The Latino music concert to get out the vote

A host of stars appeared at the Rise Up as One event in San Diego on Saturday

Los Tigres del Norte during the concert on Saturday.Video: S. Huffaker / EFE
Pablo Ximénez de Sandoval

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La música latina pide el voto junto a la valla de Tijuana

Some paellas have consequences. Take, for example, the classic Valencian dish that music producer Javier Limón made for singer Jorge Drexler and two Univision executives recently. The meal led to a conversation about the need to show the best of Latino contributions to the United States. And that idea led to a free three-hour concert held on Saturday near the Tijuana-San Diego border, which featured an impressive lineup of Latino stars who have rarely performed together before.

The concert, Rise Up as One, was held on Saturday afternoon in the open air near the busiest border in the world. Though not marketed as a political event, the show’s significance is clear given its context, and organizers did not deny what many saw as their aims. The US presidential campaign has centered around the xenophobic rhetoric of Republican candidate Donald Trump and its attendant political divisiveness. Performers and organizers avoided mentioning the property magnate-turned politician by name – perhaps to avoid giving him yet more publicity.

We are not going to talk about politics but celebrate diversity and remember what makes us all equal Concert organizer Kevin Mills

American Spanish language broadcast television network Univision is playing an unprecedented role in the run-up to these elections in a bid to get the Latino community to exercise its right to vote, motivated by the attacks against Mexicans that have been a cornerstone of Donald Trump’s campaign right from the start.

“Music has a universal power to unite,” said Kevin Mills, Univision’s vice-president of digital strategy and one of the organizers of the concert. “It has a unifying power that goes beyond politics. We are not going to talk about politics but celebrate diversity and remember what makes us all equal.” Organizers wanted to offer a positive message, in favor of issues, not against.

Musically, the show was a unique opportunity to see a group of first-rate Latino musicians live. Los Tigres del Norte, Andra Day, Jesse & Joy, Carlos Vives, Miguel Bosé, Juanes, Natalia Lafourcade, Lupillo Rivera, Lila Downs, Jorge Drexler, Julieta Venegas, Becky G, Luis Coronel, Fonseca, Debi Nova, Alejandro Sanz (who performed with the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra), and Residente from the group Calle 13. The set list included global hits such as “Hasta la raíz” by Ladourcade, Juanes’ “A Dios Le Pido” and “Ese Camino” by Venegas.

“Vote based on what you hear, your vote is important,” Alejandro Sanz told reporters. “This is important. What happens here with the election will have consequences for many years. For everyone, but especially for immigrants.”

“Your voice is your vote. The moment to do it is now,” Miguel Bosé said from the stage. “Go out and vote, it is the only way they will respect you,” Los Tigres del Norte added.

A group of volunteers registered people to vote under a nearby tent, while next door t-shirts were being handed out that read simply: “Vote.” Artist after artist repeated the message, as did presenters such as actor Gael García Bernal and film director Jonás Cuarón: Latinos, a demographic that traditionally shows little engagement with politics, must make their voices heard in the United States by voting – especially in this upcoming election, when they have more reasons to do so than ever before.

Your voice is your vote. The moment to do it is now

Miguel Bosé

California’s Senate President pro tempore Kevin de León – a San Diego native, Latino and true borderland Chicano – was in the audience. De León, the Latino politician who holds the highest elected office in the state, said he was “very proud” of being at a concert “for our people,” one that has a “very powerful” message. As he danced to the sounds of Los Tigres del Norte and sipped a beer, he told EL PAÍS: “We have never seen a candidate in recent history with such vile rhetoric, using the most vulnerable as scapegoats for economic and political problems. For the first time in my life, I have a sense of what it would mean to live under a dictator.”

Just like De León, many in the crowd were also from border towns. Sisters Angélica and Grecia Piña, 20 and 19 years old, registered to vote at the event. They are US citizens because their father wanted them to be born on this side of the border but they live in Tijuana because they do not like the American education system. They will vote for Hillary Clinton. “I am against Trump and she is the only alternative,” Angélica says. She was with a friend, Melodie Rocha, a Tijuana native who buys tools in San Diego for sale on the other side. These women represent the everyday people who live along the US-Mexican border, although it is difficult to explain this normality to the rest of the country. Saturday’s concert, however, tried its best to do just that.

English version by Dyane Jean François.


P. X. S.

Rise Up As One was the brainchild of Spanish producer Javier Limón, who managed to bring together a spectacular group of Latino artists to the Tijuana-San Diego border to call for a massive Latino voter turnout in the November 8 presidential election.

“The original idea was from me, Jorge Drexler and Alejandro Sanz. We wanted to do something on the border two weeks before the election. We managed to do it within an infinitely complex legal structure and everyone responded,” the Boston-based producer told EL PAÍS backstage at the concert. “Those artists have never gotten together in the United States to send such a clear message to Latinos. They are not promoting anything and we are not giving out awards,” he said, in reference to the usual manner in which such stars of the music world would get together.

"We could have put the political label on it but we didn't. It's a conversation that goes beyond politics. The paradigm of politics in the United States must change. That is the key to this concert," Limón said. "Latinos are a fundamental part of the culture of this country. I think a lot of people haven't realized that. You have Iñárritu [filmmaker], José Andrés [chef], Alejandro Sanz [musician]. We are at the highest level." Latinos, Limón said, "are no longer the people who park your car for you, and not everything is about the folklore. [...] This concert is a great example. It's an amazing show with great artists. We have to let go of our complexes."

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