La India Is still the Princess of Salsa

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Originally published in the May 2016 issue of LatinTRENDS magazine

By Deyanira Martínez

When she was still a teenager, Linda Viera-Caballero took her first steps in the music industry with the Latino freestyle group TKA. That shy Puerto Rican girl eventually turned into La India, one of the most popular and successful women in the history of salsa music.

She arrived in The Bronx, New York, when she was just a few months old, and family problems forced her to stand on her own two feet from early on. However, loneliness and inexperience did not prevent her strong, impressive voice from being discovered by one of salsa’s greatest, pianist Eddie Palmieri. Their pairing kicked off the success story of “The Princess of Salsa,” a nickname Celia Cruz, her music godmother, gave her.

Thirty years have passed since then, and La India just returned from recording with one of the greatest singers of all time, Juan Gabriel.

La India is back and full of energy to present an album written especially for her by the Mexican crooner. She is also planning a large-scale concert in her native Puerto Rico, and her theme song for Colombian hit telenovela “Sin tetassi hay paraiso” is currently being played on the radio throughout Latin America.

A beautiful Caribbean woman of indigenous features, strong, decisive and radiating tropical flavor, La India spoke passionately about her life, her career and her plans.

 

30 YEARS IN MUSIC

“I find it amazing that I’m still here. I was the first one to cross over from Latin freestyle dance music to tropical music.”

 

CUBA’S GUARACHERA: CELIA CRUZ

“She baptized me along with her husband, and made me her godchild. Celia was like a mother to me. I was estranged from my own family. I was kicked out of my home when I was very young, and suffered a lot.

Celia was an important figure in my life. She never had children, so she saw me as her daughter. We had a very spiritual connection. She was a beautiful human being, and she gave me the advice and support I didn’t have from my mother at that time.”

 

MUSIC IN YOUR LIFE

“Music is sacred to me. It’s a way to vent, to feel the emotions many people have inside but are afraid to feel. I have a wonderful following who love me. It’s not just about making it, but about staying there, and I am here to stay. I love what I do. After Celia, I have been the only woman who has sold albums, who has had her own orchestra.”

 

WORKING WITH JUAN GABRIEL

“I am very proud of this album. Working with him was incredible. We have very similar chemistry; we’re both intense. His songs have been popular for decades, and he was the one who chose the songs for me for this album.

Juan Gabriel is such an incredibly intelligent, brilliant person… it was so cool of him to give me this opportunity.”

 

THE FUTURE OF SALSA

“It is important to preserve salsa now that we have this new urban music boom. In the 80s, Dominican meringue arrived in New York and salsa declined a lot but, for some reason, it returned. In the 90s, we had romantic salsa, and the rhythm was reinvented by people like Eddie Santiago and Frankie Ruiz, and revived. Later, the new generation came: La India, my hit Vivir lo nuestro” with ‘El Flaco’ (Marc Anthony), a song that took both our careers to the next level.”

 

GENDER DISCRIMINATION IN-TROPICAL MUSIC

“Financially, I am not at a man’s level in music, but I am still here, giving love to my audience. Unfortunately, men have more opportunities and make more money. Even Celia earned less than men, and she told me that this was the down side of the business. Still, she always pushed me to keep going.

Singers such as Celia and La Lupe are no win the world of truth, with God in heaven, but they have left their legacy behind. I am alive, and I will not stop until women are supported the way we deserve.”

POLITICS

“I am a Republican, but I am going to vote for Hillary Clinton because I am a feminist, because she is a woman and because she deserves it. Clinton can represent the United States honorably.

As a Republican, I am very disappointed in the Party, and I will support a woman to become president. On Election Day, I will fly in from Puerto Rico to vote for and support Hillary Clinton in New York.”

 

LOVE LIFE

“At the moment, I am single. Not because I want to, but because I feel that, ever since I became famous, many men approach me because I am La India, not because I am Linda Viera-Caballero. I decided not to fall in love again and to focus on my work, reach goals and get where I deserve to be.

All my love and passion are dedicated to my work and my career right now. My arms are open, and I have faith that, one day, my moment will come and a gentleman will show up who understands my work and is not intimidated by my successor by me making more money than him.”

 

PLAN AND PROJECTS

“I will not stop until awards recognize my trajectory and what I am doing with this album, and I will not accept excuses that salsa is not the way it used to be. We have released two number-one hits, and we’ll continue working because the world needs to know that SALSA IS ALIVE.”

CELIA CRUZ WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTON

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Telemundo did something quite unique. They produced a drama series that on Tuesday, October 13th, topped the adult 25-54 market, beating out The Voice, Bajo el Mismo Cielo, and Jeopardy, among others.

The series is “Celia” which was inspired by the life of the “Queen of Salsa” Celia Cruz. Cruz, who made a career in an era when female singers didn’t even make the stage is played by Jeimy Osorio in her young years. Aymee Nuviola plays the older Cruz.

It also includes Pedro Knight, her husband and manager, played by Modesto Lacen as the young Knight and Willie Denton as the older Knight. Directed by Victor Mallarino and Liliana Bocanegra, along with Nelson Martinez as executive producer and screen play based on script by Andres Salgado and Paul Rodriquez, Fox Telecolombia and RCN licensed Telemundo was confident enough to release the first three episodes on digital platforms before the linear premiere.

