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Brett Zongker, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Following an election when Latinos showed their growing political influence, a coalition of groups is coordinating a gathering of top Latino entertainers at the Kennedy Center in a series of events ahead of President Barack Obama's inauguration.
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Eva Longoria, George Lopez, Mario Lopez, Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno are among a group of prominent performers who will gather Sunday, Jan. 20 for "Latino Inaugural 2013: In Performance at the Kennedy Center." Details of the tribute performance were announced Tuesday.
Longoria, a co-chair of Obama's inauguration festivities, is hosting the event. Additional performers will include Jose Feliciano, Melanie Griffith, New York City's Ballet Hispanico, Coro de Ninos de San Juan (the San Juan Children's Choir) and others.
In a statement, the former "Desperate Housewives" star said the inaugural events will foster more Latino engagement in Washington.
"Latinos played a critical role in this year's elections and helped tip the scales in President Obama's victory. But we are not waiting another four years to make an impact on our country's future," she said. "What better way to establish our presence at these inaugural celebrations than by showcasing the beauty and diversity of our culture at the nation's premier performing arts center."
The Latino inaugural gathering is driven in part by organizers of The Futuro Fund, which helped mobilize Latino support for the Obama-Biden re-election campaign. Millions of Hispanic voters turned out with 71 percent support for Obama. Republican candidate Mitt Romney's 27 percent Hispanic support was less than any presidential candidate in 16 years, drawing calls for Republicans to rethink their approach to Latinos.
Andres Lopez, a San Juan, Puerto Rico attorney and activist who was a national chairman of the election effort, said Latinos represent the nation's future.
"The story of Latinos is the story of America," he said. "Latinos made history in a big way this presidential election, and we look forward to writing the next chapter of this amazing story over the next four years."
The Kennedy Center is presenting the event with no charge to the organizers in two of its large theaters. The events come as the cultural center has been criticized for excluding Latinos from its high-profile Kennedy Center Honors.
Tickets went on sale Tuesday at the Kennedy Center box office, starting at $300 for the live performance in the center's Opera House and $150 for a simulcast in the center's Eisenhower Theater. A party will follow the show on the eve of Obama's public swearing in. It was not clear whether Obama would attend.
It's part of a three-day series of lectures and events focused on Latino issues. Coordinators include the National Council of La Raza and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
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San Antonio philanthropist and business leader Henry Munoz III, who is coordinating the entertainment event with Longoria and Andres Lopez, said Latinos deserve a place at the center of U.S. culture.
"The Kennedy Center is our nation's theater," he said. "As we inaugurate President Barack Obama, it is important to recall what President John F. Kennedy knew: that beyond the battles of politics 'we will be remembered for our contributions to the human spirit.'"
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