Camila Cabello and J Balvin among those to attend sold-out Billboard Latin Music Awards at Watsco Center Thursday

The University of Miami will be welcoming Latin music artists ranging from Camila Cabello to Daddy Yankee for the 2021 Billboard Latin Music Awards hosted by Telemundo at the Watsco Center on Sep. 23 at 8 p.m.

The award show is a staple of Billboard’s Latin Music Week, a yearly celebration of Latin, tropical and regional Mexican music held in Miami. The event this Thursday will feature performances from Prince Royce, Ana Barbara, Myke Towers and other prominent musicians, along with conversations with celebrities including Karol G, Nicky Jam and Natti Natasha.

The Watsco Center is a frequent venue of the Billboard Latin Music Awards, having hosted the ceremony ten times since 2007.

Planning for the awards came from a collaboration between Watsco Center, venue sponsor Oak Valley Group Facilities and Telemundo. Organizers say the event will be a culmination of weeks of preparation from a long list of sponsors and facility managers.

“It is an incredible undertaking from concept to inception,” Kevin Retchless, general manager of OVG sponsored events at the Watsco Center, said. “Just as the saying goes, ‘it takes a village.’ We learn from each event, no matter how big or small.”

Tickets for the event sold out in July, though Telemundo Internacional and Universo have planned a live stream for fans that would prefer viewing from home. The awards take place during Billboard’s Latin Music Week in Miami, a series of concerts and interactive events with Latin stars spanning from Sept. 20-25.

Billboard presents artists with a variety of awards depending on their streams, radio plays, social engagement, song sales and the success of their tours. These include coveted awards such as “Artist of the Year” and “Airplay Song of the Year Award.” Fans and supporters play a crucial role in determining the winners, as judging is based largely on the number of engagements each artist accumulates on music streaming services like Spotify.

This year, Bad Bunny, Anuel AA, J Balvin, Maluma and Ozuna are nominated for artist of the year. Both Bad Bunny and J Balvin are superstars in Latin music with different audiences, as Bad Bunny’s largest fan base is in the U.S., while many of J Balvin’s listeners are from Latin America.

Both artists have dominated the Latin Billboard charts this year, particularly Bad Bunny, a Puerto Rican artist who has brought international attention to Reggaeton. He scored three highly successful album releases in 2020 alone with “El Último Tour del Mundo,” “YHLQMDLG” and “Las Que No Iban a Salir.” Bad Bunny’s album, “El Último Tour del Mundo,” was No. 1 on the United States Billboard Charts in 2021. This was the first time a Spanish language album reached the top of the U.S. Billboard Charts.

“Everyone’s learning more about him right now. He has a very big following,” Maria Isabel Cummings, a Puerto Rican student at UM and an avid Bad Bunny fan, said.

Also nominated for “Artist of the Year” is J Balvin, a Colombian artist and prominent Reggaeton star. Balvin also had a strong year. He released “Colores,” an album that reached No. 15 on U.S. Billboard Charts and No. 2 on U.S. Latin Billboard Charts. Additionally, his widely popular collaboration with Black Eyed Peas, “RITMO,” hit No. 26 on US Billboard Charts and No. 1 on U.S. Latin Billboard Charts.

“J Balvin is more a people’s person,” said Vanessa Bonilla, the president of Por Colombia, the Colombian students heritage organization on campus. “J Balvin says I’m J Balvin but I’m here as Jose.”

However, listeners say J Balvin lacks the same popularity as Bad Bunny amongst non-Latino Americans.

“J Balvin’s my man, but Bad Bunny’s probably gonna win,” Bonilla said. “Bad Bunny is so popular with Americans, but J Balvin is popular with Latinos so who’s going to decide it?”

Billboard’s show comes amidst a surge in COVID-19 cases, however, Telemundo is no stranger to this. The Miami-based broadcasting company was one of the first entertainment companies to produce a fully live awards show.

Due to the challenges posed by COVID-19 regulations, Telemundo has imposed strict safety protocols including a mandatory vaccine pass or negative test result before the day of the event and compliance with all masking and capacity rules as ordered by the local, state and national government.