Archive for the ‘Mariachiando’ Category
In 2013 I took part in Sam Quinones‘ Tell Your True Tale workshop at the East Los Angeles Library. Our stories were published and are available for purchase here. Volumes 2 (click here) and 3 (click here) are also available for purchase.These workshops are open to the public, free of charge.
This is my last post for LAist.
In the grand U.S. tradition of co-opting ethnic pride as an excuse to get totally blotto, this weekend bars and dorm rooms across the United States have been celebrating the Mexican Army’s 1862 defeat of invading French imperial forces (nevermind Mexico’s subsequent defeat and status as French colony for three years). Drinko de Mayo, Gringo de Mayo, whatever you call it, is what Gustavo Arellano calls a “mestizo St. Patrick’s Day.” This weekend will be the only time of year mainstream U.S. will want to be Mexican, putting on fake bushy mustaches, wearing sombreros and listening to Antonio Aguilar lament about being away from his homeland.
In this issue of Mariachiando we jump from 1999 (last post) to Nochebuena 2006…
In high school, I was part of a mariachi group with other high school friends. We formed it sometime before the beginning of high school in 2003 (we were all in the same year at school) and we performed at private parties, etc., throughout Southern California. Though it was a (tax-free) source of income for many of us, we always hesitated about taking gigs after December 15th because members traveled with their families or had very packed calendars. In 2006, however, almost all our members stayed in South Gate for Christmas and we accepted a gig on Nochebuena only because it was a one-hour performance in South Gate.
We only had one replacement for that night, another mariachi musician from South Gate and a friend of ours (always up to substitute in our group). I arrived at the house about half-an-hour early and warmed up with other the mariachis outside. It was a really cold night, notwithstanding the fact that we were wearing mariachi trajes (not the best protection for legs), but looking forward to a quick performance where there wouldn’t be anyone drunk.
We went in and performed in their backyard. Though they had hired us, they did not seem too much into the songs. Maybe because it was Christmastime, who knows. They had a fire going and all the embers and smoke were blowing toward us, messing up our singing and choking us throughout the performance. When our hour was done, we bowed and started to take our leave. One of the men stopped us and said (in Spanish), “Stay for one more hour.”
“Can’t, it’s Nochebuena and we agreed to only one hour. We have to go with our families.”
“I’ll pay 500 dollars for the second hour.” “Sorry, we really have to go.” “$700?” “Look, we must…” “$1,000?” “We’ll talk about it with the rest of the members.”
One hour of our time in Nochebuena was worth $1,000 to him. Our first hour went for $300. Read the rest of this entry »
Mariachiando will be an ongoing series of posts at L.A. Eastside and here about my experience as a mariachi musician throughout Los Angeles. The posts will not be in chronological order in order to fully document these experiences and create a narrative. To follow these posts here, visit the Mariachiando page.
My paternal grandfather was a mariachi musician in México. in the weekends, my grandfather often left for a whole day or a weekend with his violin, guitar, or vihuela, to play with compadres in other pueblos around los Altos de Jalisco. Often, he’d be in the plazas, playing and singing with friends. When he came to the United States to work in the 1970s, he spent time working, but eventually quit and spent the rest of his time in East L.A., playing throughout the area with other mariachis and friends.
Meanwhile, my dad and siblings grew up listening to my grandfather’s music and the music that filtered to their pueblo’s radios from Guadalajara. When they had some time to themselves, either when they walked from their rancho to the pueblo, they played games or sang. While none of my grandfather’s children became mariachis themselves, they all sang, a few of them very, very well and my dad learned to play the guitar.
My dad is the third-oldest male and the fourth-oldest child. The eldest three males immigrated first to the United States in the late-1970s. They originally lived in East L.A. & Boyle Heights, but moved to South Gate in the early-1980s. All the siblings eventually moved out to the Bay Area, the last one, the oldest male of the family, leaving South Gate in 1989 and his stove to my dad (which is still in operation today). Read the rest of this entry »