Scores of celebrities including Wizards of Waverly Place star Selena Gomez, American Idol runner-up David Archuleta and actor Antonio Banderas came together last month for the 2009 ALMA Awards. The National Council La Raza (NCLR) organizes the event each year to honor outstanding Latinos in the entertainment industry.
This year's ceremony took place at Royce Hall Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, on September 17. It marked the first time in history that the ALMA Awards were held during Hispanic Heritage Month—September 15 to October 15—a time when Americans celebrate the contributions Latinos have made to the nation today and through history. TFK Kid Reporter Nabor S. Mireles III was there for the big event.
What is the NCLR?
The NCLR was founded in 1968. Its mission is to promote the advancement of Latino families in the United States by creating opportunities through education, community service, housing and more. It is the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the country.
ALMA stands for American Latino Media Arts. Alma is also Spanish for spirit or soul. The ALMA Awards were created by the NCLR in 1995 to recognize Latino performers who promote positive portrayals of the Latino community through entertainment.
A Star-Studded Evening
Comedian George Lopez and actress Eva Longoria co-hosted the event this year. There were performances by pop stars Shakira and Nelly Furtado. TFK talked to some of the nominees on the red carpet before the ceremony. David Archuleta told TFK that he was thrilled to be attending the ALMA Awards for the first time. "It's very exciting [to be here]," said the American Idol runner-up. "I get to learn more about my culture." Later that evening, Archuleta won the award for Year in Music-New Artist. The pop star also performed one of his songs in Spanish--the first time Archuleta has done so for television.
Jake T. Austin was nominated for his role as Max Russo on Disney Channel's Wizards of Waverly Place. The 14-year-old says he's proud of his heritage and what the ALMA Awards represent. "It's about bringing Latino Hollywood together and being able to show our pride," Austin told TFK. "It's incredible to be nominated against guys like George Lopez and Charlie Sheen who are some of my idols. It's an honor to be here." Austin did not win the Year in Television-Comedy Actor award (the honor went to Oscar Nunez of The Office), but his costar Selena Gomez did take home the award for TV Comedy Actress.
Actress Salma Hayek was given the night's highest honor, the Anthony Quinn Award for Industry Excellence. The night's other winners included boxer Oscar De La Hoya, who won the award for Special Achievement in Sports Television, and actor John Leguizamo for his role in the movie, Nothing Like the Holidays. "I can't believe I won," Leguizamo said during his acceptance speech. "I feel like they made a mistake and someone is going to come here and take my award away!"
Throughout the ceremony were reminders of the importance of getting involved in the community. NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguia told the audience, "Our mission is to open the door to all Americans. So, please, get involved . . . with your family, in your community and your country."
First Lady Michelle Obama also had a special message to deliver: "Service is something that I and the President take seriously... Please join us in volunteering in the spirit of serving in your community. Remember that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things."
It was a dream come true and the chance of a lifetime to cover the 2009 ALMA Awards. It was worth the trip from Texas to experience this amazing event!