White House celebrates Hispanic musical heritage

The White House was becoming “La Casa Blanca” on Tuesday, celebrating Hispanic musical heritage with a South Lawn concert and such guests as Gloria Estefan, George Lopez, the Bachata music group Aventura, Jose Feliciano and more.

President Barack Obama was delivering brief remarks before the infectious rhythms begin pulsating outside the White House.

“In Performance at the White House: Fiesta Latina” continues a music series launched by first lady Michelle Obama to highlight various genres of music. Jazz and country music events, with workshop for music students, have been held. A classical music show is on tap for Nov. 4.

Tuesday’s musical extravaganza comes during the month dedicated to celebrating the culture and traditions of Hispanics, the nation’s largest minority group at 15 percent of the U.S. population, according to Census Bureau figures.

Feliciano said he’s performed at the White House twice before, during the Reagan and Clinton administrations.

“I’m bipartisan,” he told reporters during a rehearsal break.

Feliciano said the concert is a good thing, but that Latin performers should be “part of the whole” and not just trotted out for Hispanic heritage month.

“It’s about time. After all, the only time that Latinos are called upon is when the elections are around,” he said.

Feliciano planned a duet with Estefan.

David Hidalgo, a singer-songwriter for the Chicano rock bank Los Lobos, said the show is very important because it will give performers “a chance to show a little bit of our culture.”

Other artists expected at the event, which is to be streamed live on http://www.whitehouse.gov, are Marc Anthony, Jimmy Smits, Eva Longoria Parker, Pete Escovedo, Thalia, Tito “El Bambino” and Sheila E.

Renowned Latin American chef Maricel Presilla was guest chef for the evening, working with the White House kitchen staff to prepare the menu of assorted finger foods, including Cuban roast pork, Puerto Rican pasteles, Argentinean beef empanadas with red chimichurri, Guatemalan slaw and chocolate-cheese flan with hibiscus sauce.

Tuesday’s concert was to be televised on Thursday by PBS, and on Saturday by the Spanish-language television network Telemundo.

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