A Championship Season in Mariachi Country
by Robert A. Luskin
When Mariachi musicians began to arrive in the area around Los Angeles in the early 1960s, a new genre of music was born, one that would be shaped by the city of L.A. in ways much greater than the world of entertainment.
Los Angeles was the birthplace of the movie and recording industry, and its entertainment world was a magnet for movie stars and film companies. The city was also a magnet for Native Americans of Native American culture, and the city was a magnet for Mexican culture. The city hosted an annual celebration of the Mexican cultural heritage and in 1962, one of the first Mexican festivals of Mexican culture was held in the city and L.A. was transformed into Mariachi Country.
The festival was created by the Mexican American Cultural Center (now, the Cultural Center of L.A.). It was originally created as a way to showcase and encourage Mexican-Americans residing in southern California. For many first- and second-generation Mexican-Americans in the Southland, the events were a celebration of their heritage and ethnic culture.
During the festival, events include performances by mariachi groups from both Mexico and the United States, dance and vocal competitions, a children’s art festival, a parade, a dance contest and a concert.
The Mexican American Cultural Center organized the first Mariachi Festival in Los Angeles in 1962. For four years the event celebrated Mexican-American culture in Los Angeles with festivals, parades and competitions. Over the years, the festival was an enormous success, featuring over 200 mariachi bands from Mexico, the United States and other areas in America.
The festival was a very successful endeavor, but during the 1990s, due to pressures from many of the mariachi performers, the festival began to lose a significant amount of its popular following. Even though, the festival gained popular acceptance and was considered a big part of the city.
In November of 2017, Los Angeles city officials decided to take drastic action to correct the problems that mariachi performers had become over the years. They decided to cancel the festival, in order to bring the festival out of the spotlight. After the cancellation of the festival, the Mariachi Festival Society of Southern California was founded, to work with the city to restore, and revive the mariachi culture in Los Angeles.