- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Ricky Martin is the embodiment of cool onstage when he belts out hits like "Livin' La Vida Loca." When three beautiful children from Calcutta joined him on the Kennedy Center's stage Friday night, the pop star's composure crumpled into tears of joy.
The children joined Mr. Martin last Thursday for the 16th annual Hispanic Heritage Awards, an evening flush with Latino pride.
The three girls had been flown in by the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation to give the group's annual award to Mr. Martin for his contributions to Hispanic culture. The singer had met them weeks earlier through his work with the Sabera Foundation, which assists international children in need.
This year's event, to be telecast Oct. 12 on NBC, also honored novelist Julia Alvarez, theologian Virgilio P. Elizondo, Olympic Gold medal speed skater Derek Parra and Lisa Quiroz, the founder and publisher of People en Espanol.
A Nehru-jacketed Mr. Martin, his now-long brown hair kissed with blond highlights, politely answered media questions after the show while gripping the young girls' hands.
"This is what I need to do, outside of music," Mr. Martin said as he shot the young girls an avuncular gaze. "If, through my music, I can make people's dreams come true, why not?"
Also by his side was Latino model Esther Canadas, though the statuesque stunner gracefully shared Mr. Martin's attentions with the children, who looked delighted but dazed by all the fuss.
Mr. Parra, like his fellow honorees, shed a good many tears during his acceptance speech.
"I think everyone here is like family," gushed the diminutive skater, who during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City became the first Mexican-American to earn an Olympic gold medal. "I've been to other Latin awards shows. You have that sense, that we all know each other."
Among those celebrating the extended family affair were seven-time Latin Grammy winner Juanes, actors Edward James Olmos, Bobby Cannavale (NBC's "ER" and "Third Watch") and Judy Reyes (NBC's "Scrubs"), "The Other Half" co-host Mario Lopez and NBC news anchor Soledad O'Brien.
Mr. Olmos sounded a less optimistic note as he wove his way through the Kennedy Center's bustling atrium, where well-wishers gathered for a post-awards-show fiesta.
The Oscar-nominated actor, when asked about Latino presence on television, bemoaned what he called "black and white" programming.
"There's no color: no Asians, no Latinos, no indigenous people. It's a wasteland," he said.
Mr. Olmos said he feels that the few Latino-themed shows his own "American Family" on PBS and ABC's "The George Lopez Show" are merely oases in that "wasteland." Hispanics deserve better, he said, but they are not going to get it until producers figure out how to successfully target the country's fastest-growing market.

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