Obama honors prominent Hispanics with National Medal of Arts

World-renowned chef José Andrés and authors Sandra Cisneros and Rudolfo Anaya among those presented with the National Medal of Arts at the White House Reception

President Barack Obama honors Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros with the National Medal of Arts. (PHOTO: AP)
English 22/09/2016 21:07 EFE Washington, D.C. Actualizada 21:13
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President Barack Obama celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month today by honoring prominent Latinos, such as Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros, Spanish vhef José Andrés and activist Luis Valdez, who uses theater as a tool for social change.

Obama personally presented the National Medals 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.

“Historically, this has been a much more staid affair,” joked Obama, after Brooks set a much more lighthearted tone for the normally serious event.

90 year-old Brooks was the first to take the stage of the 24 who were honored with a National Medal, one of the highest civilian honors in the U.S. Obama, before presenting Brooks with his medal, congratulated him for “a life dedicated to making the world laugh.”


Award-winning poet and author Sandra Cisneros, whose novel “The House on Mango Street” is considered one of the greatest achievements in Chicano literature, was honored by Obama, who thanked her for “enriching the American narrative” through her stories about race, class and gender.

After the ceremony in an interview with EFE, the author, who was born in the United States but who has since moved to Mexico, said that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is “a very frightened” 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."

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