In a year when ‘Despacito’ dominated the music charts – even before Justin Beiber jumped into the act – Latinos left a giant footprint on the culture and entertainment scene.
It was a year where an animated Disney/Pixar movie thrilled audiences on both sides of the border, where a Coachella Valley-style music concert landed in the San Joaquín Valley, and where Mexican folklórico dance flourished.
We did our homework in coming up with the 17 top cultural and entertainment events of 2017.
Had Disney not made a huge blunder by trying to trademark Día de los Muertos in 2013, moviegoers in México and the United States would probably not have flooded the theaters to make the movie the top-seller in Mexican history and the No. 1 box office winner three weeks in a row.
As of Dec. 24, the movie had collected $491 million worldwide, including $164 million in the U.S., $154.8 million in China, and, $57.3 million in México.
When Latinos lashed out at the corporation’s effort to profit on the Mexican holiday’s growing popularity, Disney had no choice but to withdraw its trademark application. But, then it did the smart thing by hiring consultants like cartoonist Lalo Alcáraz (yes, the one whose ire was displayed in a drawing of a giant skeleton of Mickey Mouse a la Godzilla) who provided Pixar with the magic touch that made ‘Coco’ so enduring for many generations.
Abuelita using her chancla (shoe) as a weapon and even twirling it like a gunslinger; the colorful bridge of marigolds; the magical transformation of Dante, a Xolo dog, into an alebrije; or, the dead-on impersonation of a ranchera singer by Ernesto de la Cruz would probably have not occurred.
“Pixar was already on its way to making this a culturally authentic film and we met somewhere in the middle,” Alcáraz told The Chicago Tribune. “And even though I’m not very corporate, they listened to what I had to say.”
It helped also that Adrián Molina served as co-director.
The result: 12-year-old Miguel Rivera takes you into an adventure about the meaning of family, love/hate battle over music while on his quest to become the musician he had always dreamed off being and has kept a secret from his family. ‘Coco’ remained true to the Mexican culture of Día de los Muertos, and we can agree it is the best film ever produced that truly represents Latino values and culture.
After months and months of preparation for one of the most unique festivals in California, PuebloFest 2017 landed in March at the sprawling International Ag Center in Tulare. Like many inaugural events, some things worked (the entertainment) and some didn’t (long lines where people loaded cash into their bracelets). In the end, the music by the likes of Los Tigres del Norte, Los Tucanes de Tijuana and Voz de Mano made the three-day music festival a success. There was also folkloric dancing in addition to education components (former astronaut José Hernández and the Díaz brothers from ‘McFarland USA’ fame were motivational speakers).
3. Arte Américas’ 30th anniversary
Not only has the Fresno-based Latino cultural arts center has outlasted bigger and more prestigious museums, but it has managed to grow with its Plaza Paz summer music series and an eclectic collection of Latino poets, filmmakers, photographers, musicians and artists from traditional and non-traditional media. Its Cala Gala celebration has grown so large that it is now held at Eaton Plaza. Its success: A reliance on an army of volunteers and key benefactors.
4. Latino Spirit Awards
The Latino Legislative Caucus in Sacramento started the Latino Spirit Awards in 2002 to to coincide with the state’s acknowledgment of Cinco de Mayo and to highlight positive role models in the Latino community. The caucus has recognized the elite in various fields, including the arts, literature, sciences and education, among others. This year, ‘Coco’ co-director Adrián Molina was among those honored. Others included author Isabel Allende, journalist María Elena Salinas, and, Fresno State president Joseph I. Castro.
5. Danzantes Unidos Festival
Mexican culture at its best! More than 1,500 dancers from throughout the United States and México took part in the three-day festival held on the Clovis East High School campus. Three nights of showcase concerts at the Warnors Theatre spotlighted more than a dozen groups performing dances from the various regions of México. The workshop instructors included México City’s Amalia Viviana Basante Hernández, daughter Amalia Hernández, the founder/director of Ballet Folklórico México de Amalia Hernández.
