March is for Mariachi

With the National City International Mariachi Fest and Competition as their flagship event, organizers of the festival are working on programs to grow Mariachi instruction in South Bay schools and connect students to the area’s Latino roots.

This is the fourth year that the National City Chamber of Commerce has presented the festival and competition. The fest includes workshops for student-mariachi, music competitions and the public festival which is free and features two stages and all your traditional street fair vendors.

“Moving forward I want to really focus on the Mariachi Scholarship Foundation,” said Jacqueline Reynoso with the chamber of commerce. She spearheads the festival’s organization for the chamber and partners with the scholarship foundation. “Through my work there, I really want to focus on garnering more support from the districts to invest more in mariachi education programs.”

Mariachi is a valuable form of artistic expression and an important part of southern U.S. and Mexican culture, said Reynoso, and there is lack of attention brought to it in music education.

The Mariachi Scholarship Foundation, a local non-profit group that rewards young mariachi with college scholarships and other resources, helps deliver the workshops and festival. Reynoso said the foundation’s efforts combined with the workshops and the festival are all part of the same big-picture goal of improving support of mariachi education.

Four years ago, the festival workshops hosted about 100 students and now it draws in more than 300 each year from all over the U.S. and Mexico.

“For the student experience, they now have an opportunity to interact with mariachi from different places, and different backgrounds and share their ideas and resources,” said Reynoso. Workshop instructors are also coming from diverse backgrounds and sharing their unique perspective on mariachi with students.

With premier mariachi acts the festival is one of the premier mariachi events in Southern California. Once a best-kept secret with only about 2,500 attendees, the fest is expected to bring almost 15,000 people this year.

“It’s become a signature event for National City and that in turn attracts business and people to the community. So it’s a community event and a business event as well,” said Reynoso.

The popularity of festival brings attention to the cultural significance mariachi holds in the community, which is a critical part of ensuring that young Latinos have equal access to culturally relevant art forms, said Reynoso.

“It’s quite a venture. It’s a labor of love because I’m from National City, so it’s pretty special to be able to deliver something like this to the community where I was born and raised,” Reynoso said. “My family was raised with mariachi and it’s just such a staple in our families and in our culture and in our roots.”