Embracing The Latin Grammys

Even if you know nada about Latin music and don't speak a word of Spanish or Portuguese, there are still plenty of ways you can enjoy the 7th Annual Latin Grammy Awards, airing live from New York Thursday night on the Univision network.

There's going to be some great music, some gorgeous stars, and plenty of dazzling outfits to keep your eyes and ears busy.

Plus, we'll give you a little insider information that will have you watching the show and bailando, cantando y disfrutando (dancing, singing and having a good time) in no time.

Here's our guide:

  • You'll be seeing several stars you already know. There will be a bunch of familiar faces presenting and performing tonight, including the top nominee, Shakira, who's up for five awards. Plus, you are probably familiar with her multi-nominated song, "La Tortura," which received heavy airplay on English-language radio. Heard of Ricky Martin? He'll be there performing; he's this year's Person of the Year for his humanitarian work. Marc Anthony will be presenting, and you'll probably see his wife, Jennifer Lopez, cheering him on.
  • Most of the lame jokes and boring acceptance speeches will be in Spanish. Look at the bright side. Award show banter is almost always dopey, but it's less painful when you don't understand the language.
  • Bad news: you won't be hearing the full variety of Latin music. There are 47 categories in the Latin Grammys, covering all kinds of music recorded throughout Spain and Latin America. But most of the music you'll hear on the show will be Latin Pop — Shakira, Thalia, Ricky Martin, etc. What you won't hear much of are rock/alternative, Regional Mexican, Brazilian, or Latin Jazz. That's a shame.
  • Good news: you will get to hear New York style salsa in the city where it was born. Even if you know very little about Latin music, chances are you've heard of the late music superstars Tito Puente and Celia Cruz. They were part of a music movement called salsa which had a golden age in New York City during the 1970s. Thursday's show will feature a performance by some of the genre's living legends along with the stars of today. It's especially significant because this is the first year the Latin Grammys have been presented in New York.

    Although he's listed as a presenter and not a performer, we're keeping our fingers crossed that Marc Anthony will make a surprise appearance during the salsa tribute. He's the biggest selling salsa star and he's also portraying New York salsa legend Hector Lavoe in an upcoming film. If you've only heard him sing "I Need To Know," his salsa singing will blow your mind.

  • You can move and groove to the reggaeton tribute: If you've been out to a club lately or watch MTV, you've probably already heard reggaeton music. The genre got its start in Puerto Rico about 15 years ago, with influences from Panamanian acts like El General. It's basically a combination of Spanish rap over speeded-up Jamaican reggae beats. It's lots of fun to dance to, but don't let Mama see you perreando. (Perro means dog, you can figure out the rest.)
  • There will be lots and lots, oh and did we say lots? of hot guys: Whether you like men, women (see below), or both, there will be a lot of mucho sexy people to watch.

    2Hot, hot, hot salsa singer Victor Manuelle is co-hosting the show. Alejandro Sanz, the super-sexy Spaniard who inspired Shakira to cover herself in motor oil in the "La Tortura" video, will be performing. Ricky Martin will be shaking his still fit bon-bon. Boyishly adorable Luis Fonsi is presenting. And even though he's getting a little long in the tooth, we still think Maná lead singer Fher is such a rock star.

  • There will be lots and lots, oh and did we say lots? of hot women: One word: Shakira. No explanation needed.

    Then there are gorgeous actresses Paz Vega, Sofia Vergara and Catalina Sandino. There's over-the-top rocker babe Alejandra Guzman. (We're dying to see what she'll wear!) Pop star Thalia will be performing and probably wearing something skimpy. Beautiful singer and actress Lucero is co-hosting.

    Novela star Adamari Lopez is presenting. Adamari just battled back from cancer (with the help of her man Luis Fonsi) and looks gorgeous. Teary-eyed moment alert: watch for her to get an ovation of love and support from the crowd.

  • There is no end to the appropriate selection of beverages and snacks to accompany your viewing: If you're not driving later, you can make a pitcher of margaritas or sangria; mix up some mojitos, cuba libres or capirinhas, or go the easy route and pick up a six pack of Corona, Dos Equis or El Presidente beer. If you're tee totaling, try the sweet bubbly beverage malta or some Goya fruit nectars.

    For food, skip the Taco Bell and go authentic. You can try your hand at Venezuelan arepas, Mexican refried beans or classic Puerto Rican rice and beans. You can find a ton of recipes for these and other foods on the Goya Foods Web site.

  • Think about inviting a friend or neighbor who speaks Spanish and/or loves Latin music to watch the show with you: Music is a wonderful way for people to share their culture with others. You'll experience something different and make some new friends.

    After all, bailando, cantando, and disfrutando is much more fun when shared.
    By Judy Faber