Mariachero Empowerment: The band that smashes all stereotypes
Mariachi Arcoíris has achieved more being the first of its kind to bring values and empowerment to the LGBTQ struggle within the Latinx community.
There are an estimated 30,000 mariachis in Mexico alone, and that's not counting all the groups scattered around the globe. However, only one band has been able to break with many stereotypes in the Latinx community by presenting itself as an all-LGBTQ group that also has the world's first transgender mariachi.
Yair Hernández recently interviewed Mariachi Arcoíris for Milenio to find out how the pandemic, the drop in live music revenues, and estrangement has affected these trailblazers. Carlos, the band's leader, was positive and ambitious about getting back together and their goals as a folklore band playing in California.
— Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles (@mariacharcoiris) January 23, 2021
Their story of empowerment and artistic representation has more to do with the band members' own backgrounds than the genre itself, as they play traditional cajón music. Carlos founded Mariachi Arcoíris at the beginning of the millennium during his college days, when he came out of the closet. Then, it had lasted a few months before disbanding.
The reason for putting together an LGBTQ band was due to previous bad experiences that had to be resolved by confronting stereotypes.
Separated, the members of the group found prejudice, harassment, teasing, and bullying in other ventures they tried. With those new experiences in tow, the group decided to get back together in 2013.
Since then, they have been both performing and providing a safe space to rethink the archetypes hidden behind traditional music. They have also played at LGBTQ events like Long Beach Pride or Transgender Pride. They also released their own album in 2018 called Los Arcoiris with classic tracks like "A mi manera" or "Así son los hombres."
The creation of these new spaces for the old traditions has allowed the creation of a group without taboos for Natalia Meléndez, the first transgender mariachi woman to boast about it. In the same interview, the group explained how the band challenges the prejudices not only of listeners, but also of other bands, among whom they struggle to gain respect.
Carlos explained that people approach them inspired by their courage to come out of the closet. It makes their existence transcend just the art they create.
"We represent the Latino community to the LGBTQ community. We can show how beautiful Mexican music is and we can erase those stereotypes that they think that mariachi is Jarabe Tapatío and that's it," he said.