Mexican rock band Mana became the first group ever to be honored as the Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year Wednesday, when its four members were recognized during a star-studded tribute concert for their creative accomplishments and philanthropic efforts.
Lead vocalist Fher Olvera, drummer Alex González, guitarist Sergio Vallín and bass player Juan Calleros received a crystal trophy before artists, industry leaders and others in an event the day before the Latin Grammy Awards ceremony in Las Vegas.
“Mana is a band that has given its all always – heart and soul,” Olvera said on stage before recalling the band’s humble beginnings and the years in which they all slept in a van. “We were working a lot, a lot, a lot until we reached what we have been sowing… . We never thought, for example, that we were going to play in Israel or that we were going to be playing two years ago in the White House.”
More than a dozen Latin artists honored the band with renditions of its greatest hits. Gilberto Santa Rosa sang a salsa version of “Bendita tu Luz,” Pablo Alborán performed a pop rendition of “Rayando el Sol,” and Pepe Aguilar accompanied by the Mariachi Sol de México de José Hernández interpreted “Mariposa Traicionera.”
The academy bestowed the honor on the band for its achievements and contributions to the Latin community and support of environmental protection and human rights causes.
Mana has highlighted environmental, social, political and human rights issues for more than 30 years through its songs, concerts and, more recently, social media. It has also promoted the Latino vote in the U.S. and has denounced what it deems as social injustices in countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.
Olvera on Monday visited a temporary shelter in the Mexican state of Jalisco where members of a caravan of Central Americans attempting to reach the U.S. border were resting. He offered them words of encouragement and sang “Rayando el Sol” y “El Muelle de San Blas.”
“I went to see them. We’ve been supporting the immigrants here in the United States for more than 20 years,” Olvera said. “At the end of the day, we are brothers, we are human beings… We shouldn’t be afraid of them… I told them be careful. I saw babies, I saw children. It was sad, but they have a lot of hope.”
González added that the immigrants wouldn’t be on this journey “if there wasn’t so much corruption in the countries they’re coming from.”
“Nobody wants to leave their country,” González said on the red carpet. “These people are running away from a lot of very drastic situations. It’s a humanitarian crisis, but we have to help these people one way or another. Yes, it’s illegal to enter a country, but as Fher says, brothers and sisters, humanitarian crisis, we have to help them.”
The band established the nonprofit Fundación Ecológica Selva Negra in 1996. It works to preserve endangered species, offers educational programs on the environment and organizes community development projects.
Mana has won six Latin Grammys and four Grammys and has released more than 48 No. 1 hits worldwide. The group has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The band wrapped up the night with “Labios Compartidos” and “Clavado en un Bar.”
“People like you are the ones who make it possible for this industry to keep moving,” Aguilar told the band. “Thank you for your professionalism.”
Previous recipients of the honor include Shakira, Ricky Martin, Carlos Santana, Miguel Bose and Plácido Domingo.
The Latin Grammy Awards will be presented Thursday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The show will be broadcast live beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern on Univision.