6. Principal’s Lip Sync Contest
The Fresno Latino Rotary Club resurrected a competition that began more than two decades ago in Modesto where high school principals lip synced to Spanish-language music while backed by student-led choreography. In the end, each school gets scholarship funds for students. More importantly, principals get a chance to bond with Latino students. The 2017 winners were Central High principal Robert Pérez (large schools) and Farmersville High principal Lisa Whitworth (small schools). The real winners were students who got a piece of the $18,000 in scholarship funds.
7. Trevi, Guzmán tour
You could say that the concert Gloria Trevi vs. Alejandra Guzmán in June at Fresno’s Save Mart Center was full of magic and energy that these 49-year-old rock divas transmitted to their fans. The excellent combination of Trevi-Guzmáan transported the attendees to relive memories of their adolescence in the nineties with successes like ‘Luz de Luna,’ ‘La Plaga,’ as well as ‘Pelo Suelto’ and ‘Zapatos Viejos,’ among many others. Trevi and Guzmán complemented each other by giving the best of them to their audience that easily chanted along at the top of their lungs.
8. Rita Moreno details abuse
The 85-year-old Rita Moreno received a standing ovation in October at The Paley Center for Media after telling her story of being a victim of sexual abuse by the head of 20th Century Fox when she was just a teenager. The legendary actress spoke about being chased by a studio chief when she was 18.
9. Salma speaks out
In a very recent New York Times op-ed, Salma Hayek broke her silent about the sexual harassment she faced during the production of her movie ‘Frida’ by disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Hayek is one of the latest Hollywood stars to come forward with allegations against Weinstein.
10. ‘Despacito’ at Latin Grammys
The phenomenon of ‘Despacito,’ by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, became the most-watched video on YouTube with more than 3 million views. The song captured four Latin Grammys in November. The song, which was joined later by Justin Bieber, tied the record for most weeks at the top of hte Billboard charts with 16.
11. Selena on walk of fame
Tejano superstar Selena Quintanilla, who was murdered in 1995, received posthumously her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her sister, Suzette Quintanilla, said getting the start shows that “the queen of Tejano music” left a legacy “that will always remain.”
12. Fresno State honors director
From political organizer to award-winning movie producer, Moctesuma Esparza took a difficult road to becoming a movie producer. The award-winning producer, entertainment executive, entrepreneur, and community activist was honored on Oct. 25 by Fresno State University on the 20th anniversary of his film ‘Selena.’ Students got to meet and talk to him about his life and the road to becoming the person he is today.
13. Enrique Iglesias, Pitbull delivered energy
Their October concert at the Save Mart Center didn’t deliver on the same level as Trevi-Guzmán, but Iglesias and Pitbull delivered the full package although, unlike the female stars, they did not share the stage together. The place was practically full as it was difficult to see empty seats and attendees sang the songs of both artists at the top of their lungs, danced, and jumped during the show.
14. Miss California Pageant
The days when only one or two Latinas joined the hopefuls for the Miss California crown are in the past. The 93rd edition of the pageant boasted seven Latinas at Fresno’s Saroyan Theatre in late June. Miss Southland J.R. Nessary, who recovered from a car accident that ended her softball career, was the top Latina contestant by finishing among the top 15 and winning the Miracle Maker Award.
15. ‘The Shape of Water’
Leave it to Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro to produce, direct and write one of the most-talked about movies with the Cold War fairy tale ‘The Shape of Water.’ The film, which was released in December, generated Oscar buzz by collecting seven Golden Glove nominations. Critics have rated the movie better than Del Toro’s 2006 movie ‘Pan’s Labyrinth.’
16. Talento Vivo en el Valle
The second annual Spanish-language talent show ‘Talento Vivo en el Valle’ in June at the Gallo Center in Modesto showcased the region’s best Latino talent. The competition was open to Ballet Folklorico groups and Mariachi/Ranchera singers from Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Merced, Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. The 2017 winner was Ballet Folklórico Anahauc.
17. La Guelaguetza
The indigenous festival in Fresno is not only organized and led by young people, but it is an example of how the indigenous migrant community has matured in the United States. The festival, which celebrated its 19th edition, was organized by the Binational Center for the Indigenous Development of Oaxaca.