Las Vegas, NV - It was a 'Despacito' night at the Latin Grammys, as the song that Luis Fonsi called a 'hymn to Puerto Rico' took top awards at the 18th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards. The viral song won Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Short-Form Music Video and Best Urban Fusion Performance.
Fonsi said the song united the world and broke language barriers.
Those who were not familiar with Fonsi's name this year came to know it through the smash hit song that went No.1 worldwide. "Despacito" generated millions of streams and more than four billion YouTube hits.
Twenty five-time GRAMMY winner Residente (René Pérez Joglar), formerly of Calle 13, won two awards, including Best Urban Music Album and Best Urban Song for "Somos Anormales." Residente received critical acclaim for his masterful self-titled album, inspired by his DNA test results and the ancestral cultural sounds he recorded around the world.
Among this year's winners were a notable showing of alternative artists (including Residente) in top categories.
Colombian rocker Juanes took his artistry to the moon with a stunning visual sci-fi album, "Mis Planes Son Amarte," which won for Best Pop/Rock album, a work that blended traditional Colombian sounds to rock.
Mon Laferte won Best Alternative Song, "Amárrame," featuring Juanes. The Chilean born artist from Mexico's eclectic musicality is off the charts on her album La Trenza, stylistically and as a singer and songwriter. She stirs in the sounds of North Andean rhythms, vals Peruano, cumbia, bolero, ska, 50s rock, pop and ballads.
Other winners included Vicente García, who won three awards, including Best New Artist. García told NBC News his music blends Afro-Caribbean rhythms to make pop and boleros, with some Haitian, Cuban and Colombian rhythms. The Dominican artist said the award, "more than anything, honors my country which I carry in my heart."
Olga Tañón y Punto won for Best Tropical Fusion Album and the legendary Ruben Blades for Best Salsa Album.
This year saw more artists taking on socially conscious messages and humanitarian action. In one of the highlights of the evening, "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was honored with The Latin Recording Academy® President's Merit Award.
The rarely given award was presented for his "masterful ways he uses his craft to empower and highlight Latin-related issues in the United States," said Gabriel Abaroa Jr., President/CEO of The Latin Recording Academy. Miranda, who has raised millions of dollars for Puerto Rico's hurricane relief with his song "Almost Like Praying" gave an impassioned acceptance speech.
Apart from his wife and family, thanked Puerto Rico profusely - saying "Puerto Rico" seven times and referring to himself as the "weird theater kid con un acento gringito."
"No one gets here alone," said Miranda.
In addition, eighteen-time Latin GRAMMY® and three-time GRAMMY winner Alejandro Sanz was honored as the 2017 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year for his artistry and substantial philanthropic contributions, in a gala preceding the event, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
Among the evening's nominees and performers were Banda El Recodo De Cruz Lizárraga, Bronco, CNCO, Lila Downs, Nicky Jam, Carlos Vives, and Sebastián Yatra. There was also a special appearance by Mexican duo Ha*Ash.
Flor de Toloache are multi-ethnic mariachis with moxie with powerhouse vocals and musicianship. Their album, Las Caras Lindas features an entertaining blend of ranchera, country, blues, jazz and more, won for Best Ranchera/Mariachi album.
Backstage, the group told the press they remembered the days playing in the New York City subway.