Familiar names are big Latin American winners at the 2015 Grammys
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Familiar names are big Latin American winners at the 2015 Grammys

It wasn’t the Latin Grammys (one look at the outfits could tell you that), but there was still plenty of Latin America star power at last night’s Grammy awards.

Perhaps the biggest sign of how the times are a-changin’ was Juanes’ performance — the Colombian singer sang his hit “Juntos,” backed by a full band. “Juntos” was the first song performed entirely in Spanish in the 57-year history of the Grammy awards. According to many, including President of the Recording Academy Neil Portnow, it was about time for the international star, who has won two Grammys and a whopping 20 Latin Grammys in his career — numbers that most mainstream pop stars these days can only dream of.

If you just tuned in for the ceremony and/or live performances, you may not have had any idea, but a number of Latin American artists took home Grammy awards last night — they just didn’t make the TV cut. Many awards are handed out earlier in the day on Sunday, and simply don’t make it onto the evening telecast, which is devoted mostly to live performances and a few major awards. In fact, 74 of the 83 total awards handed out by the Academy are announced during the non-televised pre-ceremony.

The daytime awards include essentially all of the Latin music categories, including Latin Pop Album, Latin Rock/Alternative Album, Tropical Album and Regional Mexican Music. A metric ton of superstars in the Latin American music scene were nominated for these categories, including Juanes, Mexican-American chanteuse Lila Downs, multitalented Uruguayan performer Jorge Drexler, funky Afro-Colombian group Chocquibtown, Mexican music godfather Vicente Fernández, Panamanian salsa and jazz legend Rubén Blades, Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux, Colombian pop-vallenato star Carlos Vives and, of course, Puerto Rican mega-stars Calle 13.

On Sunday afternoon, Blades beat out challengers like Juanes and Downs to take home the statuette for Best Latin Pop Album, for “Tangos.” Unsurprisingly, the idolized Fernández won the Regional Mexican Music award for  his album “Mano a mano: tangos a la manera de Vicente Fernández.”

Taking another step in his rise on the international scene, Vives took the award for Best Tropical Latin Album for his “Más + corazón profundo,” defeating other great Latino artists, including his countrywoman, the legendary cumbia singer Totó La Momposina.

In his acceptance speech, Vives jokingly apologized for his language skills before paying tribute to his home country.

“I apologize my English is not good — my music is much better,” he said, laughing. “Thanks to the Academy for this honor. Thank you  to Colombia; a great, different and unique country.”

Though the Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album field was packed with noteworthy contenders (not surprisingly, considering what a broad swath of music that category encompasses) the result did not come as a shock to anyone who paid attention to popular Latin American music throughout 2014. Despite stiff competition from Drexler, Tijoux, Chochquibtown and Mexican rockers Molotov, all of whom released stellar albums in the last year, the award went to the controversial and never boring Calle 13, for their breakout hit “Multiviral.”

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