Pride month is all about celebrating LGBTQ+ trailblazers — from past and present — helping further representation for the queer community. Those who have and are currently pushing boundaries and being queer while doing so. One band, Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, is doing just that. They are the first and only all-LGBTQ+ mariachi band and are set to play in a performance line-up filled with other queer Latine talent.
For centuries, the music genre has been dominated by cisgender straight men who sang to catch the ears of the women they were interested in. Mariachi Arcoiris is turning that notion on its head. In an interview with KCRW of the Greater Los Angeles area, Carlos Samaniego, who is at the helm of the group, said, “Unfortunately, being openly gay [was] a no-no in this culture [and] in this community. And so nowadays, it’s better, but when I was younger, it definitely was something that I struggled with.”
One of its members, Natalia Melendez, is a transgender woman. She spoke about her experiences as a trans woman in the mariachi space in a two-part special for Univision News. Recently, they’ve performed on Univision’s morning show, Pride celebrations in Los Angeles, Long Beach, South Bay, and Oceanside, and Transgender Pride at the LGBT Center in Los Angeles. They also make appearances at popular LA nightlife spaces like The Abbey, Club Tempo, and Hamburger Mary’s.
Samaniego told KCRW that he created the band as a way of creating a safe space for himself. “I felt a personal need for there to be a safe space for mariachi musicians like myself,” he says. “So that we can come together and rehearse our music, perform our music in a space or an environment that’s free of that bullying and this discrimination. I thought to myself, well, I can’t be the only one going through this.”
On June 18, Mariachi Arcoiris will be performing at the Broad’s Pride/Latine showcase happening in Los Angeles at the downtown museum. The showcase aims to uplift “artists reflecting on the complex meanings and symbolism of the United States flag represented in The Broad’s special exhibition, This Is Not America’s Flag.” They will be performing alongside Dominican singer Rubby, Mexican vocalist Niña Dioz, trans poet féi hernandez, DJ Cocteautwinks, and artist Xandra Ibarra.