By Felipe Vera
On Friday May 8, out-of-work mariachis held a concert to raise relief funds as they have been especially impacted by the economic crisis, unable to work due to COVID-19 restrictions and ineligible to receive unemployment or similar benefits.
The event was hosted by anti-gentrification organization Defend Boyle Heights, and as it began Mariachi Plaza was covered in posters made by the mariachis, the stage had “Support the Mariachis!” (Apoya los Mariachis) written across it and two activists raised a banner reading, “Where there is oppression, there is resistance! We are mariachis, we are of the people!”
The mariachis played for nearly an hour, speaking in short intermissions explaining why they were performing and how people can show solidarity with them. The people in attendance cheered on the mariachis, with many donating money and others asking for the mariachis’ booking information for personal events and parties.
When asked about why they decided to organize this concert, one mariachi named Maria told Tribune of the People, “Because we are mariachis who need help, and up to now the government hasn’t given us anything, neither has any organization. We have to go out in order to find money to pay rent, the bills, for our basic necessities.”
Other mariachis reaffirmed their independence from a local non-profit that has done nothing but take advantage of them. One mariachi, Ismael, mentioned that “There are no reports on the donations received, because there are donations but they are not shared. They are only shared among the favorites while we’re isolated, the majority of us haven’t received anything. For this reason we say we’re independent.”
After about 40 minutes, the police had shown up blaring their sirens as an attempt to intimidate people due to the size of the gathering. However, the few that arrived only stepped out of their car stood off to the side, and within a matter of minutes they left.
Towards the end, an activist with DBH gave a short speech declaring support for the mariachis and calling on the people to support the demands for work or wages, a stoppage on rent and utility bills, and end to the ban on protests and gatherings.
Not only did the mariachis raise over $5000 with the event and even more in the following days, they also enjoyed the support of the masses and were able to push their political demands to the forefront of the cultural event.