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At the Latin Grammy Awards: A Night of Big Wins and Tributes

"Despacito" continued its magical run of success by earning four statuettes tonight at the 18th annual Latin Grammy Awards held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

The megahit by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee was selected as Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Urban Fusion/Performance and Best Short Form Music Video.

It was the biggest winner of the night, surprising no one but certainly adding to the long list of Mosts and First, since it was released in January. And, in the wake of the hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, tributes opened the show, followed the touching moment when Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the Broadway hit "Hamilton" dedicated his award to the people of the island.

During a post-award interview one of the song's singers and composers, Luis Fonsi, was asked if they could make lightning strike twice.

"There is no way to know what made it a hit. The only thing I can count on is my song writing and the people I collaborate with."

The big surprise of the night was the winner of the prestigious Album of the Year award which went to salsa icon and actor Ruben Blades for his album Salsa Big Band. Blades' album was recorded in a small studio with live musicians playing a style that has its roots in mambo big bands from the 1940's and 50's.

The ten nominees in that category reflected almost the entire breadth of the sounds of contemporary Latin music in the 21st century: from hip hop to rock, pop and even included a charming Mexican folk album.

During the telecast Blades could be seen sitting in his chair after his name was announced seemingly stunned that he was selected for one of the highest honors of the night.

The Best New Artist field was especially strong this year with stylistic diversity, but it was Dominican Republic singer songwriter Vicente Garcia who got the top nod. His music, while leaning toward traditional also incorporates the more contemporary far-away from the world sound of Auto-Tune and electronic instruments.

The all-female mariachi group known as Flor de Toloache impressed a room full of industry veterans on Wednesday night at a private fundraising event with their meticulously arranged vocal harmonies on songs like Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and Prince's "When Doves Cry" set to a mariachi arrangement. Their one of a kind musical approach also impressed Academy members, as the group won Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album for their album Las Caras Lindas.

During interviews from the Red Carpet before the telecast there was a congenial spirit of celebration of culture from across the many Latin communities represented by the nominees. There seemed to be less of an energy of competition but more of camaraderie, even among those that were nominated in the same category. The event labeled as The Biggest Night in Latin Music truly lived up to the hype.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.