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World’s first LGBTQ mariachi using music to unite communities, encourage acceptance – Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City, Missouri 2021-09-22 11:57:54 –

Los Angeles, CA — A group of Los Angeles musicians share their love for mariachi music and at the same time make history.

Maria Chiarco Iris de Los Angeles The world’s first LBG TQ mariachi.

Alcoiris means rainbow in Spanish.

Mariachi music is a genre loved by Hispanic culture. Its unique and powerful sound is a staple of Mexican events and celebrations.

“Music is very powerful, dramatic and passionate,” said Carlos Samaniego, founder of Mariachi Arcoiris.

LGBTQ rights have expanded significantly over the last few decades, but Samaniego said acceptance of Hispanic culture is not always at the same rate.

Members want their music to connect people and at the same time address the issue of gay rights in communities that were not traditionally open to embracing this change.

Samaniego has been playing and singing mariachis professionally for over 20 years.

He said the idea of ​​forming an LGBTQ mariachi was first conceived during a gay pride event on campus at college.

The idea came true, but short-lived, Samaniego returned to co-starring with other professional mariachis in Los Angeles.

The violinist said that music was always special to him, but his journey along the way was not always in harmony.

“As soon as I got out of the closet, I never hid the fact that I was gay to anyone,” Samaniego said. “It wasn’t a big deal in the mariachi world.”

Samaniego, known for his beautiful ballads and powerful sounds, said that mariachi music also reflects macho culture.

“Music talks about conquering women’s love and women’s love, or perhaps having some women, and which one do I choose?” He said. “All of this is like being embedded in our culture and our society being Mexican.”

According to Samaniego, macho culture is also embedded in the mariachi community, so it can be difficult to feel welcomed as a gay man.

“It’s hard to get people’s respect, and frankly I’ve been bullied a lot,” he said.

Samaniego wanted to create a safe space for other musicians like him, so he revived the Mariachi Arcoiris in 2016.

“It’s really great that we are ourselves, not just ourselves, but in an environment where we can celebrate it,” he said.

Today, the group has 13 members, including Natalia Melendez, the first transgender woman in mariachi history.

“That’s pretty amazing. It’s a big responsibility for us to represent our music and represent the LGBTQ community,” Melendez said. “When I started singing on stage, it was time to love live performances and live as Beyonce, a little Mexican Beyonce.”

One of the former members, Melendez, also deals with her own criticisms.

“When I moved, it got harder. Nobody wanted to hire me. It seems they were afraid to take on me, like I am. I was still the same musician. I was still the same singer, “she said.

Mariachi Arcoiris not only breaks stereotypes, but also introduces Mexican culture to the LGBTQ community.

The group, mostly online, still faces some resistance, but members believe their music speaks for itself.

“Music is our armor. That’s the way we protect ourselves,” Samaniego said.

“We have a very high degree of musicality and respect for mariachi music. We respect it and we will not change it. We just put a small stamp on it,” Melendez adds. I did.

With every strum on the guitar, every stroke of the violin, and every note sung, Mariachi Arcoiris wants the audience to hear the message of love and acceptance.

“Everyone who is born and walks on this planet deserves love,” Melendez said.

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