In 1950, one in 50 Americans were Latino. By 2050, it will be one in three. The country is changing, and Latinos are taking their place at the table as the new American power brokers in the world of entertainment, business, politics and the arts. Once on the margins of American society, Latinos are now the mainstream, and the proof is in the music.
The Latin Explosion: A New America celebrates the music, the artists and the visionaries who have pioneered this sea change, exploring how the growing Latino community is impacting American culture for the better. Anchoring the film are exclusive interviews with the musicians at the center of Latino power and influence in this country, including Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, Ricky Martin, Romeo Santos, members of Los Lobos, Rita Moreno, Jose Feliciano and others. They talk about their lives and music, as the film celebrates their mega crossover hits that have defined the American experience and set the stage for the "Latin Explosion" in all aspects of American life.
Also included are decade-by-decade profiles of many of the Latino pioneers who blazed a trail for today's stars, including: Pérez Prado, Xavier Cugat, Machito and Tito Puente, whose Afro-Cuban sounds were embraced by NYC high society in the 1940s and 1950s; Desi Arnaz, the singer/bandleader ("Babalu") who became a phenomenally successful TV star/executive (I Love Lucy) and husband to Lucille Ball; Rita Moreno, whose breakout performance in the 1961 film West Side Story won her an Oscar® (the first Latina actor to do so); 1950s-60s rock/pop acts like Ritchie Valens, Sam the Sham (of the Pharaohs), Question Mark (of the Mysterians) and Carlos Santana, all Americans with deep Latin roots; Jose Feliciano, the blind Puerto Rican singer/songwriter who vaulted to fame with his interpretation of The Doors' "Light My Fire" but was blackballed for playing a Latin-inspired version of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the 1968 World Series; Celia Cruz and members the Fania All-Stars, who brought salsa music to the masses in the 1970s; Cheech Marin of "Cheech and Chong" fame, who was born and raised in LA and whose father was an LAPD officer; Gloria Estefan and Emilio Estefan, Cuban immigrants whose band, the Miami Sound Machine, became one of the most successful pop acts of the 1980s; and recent breakthrough stars like Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin (who started in the band "Menudo"), Los Lobos, Pitbull and Romeo Santos.
The film begins and ends with concert footage of Santos, the "King of Bachata" who sold out Yankee Stadium two nights in a row. Such mass popularity and influence has become the norm in a country where over 50 million Hispanics now live; as the Latino rapper Pitbull says matter-of-factly, "Next step, the White House!"
Credits: Directed & produced by Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill; created by Tommy Mottola; executive producers, Tommy Mottola and Sheila Nevins; senior producer, Sara Bernstein; produced by Xochitl Dorsey; production executive, Susan Benaroya.