The awards, the success, all the ‘number ones’, or the thousands of records sold worldwide don’t really matter. In the end, the only thing that matters is love. Feeling loved, supported, protected, and cared for, and in the Estefan household, there is an abundance of that. Happiness fills their family life, and it’s not a marketing gimmick or a common Latin tradition. Quite the opposite, this family is genuinely close, making them stronger, as it hasn’t always been easy.
It wasn’t like in most movies that follow a hero’s or a heroine’s journey, neither at the beginning nor at the end when they reach the top. This family has learned to get ahead and turn weaknesses into strengths through effort and love. It’s a long story that the Estefans are grateful for today, for which each of them, from the oldest to the youngest, has had their voice heard and played an essential part in a literal sense since the family just recorded a Christmas album.
They went into the studio last July and August when Sasha – the ten-year-old eldest son of Nayib Estefan and Lara Coppola – was on vacation from school and was able to serve as the album’s associate producer. Now, just a few days away from ringing in the new year and eating the twelve grapes, this newfound gratitude for Christmas comes to light.
Thankful is the single from a compilation of all-time Christmas classics performed by the family. The song features Gloria Estefan, the grandmother, Emily Estefan, the daughter, and Sasha Estefan, the youngest of the family. Emilio Estefan, the grandfather, the renowned producer of stars like Shakira, JLo or Ricky Martin, also joined them, singing for the first time. Is there something a grandson cannot get their grandparents to do?
“I have fulfilled a dream,” the Cuban star told HOLA! USA in New York, minutes before joining the iconic Thanksgiving Parade. She explained that the new album reflects what happens around their table on Christmas Eve. Every family member sings and is grateful for the fortune of this past year while wishing the best for the next one.
“We traveled so much that Christmas was the time to be home as a family, even though my children always accompanied us. We did everything to be together on the 24th. We went to my mother’s house, and she cooked… Now, sadly, those times are nostalgia for us. However, it was during one of those family gatherings that this record was born. And I confess to you that, secretly, for me, it was an excuse to spend more time with them.” - Gloria Estefan
From the loss of their beloved grandmother, the song Te extraño was born, one of the original songs of the album, which was written and digitally composed by Emily and her nephew. “We are three generations on a single album and three different ways of thinking. It is our pride and a gift. It seems magical to me that you can write a song with a computer; did you know that? My daughter and my grandson know how to do that magic.”, Gloria commented.
“I’m grateful every day that my children and grandkids can already do what I could only dream of when I arrived in this country. Dreams come true and if you don’t believe me, take a look at so many Latino families that today, at last, are succeeding“, says Emilio. The Cuban producer vividly remembers the years he spent in Madrid, the corner where he played the accordion to earn some coins and the soup kitchen where he would have something hot to eat. “And the United States finally welcomed us and gave us everything,“ he adds.
“When we started in music, it was not easy. We had a different sound. We sang in English and Spanish, which was not widely accepted at that time. However, we didn’t give up and didn’t want to change our ways. Last week, when I was at the Latin GRAMMY Gala and saw how these Spanish-speaking awards are among the most important in the world, I thought: we have fought, and we have left a beautiful legacy. We opened the door to the world, and I feel proud of my people, of the Hispanic community”, said Emilio, who has recieved twenty of these awards.
It was precisely that long and hard trajectory that has made Emilio a tough nut to crack when it comes to creating. “Nothing seemed right for grandpa. He wanted to change everything. Grandpa, don’t be grumpy. This is the song, and you have to sing it the way Grandma tells you,” Sasha reveals with tenderness, causing the family to laugh.
Emilio and Gloria’s story is inspiring for immigrants who struggle day in and day out to make it. “I have always told my children: nothing worthwhile will be easy. You need discipline, perseverance, keep going when they tell you no... because people love to say no or ‘you are too Latino for Americans’ or ‘you are too American for Latinos’, ‘it’s not going to work.’ ‘They can’t compete globally because they’re a band that plays at weddings.’ However, we didn’t listen to those voices. We supported each other, we trusted each other, and we took care of each other”, he shared.
Knowing how to care for themselves and each other is the secret of their 45-year of marriage. “How fast it feels like time has passed. I can count on the fingers of one hand all the times we’ve argued.” And when they have had misunderstandings, it’s usually because Emilio always gives away too many things.
“He spoils me, and that’s not good,” said Gloria, the singer of Mi Canto. Her daughter Emily inherited her voice and strong personality, following her heart to come out to the world regardless of consequences. This earned her the respect of her parents. “Everything about my parents is amazinFg,” Emily tells us. “When it comes to music, it’s obvious, but the biggest thing they have passed on to us is their qualities as human beings. If there’s been one thing my brother and I have been taught is that no one can change who you are. That no one has the right to change your way of life”, she reveals.
“I was born, thank God, in an environment that supports me and gives me more fire than I can claim. For all those people in the world who don’t have that option, who have to hide, who don’t have a place to sleep because they don’t have the support that I have, which prevents them from being who they are. For me, being who I am is a responsibility”, he clarifies.
“We are a family of brave women,” says Gloria. “My grandmother and my mother were my role models. In my house, I only saw women doing things. Doing more than they could do,” shared the singer, recalling her father’s severe illness from napalm gas and how her mother, while taking care of him, had to revalidate her Cuban Pedagogy degree, returning to school to study. Or how her grandmother, without speaking English, had a restaurant with which she helped everyone. “And she came to earn up to 5 thousand dollars a night in the kitchen... And she didn’t even have a license, but that’s another story,” she recalls with a laugh.
Gloria and Emilio joke about their grandson, who is a big fan of the iconic band ‘Kiss’. “He loves hard rock. It’s something amazing. When he was two years old, he saw Kiss at this very parade, at Macy’s, and he went crazy.” To which the boy added: “They have signed autographs for me, Grandma, don’t forget to tell the writer.” “You see, these moments are the ones that matter”, commented Emilio.
“I have always said that Christmas is like a pantry in which those unrepeatable situations have been stored away, those memories that, when things as terrible as the pandemic happen, and you realize that life can change overnight, you discover that they were the important ones. You have to enjoy the moment you are living to the fullest. As if it were the last day of our life. I learned that with the car accident that Gloria suffered in 1990. We were fine, and, suddenly, I thought I was losing her”, concludes Emilio.