Coalition-building came with dance steps, sequins and plenty of rhythm at Fiesta Latina, a concert held Tuesday night in a tent on the South Lawn of the White House as part of the White House Music Series. From the open tent, the White House was the performers’ backdrop.
Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony, José Feliciano, Los Lobos, the New York bachata band Aventura, the Mexican singer Thalía, the reggaetón singer Tito El Bambino and the percussionist Pete Escovedo each performed a song or two, sharing a backup band led by Sheila E., Mr. Escovedo’s daughter.
Most of the musicians were Americans, but they had roots in Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The program featured a deliberately chosen, international assortment of styles: the salsa and Latin pop passionately belted by Mr. Anthony, cumbia and Chicano rock and roll from Los Lobos, Dominican bachata, Spanish classical music.
“Although Latin music takes many forms, the spirit of diversity also unifies us,” President Obama said in an opening speech.
“Fiesta Latina” is to be telecast Thursday on PBS stations as part of the series “In Performance at the White House.” It is also to be shown Sunday on the Telemundo network and Dec. 25 on the V-me channel.
“Even though it’s constantly evolving, Latin music speaks to us all in a language we can understand about hope and joy, sorrow and pain, friendship and love,” Mr. Obama said. “It moves us, and it tends to make us move a little bit ourselves.”
The musicians took him up on that. As Thalía sang “Amor a la Mexicana” (“Love Mexican Style”), she stepped off the stage to beckon Mr. Obama to dance, thanking Michelle Obama for letting him join her. Beaming at his moves, she approvingly said, “Macho.”
There were old songs, like Tito Puente’s “Oye Cómo Va” in a tribute segment by Mr. Escovedo and Sheila E., and Los Lobos’ version of the Ritchie Valens hit “La Bamba,” which had Mr. Obama and his daughters bobbing their heads and singing along. And there were two songs from the current Latin Top 10: Aventura’s “Su Veneno” (“Your Poison”) with the lilting syncopation of Dominican bachata, and Tito El Bambino’s celebration of love, “El Amor.”
In the audience were Hispanic legislators, the cabinet secretaries of labor (Hilda Solis) and the interior (Ken Salazar) and the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor, who got an unexpected hug from Tito El Bambino as he proclaimed “Puerto Rican pride.”
The musicians presented themselves largely as entertainers. “It’s a political event in that we’re here,” David Hidalgo of Los Lobos said before the concert, gesturing toward the White House. “But I think it’s more just to celebrate the culture.”
The hosts, Eva Longoria Parker, Jimmy Smits and George Lopez, were less circumspect. “One day we will have a Latino president,” Ms. Parker said.
Mr. Lopez said jokingly, “While we have been in here, Lou Dobbs has petitioned to build a wall around this tent,” a reference to the CNN commentator’s views on immigration.
The concert ended with all the musicians performing “Mi Tierra,” an exuberant song for immigrants — Ms. Estefan’s family left Cuba in the 1950s — who may never see their homeland again. Ms. Estefan said she was proud to learn that the song was on Mr. Obama’s iPod.
Previous events in the White House music series, with jazz and country musicians, have taken place in the East Room, which holds about 120 people; a classical event on Nov. 4 will return there. This one used the tent instead, for 380 people.
The atmosphere was more staid than a typical Latin concert, but the musicians pushed the audience to move, and sooner or later, many were at least swaying.
Mr. Obama and his family joined the musicians onstage during “Mi Tierra,” and his two daughters, wielding drumsticks, played along on timbales.