It worked. On Facebook the first night,it drew 993,238 viewers, and Video on Demand and Telemundo Now saw over 177,000 between them. The promotion for the series on Facebook reached 2.3 million global fans. The cumulative audience reached 2,375,000 total viewers, while ranking number one in Miami and New York in the 18-49 adults in its time slot. Celia Cruz, according to the numbers, remains the Queen afterall.

MODESTO LACÉN – UN ACTOR ORGULLOSO DE SUS RAICES

  Estrena serie colombiana basada en la vida de Celia Cruz

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Con grandes sueños y deseos de explorar sus dotes, talentos y romper las limitantes profesionales del teatro en su natal Puerto Rico, Modesto Lacen hizo sus maletas y decidió probar fortuna en Estados Unidos hace más de ocho años. El Camino ha sido difícil y laborioso pero también lleno de innumerable satisfacciones y crecimiento profesional.

Lacen, un consagrado actor puertorriqueño, con más de 20 películas, decenas de obras de teatro y participación en producciones norteamericanas como Animal al lado de conocido actor Terrence Howard o Back In the Day junto al rapero Ja Rule , ha encontrado grandes oportunidades de interpretar personajes con los que siempre soñó. Podemos ver su trabajo constantemente en series Latinas y Norteamérica, y en estaciones de televisión como CBS, PBS y Telemundo, así como actuando en los prestigiosos teatros de la Gran manzana.

Y en estos momentos, el actor se encuentra en Colombia trabajando en un ambicioso proyecto televiso, una serie basada en la vida de la reina de la salsa, Celia Cruz, dando vida a Pedro Knight, el esposo y compañero de toda la vida de la cantante,

“en estos momentos, no podemos ofrecer mucha información, solo que es una serie de 80 capítulos producida por Fox Telecolombia”,

nos dice el actor.

Lacen, no es nuevo a este personaje, ya que interpreto al esposo de la salsera por más de 10 meses y en diferentes ciudades de los Estados Unidos en la Obra The Life and Music Of Celia Cruz, pero en esta ocasión a diferencia de la obra de teatro donde Pedro Knight era un actor de Pelo blanco y maduro, esta serie colombiana se enfocara en sus años de Juventud. Esta producción está siendo dirigida por Victor Mallarino Y Lilliana Boca Negra Y tendrá a Jeimy Osorio en el papel de Celia Cruz.

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Modesto remonta su amor por el arte a la edad de seis años durante paseos al cine con su familia, recuerda que al ver la película Places in The Heart con Sally Field, supo que quería ser actor y que esta sería la pasión de su vida. Alto, buenmozo  y con apenas 38 años, el actor, dice amar los dramas cinematográficos y las obras de teatro desde que puede recordar.

Este talentoso profesional ha tenido muchos papeles importantes pero el personaje que marco su vida y que más le ha impactado, fue Roberto Clemente en la obra DC-7, La Historia de Roberto Clemente,

“fue un verdadero reto interpretar a alguien de la envergadura de Roberto y lo que el significa no solo para Puerto Rico, sino para todos los latinos”,

nos cuenta que la historia de esta estrella del baseball le enseño una magnifica lección de vida,

“la mejor manera de combatir el racismo es destacándote, siendo cada día mejor y dando el máximo de ti en todo lo que hagas”.

Estas lecciones las aplica diariamente a su vida personal y a su trabajo.

Lacen, se identifica tan a la perfección con la vida de Clemente, por enfrentar diariamente retos similares en su condición de Afro-Latino,

“es un verdadero reto ser minoría por partida doble, en la audiciones a veces me dicen que soy muy negro para ser latino, y muy latino para interpretar a un Afro-Americano. Tengo un acento, soy negro y soy puertorriqueño y esta es una mezcla que llevo con mucho orgullo”

nos dice sin titubear y con evidente satisfacción.

Y es que este hombre que se define como luchador, sonador y optimista está muy orgulloso de quien es, de su legado y del sacrificio de sus padres y sus abuelos para que hoy él pueda disfrutar de oportunidades ilimitadas. Los obstáculos y los prejuicios solo le inyectan más energía para luchar por sus sueños. Modesto no es improvisado, con una licenciatura en artes de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, hablando con fluidez, español, Inglés, francés y Portugués  y con la habilidad de bailar de cantar, es uno de los actores más preparados de su generación.

Este hijo prodigo y querido del pueblo de Loiza,  un pueblito en la costa noreste de la isla, sueña en grande, admira la carrera de los grandes actores, es un fanático del actor español Javier Bardem, por su habilidad de trabajar en varios idiomas y mercados simultáneamente.  Lacen está seguro que le esperan cosas grandes: le encantaría un día poder llevar la vida de Roberto Clemente a las grandes salas de cine, pero mientras tanto dice sentirse feliz de ser quien es, realizado, muy enamorado de una bella escritora latina y listo para romper todas las barreras que existen en el cine y el teatro para los afro latinos

 

 

 (Originally published in the Jan-Feb Issue of Latin Trends magazine)