Guest Author - Karin Norgard
The Spirit of Hope (Espíritu de la Esperanza) award is one of the lesser known honors given to one Latin music artist or group every year at the Billboard Latin Music Awards. The award was created in 1995 in honor of the Mexican-American singer Selena and recognizes Latin musicians who contribute to humanitarian efforts across the globe. The following musical artists have been honored with the Spirit of Hope award at the Billboard Latin Music Awards over the past four years.
Soraya was a Lebanese-Colombian-American singer best known for Latin pop. In addition to winning a Latin Grammy in 2004 for her self-titled album, she also won the Spirit of Hope award that year for her work as a spokesperson for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Soraya started her work with the organization in 1998 because of a family history of breast cancer. Two years later, she would herself become diagnosed at the age of 31 and would undergo a mastectomy as well as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. After her diagnosis, Soraya continued to record while touring throughout the Americas to raise breast cancer awareness. She also wrote and recorded a song called No One Else/Por Ser Quien Soy about her experience with cancer. Soraya died from the cancer in 2006.
Juan Luis Guerra (2005)
The internationally known Dominican singer and songwriter was honored with the Spirit of Hope award in 2005 for his foundation, La Fundación Juan Luis Guerra (formerly La Fundación 440). Since 1991, the charity has promoted health, sports and education for the needy children of the Dominican Republican. Its services have included drug and alcohol rehabilitation, construction of soccer fields in poor neighborhoods, and expensive medical operations for those who normally would not be able to afford them.
The Colombian pop singer, who has sold over 50 million albums worldwide, won the Spirit of Hope award in 2006 for her work with needy children. In 1997, she founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation (named after her 1995 album) to fund schools for children in Colombia. The Latina artist is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She currently works with the ALAS Foundation (América Latina en Acción Solidaria), which has donated millions of dollars to victims of natural disasters. In December of 2007, Shakira visited children in Bangladesh who had been affected by Cyclone Sidr.
Ricardo Montaner (2007)
The Venezuelan singer, who has released over fifteen albums since the early 80s, was named the Spirit of Hope recipient in 2007 for the contributions of his foundations, Hijos Del Sol and Ventana de los Cielos. Hijos Del Sol has supported vaccination campaigns, given scholarships to low-income students, and offered aid to orphans in Venezuela and other Latin American nations. Ventana de los Cielos, based in Miami, supports children with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and other handicaps. Montaner funds these organizations with profits from his performances.
Other previous winners of the Spirit of Hope Award include reggaetón artist El General (2003), Ricky Martin (2002), Los Tigres Del Norte (2001), Maná (2000) and Olga Tañon (1999).