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Emilio Estefan Jr. on SA, Chris Perez, and the 'People en Espanol' Festival

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

Emilio Estefan Jr. and Miami, the city whose sound he helped define.

Photo: , License: N/A


Wanna bitch about the second annual People en Español Festival in San Antonio? Here's some ammunition: Emilio Estefan Jr. (Miami Sound Machine, Shakira, Marc Anthony, J. Lo, and tons of other credits) will be the event's artistic producer of the August 31 and September 1 festival at the Alamodome.
Not that you need any, but if you're looking for more arguments to dismiss People en Español's second try at the Alamodome (after a disappointing first year), choose from the following:

1. A Cuban American in San Antonio??!! They'll turn Saytown into Miami!!

2. The guy's known as the ultimate commercial Latin producer! What we need is someone who understands the sophistication of Mexican American music and San Antonio's demographics!

3. The guy's past his prime!

Are you done? OK, guess what — I think having Estefan direct the People en Español Festival is a great idea. And here's why.

Subjective reasons:

a. I like the Estefans. As someone who grew up under a right-wing military dictatorship, I was always horrified whenever I saw a Cuban holding "VIVA REAGAN" signs. And the Estefans, I thought, were the symbol of that Cuban-American lack of sensitivity: the cubanos in Miami were all for "freedom," but the torture and disappearance of people at the hands of U.S.-backed military governments in Latin America wasn't something they gave a hamster's ass about. Yet, when Gloria Estefan became my first major interview for the Los Angeles Times in 1993 (she was promoting her superb Mi Tierra album), I discovered an intelligent, honest woman with her own mind. We spoke about the time she defended merengue superstar Juan Luis Guerra from inaccurate "¡comunista!" accusations ("One owes respect to any human being, no matter what his ideas are," she said), and years later Cuban rocker (and Cuba-based) Carlos Varela told me about the amazing day she met Gloria at the Madrid airport. ("We were separated by glass, but we were able to communicate as two Cubans," he told me. "There was no difference between us. She was very classy.")

b. Emilio can dig rock 'n' roll. At one of the Latin Grammy celebrations in the early 2000s, once he knew of my interest in Latin rock, he told me, "I have two things I'm working on … I think you'll like them." Hours later, he came with two CDs he was producing for Vallejo and Del Castillo. I dug Vallejo better, but that was irrelevant: what I was impressed with was the fact that he was open to other things besides the deliberate commercial, crisp Miami Sound. And now he's producing what will arguably be the biggest album by Chris Pérez, Selena's widower. "I've been working with Chris for six months," Estefan told the Current (in Spanish) on the phone from the SA airport in late January. "I always look for talent, wherever it may be. 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."

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