Hanging with the Estefans on Ellis Island

Ellis Island 096 by glecharles
Ellis Island 096 by glecharles

One of the best things about working for a publisher based out in the Midwest is that I sometimes get to play Peter Parker at events in New York City when no one from a particular magazine can attend. A few weeks back, it was the NY Round Table Writers Conference thanks to Writer’s Digest, and yesterday, I went to the 2009 Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards on behalf of Family Tree Magazine, and took a bunch of photos and wrote up a brief post for them that’s now on their blog:

Ellis Island Hosts Stars, Expands Museum

Emilio and Gloria Estefan accepted the inaugural B.C. Forbes Peopling of America Award in a star-studded 8th Annual Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards ceremony yesterday, hosted by actress Candice Bergen in the historic Great Hall on Ellis Island.

The awards celebrate the lives and work of individuals who immigrated to America and their descendants; with the Forbes honor going to those who arrived through a port other than Ellis Island. It reminds us that America continues to be the destination for those seeking freedom, hope and opportunity.

I’ve never had any particular connection to Ellis Island since none of my ancestors came through there — and despite growing up here in New York, I had never visited, and still haven’t been to the Statue of Liberty — so I was a bit perplexed when I saw the Estefans were being honored considering their very non-Ellis Cuban heritage.

They turned out to be an inspired choice as the first honorees, though, especially in the wake of our historic President, a shifting policy on Cuba, and the huge influx of Latin American immigrants over the years. At one point during their acceptance speech, Gloria noted the common denominator they shared with the other honorees — Joe Namath, Eric Kandel and Jerry Seinfeld — was that no matter where they or their families had come from, or when, they had all been escaping some form of tyranny; and in America, they had all found a home where they could live freely and pursue their dreams.

Check out the post for more on The Peopling of America® Exhibit/Center, a must-see exhibit that will make Ellis Island relevant to everyone.

On a side note, it was interesting learning the Estefans’ biographies, and watching them interact throughout the event. While some celebrity couples are clearly a professional match, the body language between them was sincerely and subtly affectionate; they’re the real deal.

And, they both look great; I hope to look half as good as Emilio when I’m his age!

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