Saturday will mark the inaugural Latino Business Awards, where hundreds of local businesses owners and community movers and shakers will pack The Arlington Theatre for a night of celebration and some well-deserved spotlight for the nominees in more than 50 categories.
The awards show was the brainchild of former musician Andy Gálvez, who was born in Guatemala and has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 20 years. After years of touring and releasing records with some of the most popular reggaeton and Latino artists, Gálvez started Miranda Entertainment less than a year ago, using his connections in the entertainment industry to branch out on his own.
Though he was nervous about whether Santa Barbara’s Latino community would show up and buy tickets, he felt confident and decided to go big and host the first event — “La Noche de Risa” or “A Night of Laughs” — at The Arlington Theatre last November.
The show was sold out, and Gálvez found that there was a whole untapped demographic on the Central Coast: middle- and upper-middle-class Latinos who wanted to spend money on a good night out at one of Santa Barbara’s premier venues. After two more successful shows, one in January at SOhO and another comedy night at the Arlington in February, Gálvez had the idea for an awards ceremony spotlighting all the local businesses he had come to know and love.
As a musician, Gálvez got to attend the Latin Grammys and experience the glitz and glamor, and he said he wanted to “pass it on” to those who don’t often get a chance to get dressed to the nines and be celebrated.
“I wanted them to know what that feels like,” he said, adding that business owners are usually so entrenched in the day-to-day operations that they deserve a night dedicated to them. “When you own a business, you don’t work eight hours; you work 24 hours.”
Gálvez enlisted the help of his team, the close-knit staff of Miranda Entertainment, to make the awards a reality. The 12-person team runs more like a family, with each member playing their role to help organize every aspect of a large-scale show.
Rosie Nguyen handles things on the logistic end, from lining up the venue to working with the city in order to shut down a block of State Street for the VIP limo service. She said that it was tough going at first, with Santa Barbara very wary of new groups trying to organize events. Once people saw what they were trying to do, she said, it became a “snowball effect” of support.
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Nguyen said that they hope this awards show can become a staple of the Latino community and an annual event where business owners take pride in their nominations. More than 40 businesses have joined in as sponsor’s for the event, and she said the company worked with businesses to adjust the prices for each partnership. “We wanna be fair,” she said. “You have some businesses that make six figures a day, some make a couple hundred [dollars].”
The first edition of the awards will have a total of 51 categories, ranging from “Best Latino-Owned Restaurant” to “Best Nonprofit” to “Community Leader of the Year,” which includes local leaders like councilmembers Oscar Gutierrez and Alejandra Gutierrez, Representative Salud Carbajal and State Senator Monique Limón. The show will be hosted by Latino celebrities Don Cheto and Maribel Guardia, with special appearances by local activist Michael Montenegro and Youth Makers Market organizers Bella and Aaliyah Rubio. Two scholarships will also be awarded to local high school and college students during the ceremony.
The team said it was tough to narrow down the categories, and it illuminated just how deep the Latino roots are in our local business community. Street team promoters Jonathan Godinez and Gilbert Sanchez (a k a @rrichprince_mc) said that once the voting went live and businesses began sharing via social media, it became a real “community effort” with owners even starting friendly rivalries in each category.
Sanchez said it speaks to the growth of the Latino community in the past decade. “This is the most united Latinos have been in a long time,” he said. “Latinos are making money right now.”
Gálvez said he remembers when reggaeton and Latin music was considered “foreign,” and noted that world-famous musicians like Daddy Yankee and Bad Bunny have carried Latino artists straight to the top. “It’s perfect timing; everything is happening,” Gálvez said. “Being Latino now is hot.”
After less than five weeks of voting, some categories have become especially heated. “Best Takeout” received more than 28,000 votes, and “Best Tacos” has received more than 15,000. “We had to hide the vote numbers a week ahead so the winners will still be a surprise,” Gálvez said.
Gálvez hopes that the awards will be a success and that each year it will become the premier gathering for the Latino business community on the Central Coast. “I want people to be inspired to start their own businesses so they can be involved,” he said.
The event starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, at The Arlington Theatre (1317 State St.). Tickets are available online, and the event will be streaming live on Telemundo.