The delectable hors d’oeuvres passed around by the restaurant's staff included baby lamb chops, duck pâté with apricots, seafood risotto cakes, chicken satay, shrimp ceviche and caviar potatoes. In addition, guests enjoyed scrumptious offerings at the stationary international cheese and fruit, carved salmon teriyaki, Mediterranean and Spanish paella food stations. Guests also delighted in a souvenir photo booth that allowed them to take home a little piece of the evening.
The red carpet played host to the evening’s awardees representing the very best of Latino theatre as well as the evening’s special honorees that included film and television star Luis Guzmán, singer-actor-humanitarian Rubén Blades; broadcast journalist Natalie Morales of “The Today Show” and Teresa Yenque who was recognized for her over 40 years in acting. The New York International Latino Film Festival and Heineken were also recognized that evening for their individual endeavors in helping to promote Latino entertainment.
Attendees then proceeded upstairs for dinner and the awards program. Musical entertainment for the gala was brought to them by Grammy Award winning pianist and bandleader, Oscar Hernández, and his band (which included members of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra) that evening consisting of Mitch Frohman on saxophone, George Delgado on congas, Willie Martínez on drums and Rubén Rodríguez on bass. The band was joined by singers Natalie Toro, Eliseo Román and Henry Gaínza, also the evening’s Director of Entertainment, who brought to life song selections that brought attendees to their dancing feet.
Masters of ceremonies for the awards ceremony were Jorge Ramos and Odalys Molina of Telemundo and Sandra O'Neill of Univision.
A major surprise came at the beginning of the ceremony when New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg arrived at the Battery Gardens and regaled those in attendance with his Spanish speaking skills. The Mayor spoke on the importance of HOLA and all organizations that help promote Latino entertainment in the city.
Memorable speeches included one by “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” star Danny Pino, who was unable to attend due to his filming schedule but gave his thanks via a recorded video that also featured his adorable son. Other highlights included moving acceptance speeches by Teresa Yenque, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Arisleyda Lombert and Inma Heredia.Manolo García Oliva, President of HOLA’s Board of Directors, thanked the evening’s sponsors which included Delta Air Lines as well as silver level sponsors Heineken and NBCUniversal.
The evening’s major highlight included a musical tribute to Rubén Blades featuring song selections carefully chosen to represent Blades's many musical accomplishments. Blades was then presented the Raúl Juliá HOLA Founders Award award by Merel Juliá, widow of Blades’s personal friend, Raúl Juliá, for whom the award is named. Blades’s acceptance speech offered a humorous recollection of his departed friend as well as an inspirational anecdote that moved many in the audience.
The evening came to a close with a final musical number of Noel Estrada's classic song “En Mi Viejo San Juan” and guests left with a gift bag filled with Sandra Guzmán’s The New Latina’s Bible, styling gel from Ouidad, a stylish scarf from American Apparel and the latest issue of Latin Trends Magazine, a media sponsor of the event.
The highly successful gala was the embodiment of HOLA’s commitment to celebrating the very best in Latino entertainment and media. The evening’s lively music, star power and surprise visit by the city’s Mayor helped to showcase HOLA’s premier standing as one of the nation’s leading cultural institution’s and the country’s longest running arts advocacy organization.
[PHOTO CREDITS: All photographs in this article by ARuiz Photography.]