Born in 1947 in Autlande Navarro, Mexico, Carlos Santana did not grow up wealthy. He came from a hard-working family that took pride in their home, and he still recalls his mother saying, “Ok, we’re poor, but we’re not dirty and filthy, clean the house.” And if she caught Santana lazing around, she would reprimand him; “Don’t just sit there like a lump. Do something.” The drive to be productive she instilled in him back then has served him very well over the years since.
As a teenager in the early 1960’s, he moved with his family to San Francisco for his father’s work, and Santana worked as a dishwasher in a diner. He also supplemented his income by playing on the streets of the city for spare change. Imagine the huge shift in lifestyle when, within just a few years, he had rocketed to success as a well-known artist with a substantial fanbase and a triple platinum album under his belt. But he didn’t forget his roots.
Growing up without money instills compassion for others
Most people are already aware of both the brilliance of Carlos Santana’s musicianship and the enormous commercial success he’s experienced over his unparalleled four decade career. Lesser known is his ability to have stayed spiritual, grounded and charitable throughout such a remarkable life. To give a helping hand to children around the world, Santana and his first wife, Deborah, founded a charity called the Milagro Foundation in 1998.
Milagro makes grants to community based nonprofit organizations that work with underserved and vulnerable children. The grants cover areas such as education, healthcare and, something close to Santana’s heart, the arts. To date, Milagro has granted over $8 million to many important programs, and has reached children in 36 states and 18 countries around the world.
Responding to COVID-19
Not surprisingly, Santana has also stepped up to help with the damaging effects of COVID-19. Along with an impressive group of A-list stars, he lent his talents to the Artists United for Amazonia live stream on May 28, 2020. Funds raised at this event benefited the Amazon Emergency Fund, which was established to help the indigenous peoples who are being ravaged by COVID-19. Particularly vulnerable to the effects of the deadly virus, some groups are facing possible extinction without intervention.
Santana and his wife, Cindy Blackman, also took part in SongAid, a charitable platform that was launched to raise funds to provide food to those in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each week, SongAid releases a new cover song online and all proceeds are donated to the Why Hunger Rapid Response Fund. Santana and his drummer wife, Blackman, released a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
During a recent Rolling Stone interview, Carlos Santana was asked if he was concerned about being able to play live again after a long break courtesy of the Coronavirus. His response clearly shows the level of spirituality he continues to maintain despite a life in the spotlight. “No, I don’t worry about nothing. When you have awareness that God gave you knowledge, energy and emotions, you can do miracles and blessings. You just have to get your ego out of the way.”