Music festival celebrates Mexican aural tradition

National City’s Pepper Park will be swinging this weekend with the signature sound of Mexico, mariachi. The National City Mariachi Festival and Competition, Sunday, March 13, will bring top professional mariachi and showcase student mariachi on two stages.

“It’s a festival environment. There’s food booths, there’s a whole children’s area so people can expect pony rides and a petting zoo,” said Jacqueline Reynoso of the National City Chamber of Commerce which hosts the festival. “We will also have a beer garden and there will be shuttle service from the trolley station.”

“So we’ll have a lot of cool family fun along with the main stage where the competition is going to be held and some of the showcase performances,” Reynoso added.

Music will be performed by top student mariachi bands from Texas, Tucson, Mexico and San Diego schools, alongside performers like Javier Rodriguez y su Mariachi los Aventureros, Mariachi Aztlán of the University of Texas-Río Grande Valley, Mariachi Estrellas de Chula Vista and Mariachi Femenil Nuevo Tecalitlan.

“I’m excited about it. It’s the biggest free mariachi event that we have in San Diego,” said Jeff Nevin, founding member of the Mariachi Scholarship Foundation which partners with the Chamber of Commerce. “And you’re going to be hearing some of our students perform, so it’s a very special event.”

Students will be showcasing their mariachi chops and some will be competing in the festival while featured headliners will be delivering music that will have you dancing in your boots.

“Mariachi Femenil Nuevo Te­ca­­litlan is an amazing group from Guadalajara, Mexico,” said Reynoso. Femenil Nuevo Tecalitlan is an all-woman mariachi band recognized as one of the best mariachi acts performing today. Femenil Nuevo Tecalitlan delivers a powerful mariachi sound in a wide range of styles.

As a former member of the famed Los Camperos de Nati Cano, Javier Rodriguez has a seat among some of the great mariachi performers of all time. Accompanied by Los Aventureros, Rodriguez is a must-see act at the mariachi festival.

Mariachi Estrellas de Chula Vista is a local group with a growing reputation for offering pristine mariachi music. Estrellas have won a number of competitions since their formation in 2011 and travel to festivals throughout the U.S. and Mexico.

Mariachi Aztlán of the University of Texas-Río Grande Valley is an award-winning college mariachi group that has performed in the Hollywood Bowl and other venues from Canada to Mexico.

“Mariachi is folk music,” said Nevin. “But it’s transformed into something more than folk music. It’s in movies, it’s on the radio, it’s everywhere. So that’s how it has become an international symbol of Mexican culture as much as anything.”