Soon playing together: Gloria Estefan and Barack Obama

McClatchy NewspapersApril 1, 2010 

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama conveyed his harshest rebuke yet of Havana's government last week, just hours before Gloria Estefan protested repression in Cuba from the streets of Miami.

Now, they'll appear together when the Cuban-born singer and her husband, Emilio, host Obama at their Miami home April 15 for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser.

The $30,400-per-couple cocktail reception is the Estefans' first fundraiser, said Democratic consultant Freddy Balsera, who advised Obama's campaign on Hispanic issues and is close to the couple. The Estefans were traveling and unavailable Thursday for comment.

"They're both at a place in their lives where they believe giving back is important and patriotism is important," Balsera said.

Though they keep a low political profile, the Estefans are no strangers to the White House. Gloria performed at the inaugural festivities for President George W. Bush in 2000, and in 2002 Bush appointed Emilio to the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the President's Advisory Committee on the Arts.

Emilio met at the White House with Obama last May. He told The Washington Times that he was hoping to have the president over for dinner to talk about U.S.-Cuba relations.

"We just want freedom," he told the newspaper.

In September, Obama appointed Emilio to a commission to study the feasibility of a National Museum of the American Latino, and Gloria — along with Marc Anthony, Jose Feliciano and others — performed at the White House in October as it celebrated Hispanic music. The president quoted Gloria in his welcoming remarks, noting that in her words, "The most beautiful things in this country have the flavor of other places."

Gloria also scored a pre-Christmas interview with Obama for Univision, the Spanish-language TV network. The pair chatted about Santa and reindeer, with Estefan prompting the president to deliver a holiday message in what he jokingly called his "flawless" Spanish.

Obama's reception in Florida may not be entirely celebratory. He's also convened a conference in the state that day to defend his plans to cancel a NASA space exploration program, a decision that's prompted howls of protest from Florida's congressional delegation.

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