Read an expanded version of this story with a full report on the winners and performances by Natalia Lafourcade, J Balvin, Will Smith with Bomba Estéreo and more at the Latin Grammy Awards here.
An hour and a half into the telecast, the Latin Grammy Awards was moving at a good clip. There were power ballads. There was smoke. There was cumbia and reggaeton. And there was Ricky Martin shaking his hips on "La Mordidita."
Then Mexican rockers Maná took the stage and sang the immigrant anthem "Somos Más Americanos" ("We Are More American"), for which they were joined by norteño legends Los Tigres del Norte. At the end of the rousing performance, the two groups hoisted a sign that read, "Latinos unidos no voten por los racistas" — "Latinos united, don't vote for racists" — injecting a dose of politics into a show that had been enjoyable, if generally devoid of hot topics.
Reached via telephone backstage in Las Vegas, Maná lead singer Fher Olvera told The Times that both bands wanted to send a message to U.S. Latinos about voting.
"We wanted to send a proactive message," he said. "And the message for Latinos — of which there are 50 million in the United States, in the No. 2 Spanish-speaking country in the world — was to send the message: Register, go out and vote, and vote for the candidate that will do positive things for Latinos."
Jorge Hernández, the lead singer of Los Tigres del Norte, said it was important to instill the idea of voting at a time in which political candidates such as Donald Trump are referring to Mexican immigrants as criminals and "rapists."
"We have so many people who need immigration reform," he told The Times by phone from Las Vegas. "We have so many people who need other kinds of help. And for those of us who can vote, often we take it for granted. So we are here to say, 'If you can do it, think of those in need.'"
"It's a privilege to vote," added Maná drummer Alex González. "In the United States, your vote counts. So Latinos need to vote for the candidate that will promote opportunities for Latinos, a candidate who will push for immigration reform, and fight for all the Latinos who works so hard."
Both bands have teamed up with the voter registration group Voto Latino to launch a voter registration effort called SomosMas2016.com.
It's not the first time immigrant rights have popped up at the Latin Grammy awards. In 2014, the Latin Grammy Awards started 20 minutes late when Univision delayed the telecast in order to broadcast a speech on immigration policy by President Obama.
Beyond the politics, Maná's performance at this year's awards, said González, was a success on a musical level too.
"When Fher announced Los Tigres, everyone stood and it was explosive," he said. "People felt that Latino union. And then when we took out the sign, and everyone got even more excited. It was crazy."
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