not know the Hispanic culture well enough and, therefore, stereotypes persist that show Mexicans in a bad light, as criminals, and that serve as political fuel for people such as Trump.
One of the prestigious awards was also presented to chef Jose Andres, whom Obama honored for “cultivating our palates and shaping our culture.”
When asked about Trump after receiving his award, Jose Andres, who is presently involved in a lawsuit with the magnate, told EFE that the best way to fight any person who has negative messages is to give them a nice smile, go out to vote and cast one’s ballot for a “world of inclusion and not of exclusion.”
Also receiving an award at the ceremony was Latino musician Santiago Jimenez, Jr., well-known for his accordion work “blending the sounds and cultures of South Texas and Mexico.”