Behind the History of The Latin Grammy Awards and its Millions of Viewers

Everyone knows about the Grammy Awards. They’re the annual awards ceremony honoring what music academy voters think are the most significant achievements in music during a given year.

Videos by American Songwriter

But did you know the Latin Grammy Awards were born from the traditional Grammys?

How did this ceremony become a spinoff from the original? That’s exactly what we’re going to delve into here.

Origins and Background

The Latin Grammy Awards are given out by The Latin Recording Academy. As with their traditional counterpart, the ceremony recognizes achievement in the Latin music industry.

Before The Latin Grammy Awards existed, Latin artists were honored by the traditional Grammy Awards but there became so many artists involved that The Latin Grammys had to form its own organization in the 2000s.

The Latin Grammy Awards honor work recorded in Spanish or Portuguese from anywhere in the world that has been released in Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula, or the United States.

And works recorded in languages, dialects, or idiomatic expressions, such as Catalan, Basque, Mayan, or others that may be accepted by a majority vote. Like the traditional Grammy Awards, nominees are selected and decided by peers within the Latin music industry.

It Begins

The first annual Latin Grammy Awards ceremony was held in the Staples Center (now Arena) in Los Angeles on September 13, 2000. (Nominations were first released in July of 2000.) It was broadcast by CBS. When it aired, it became the first primarily Spanish-language primetime program carried on an English-language American television network.

The most recent ceremony, the 22nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards, was held on November 18, 2021 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

In 2013, 9.8 million people watched the Latin Grammy Awards on Univision, which has been broadcasting the ceremony since 2005.

The Latin Recording Academy was formed by The Recording Academy in 1997, founded by Michael Greene, Rudy Pérez, and Mauricio Abaroa. Pérez was the Grammy Florida chapter’s first President of the Board.

But the concept of a separate Grammy Awards for Latin music first began in 1989. Initially, 39 categories comprised The Latin Grammys.

The Second Broadcast, September 11th

The second broadcast of the show was canceled due to the September 11, 2001 attacks, which took place on the same day that the show was set.

Later, though, in 2002, the academy elected its first independent Board of Trustees and in 2005 the broadcast was moved from CBS to Univision, which broadcasts the show in Spanish.

Since then, The Latin Grammy Awards have been held mostly in Las Vegas. It started there in 2007 and has been held annually since 2009 in several locations in the city. The ceremony opened in L.A. and has been held once in Miami in 2003, once in New York City, and once in Houston.

The Voters, the Process

Voting members can live in various regions in the United States and outside of the country, including Latin America and Iberia. For a recording to be eligible for a nomination for a Latin Grammy, it must have at least 51% of its content recorded in Spanish or Portuguese and commercially released in North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Spain, or Portugal.

The eligibility period for nominations is June 1 to May 30. Recordings are first entered and then reviewed to determine the categories they are eligible for. Following that, nominating ballots are mailed to voting members of the academy. The votes are counted and the five recordings in each category with the most votes become the official nominees.

Final voting ballots are sent out to voting members and the winners are determined. Winners are later announced at the Latin Grammy Awards.


As with the traditional Grammy Awards, some artists have been critical of The Latin Grammys, arguing it is more of a commercial promotion tool than recognition of the best art.

Also, the lack of categories for non-Spanish and Portuguese-speaking music has received criticism, namely from artists who consider their work to be Latin in sound but don’t include Spanish, like work from the country of Haiti.

In response to the critics, a spokesman for the Latin Recording Academy stated: “The Latin Recording Academy considers music based on the contents of the recording itself—the technical elements that go into the art of music making—not based on how a recording or an artist is marketed externally.”

And in 2001, Cuban exiles living in Miami, Florida protested at the Latin Grammy Awards for allowing musicians living in Cuba to perform on the stage. This resulted in the Latin Grammys being moved to L.A. for the second annual awards (which would in the end be canceled in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

Other artists, including Mexican artist Aleks Syntek, Willie Colon, Daddy Yankee, and J Balvin have expressed derision or even boycotted the ceremony. The Latin Recording Academy responded to criticism by requesting the “leaders of the urban community to get involved with the Academy, to get involved with the process, and to get involved with discussions that improve the Academy.”

Other Grammy Awards

Along with the traditional Grammy Awards and The Latin Grammy Awards, there are other Grammy ceremonies in other countries, including The Grammis, which is an annual ceremony for Swedish groups. It was established in 1969, cancelled in 1972, and revived in 1987, continuing to this day.

PHOTO: Don Emmert/Getty Images / The Recording Academy

Leave a Reply

Behind the Song Lyrics: “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp

Top 10 Heartland Rock Songs From Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and More