When you think of mariachi musicians, you’re probably picturing the sombreros, the Mexican cowboy or charro outfit and the mustachioed Mexican men serenading in them. And even though women can perform in mariachi bands and there are all-female mariachi groups, mariachi music and culture is very male-dominated. We found a mariachi group in Los Angeles that’s trying to change that.
Introducing Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Ángeles, or Rainbow Mariachi of L.A. in English. They’re the first openly LGBTQ mariachi in Los Angeles, and probably, the world. Mariachi Arcoiris director Carlos Samaniego created the group in 2014 as a “safe space” for LGBTQ musicians and fans. Since then, they’ve played at Gay Pride celebrations in Los Angeles, gay weddings and even at one of L.A.’s most important mariachi festivals, the Mariachi Plaza Festival. And they’ve made the rounds on outlets like Univision and Telemundo featuring Natalia Melendez, the world’s first openly transgender woman in the history of mariachi.
Picture courtesy of Mariachi Arcoiris de los Angeles, from left to right: Natalia Melendez, Carlos Samaniego, Maria Peñaloza, Zach Groll, Rodolfo Vasquez, Michael Tejada, Amadeo Arias and Jerry Ibarra.