Colombian singer Juanes, Mexican comedian Roberto Gómez Bolaños - better known as "Chespirito" - and soccer great Hugo Sánchez were honored in Washington by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.

The 25th anniversary of the foundation's awards brought together Thursday night in the U.S. capital Hispanics who have triumphed in the arts, business, education and sports.

Walking up the red carpet at Kennedy Center were living legends of music like Ruben Blades and Latino artists who have spread Hispanic culture to the four corners of the earth, like flamenco singer and choreographer Joaquín Cortés.

The ceremony itself was a hymn to the community's pride in Hispanic culture and the Spanish language, while coming through loud and clear, even above all the salsa, tributes and humor, was the Latino demand that the United States pass once and for all its long-awaited immigration reform.

That was stressed by artists of such commitment to the community as Luís Enrique and Juanes, who championed the DREAM Act after receiving the HHF's Vision award for his career in the arts and for his activism.

The gala, which combined moments of political demands, laughs and emotion, had one person who was particularly at the center of attention - the legendary Chespirito, who at 82 had the audience laughing as loud as TV viewers did when watching his unforgettable creations "El Chavo" and "El Chapulín Colorado," both very colloquial Mexican terms for the "kids" who were the shows' leading characters.

The celebrated Mexican comedian and comedy writer was on hand to receive the Legend award for his extraordinary career and his hit shows.

At a press conference before the ceremony, Chespirito spoke up on behalf of the Spanish language and called on Hispanics to preserve it and defend it.

"If the conquistadors left us anything, and they gave us many things even though we gave them more, they left us this precious language that we must take care of," the Mexican said.

Music, one of the great features of the night and an element of Latin culture with a vast following around the world, notably enhanced the evening thanks to the likes of Cuban singer Rey Ruiz, who opened the ceremony with two salsa numbers, and Carlos Baute, who rang down the curtain with an acoustic version of "Amarte Bien" (Loving You Well).

There was also a moment for shouting "Goooooll" - for the goals that Mexico's Sánchez scored in his days with Spanish club Real Madrid, seen in a commemorative video that preceded his acceptance of the Sports award.

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation also acknowledged the contribution to the Hispanic community in the United States of educator Elizabeth Molina, businessman Jorge Vergara and activist Dr. Juan Andrade Jr., recipient of the Leadership award.

The ceremony was a special boost to the pride of Hispanics living in the United States at a time when they face a high rate of unemployment and disappointment at the unkept promise of immigration reform.

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