As a gay mariachi musician, Carlos Samaniego grew weary of discrimination and harassment from other mariachis in the macho world of that genre. So he formed his own group, but with all the LGBTQ + members.
Thus was born Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, considered the first LGBTQ + mariachi band, which gave three concerts on Wednesday in the Los Angeles area for the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo, as part of an acceptance campaign promoted by a beer company. Mexican.
Samaniego, who studied classical singing and violin, said he formed the first band 20 years ago with gay men and got an initial push to give concerts at a gay Latino cowboy nightclub.
The band faded and as Samaniego continued his mariachi career, machismo became dominant. Starting in 2014, he formed a more diverse group. All 10 members identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, asexual and pansexual, Samaniego said.
“I wanted to create an environment for musicians like me, where we can be free, and we can be who we authentically are and play our music without having to worry about harassment.”
Samaniego said he sometimes notices resistance from more traditional fans, especially when they perform at weddings. Older relatives who visit them from Mexico are often surprised but overcome when the music starts, he said.
Natalia Melendez, a transgender violinist and singer, said she often sees Latino and queer musicians see her as an inspiration.
“When I transitioned, I didn’t realize that I was going to be a pillar for others,” Melendez said. “I feel like I have to take a responsibility. I owe it to my community and to show the world that we must be respected.”