Latino stars call for unity, voter turnout during concert at US-Mexico border

Just feet away from the border fence in Otay Mesa, California, an all-star cast of performers called for Hispanics to become politically active celebrate their cultural diversity.

Despite their different musical rhythms, they all had the same message: It’s time for the Latino vote on the national level.

“On Nov. 8, you have a very important appointment, one in which you will decide whether you want progress and dignity or whether you want regression and chaos,” Panama-born singer Miguel Bose told a crowd of more than 15,000 people near the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego. “This is your vote, and this is your voice.”

Leading artists in the Latin music community lent their voices for a concert promoted by Cross Border Xpress and transmitted live on Spanish-language television network Univision and its sister network Fusion.

The lineup included Alejando Sanz, Colombians Carlos Vives and Juanes, Mexico’s Natalia Lafourcade, Mexican-Americans Lila Downs and duo Jesse & Joy, Tijuana-raised Julieta Venegas, San Diegan Andra Day, Mexican-American singer Lupillo Rivera, the famed Norteño band, Los Tigres del Norte and Puerto Rican rapper Residente.

“It’s a time to be more united than ever … of creating bridges, not walls,” Joy Huerta, who sang her bilingual song “Echoes of Love” on stage with her brother Jesse. “Let it be heard to the White House, let it be heard in Mexico.”

While many of the artists have spoken out openly against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the past, they seemed to avoid mentioning him name during the concert. The timing of the event – three weeks before the U.S. presidential elections – was not a coincidence.

“We were just tired of the divisive rhetoric, how everybody’s saying mean things about other people, how this fear and xenophobia and bad messages were just getting traction,” said Kevin Mills, Univision’s vice president of strategy and news, told the San Diego Union-Tribune during an interview before the concert. “One thing led to another and 20 minutes later we said, ‘We should do a concert on the border.’”

Venezuelan-born actor Wilmer Valderrama was also at the concert to promote a segment highlighting the positive contributions immigrants have made to the U.S.

“Ignore the ignorance of them in their definition of immigrant,” the former “That 70’s Show” actor said, adding that only two members of his family can vote: him and his sister.

Puerto Rican reggeaton star Rene Perez, known by his stage-name “Residente” took the time to attack both presidential candidates – Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton – accusing them of not speaking strongly on Puerto Rico.

He said their failure to say anything significant about Puerto Rico and the situation of immigrants was “sad, because the United States was founded by immigrants and they are the heart of this country, they have always been.”

He added that the controversial statements made by Trump about Latinos has actually unified the community.

Residente also noted that while he believes Clinton is the better of the two candidates, it is important not to lose sight of issues with her own record. He highlighted her ties with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger who is associated with the dictatorships of the Southern Cone in 1970s through “Operation Condor”.

Speaking of the “Rise Up As One concert,” he said music unites everyone and “unity is felt both on stage and in the audience.”

“You see the flags and it’s spectacular what happens. But I am used to it. In my past concerts it has always been like this. When I go to Spain, you see all the people of Spain and all immigrants there, and you see all the flags. It’s the same feeling,” he explained.

The Associated Press and EFE contributed to this report.

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