Puerto Rican actress and singer Rita Moreno will be one of six recipients of the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, making her the fifth Latina to be recognized in 35 years.
Moreno is one of a few artists — and the only Latino — to have won an Emmy, an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Tony. She’s known for her role as Anita in the film adaptation of West Side Story, a performance that won her an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 1962.
The Kennedy Center Honors “recognizes the extraordinary and unparalleled talents of individuals whose impact and genius have left an indelible mark on civilization” through the performing arts.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has been criticized in the past for not honoring enough Latino artists. In the last 38 years, they have only honored Placido Domingo in 2000 and Chita Rivera in 2002, as well as Carlos Santana and Martina Arroyo in 2013.
Felix Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, told BuzzFeed News that Moreno’s award was long overdue.
"Rita Moreno is one of the few EGOT winners," Sanchez said, referring to all the other honors she's won. “There’s a backlog of Latinos who should’ve been honored, it’s a shame people like Celia Cruz and Tito Puentes did not receive the honors while they were alive.”
In a statement, Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said each recipient has pushed the limits of their gifts and inspired generations of people.
“Each honoree and their career-spanning achievements exemplify a rare quality of artistic bravery,” Rutter said. “Their individual paths to excellence are inspirational and their contributions to the fabric of American culture are equally permanent and timeless.”