Nati Cano Passes

By Diana Martinez, Editor — 

Nati Cano, the founder of Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano died Friday, Sept. 3, after a long battle with cancer. Los Camperos de Nati Cano are considered the most accomplished and influential Mariachi ensemble in the United States. 

“This marks an end of an era,” said Javier Verdin, folklorista and co-founder of Ballet Folklorico Ollin. “It’s hard to imagine today, but there was a time when Mariachi music in the United States was hardly known or dismissed as bar music. It’s because Nati demanded respect for the music and fine musicianship that now Mariachi music is heard everywhere in this country. 

For anyone, including classically trained musicians who have tried to play Mariachi music, they soon find that it is a complex art form.” 

Cano is credited for putting down the hard foundation for other groups to form and for the recording of mariachi music, inclusion in festivals, competitions, cultural events and formal stage performances. He is also credited with bringing Mariachi music into the finest concert halls. 

When Cano first arrived in the United States, he came with a Mariachi group but when some of the members wanted to return to Mexico, Cano stayed and fomed Los Camperos and established a venue for them to perform through his establishment of La Fonda Restaurant on Wilshire Los Angeles , 

La Fonda became a noted spot to celebrate special family events and to hold professional meetings. The California Chicano News Media Association met in a meeting room at La Fonda for many years. The meeting always began with Los Camperos walking in and filling the room with their big sound. . Cano collaborated with Linda Ronstadt and developed touring shows including Fiesta Navidad. and Mariachi Folklor Pasión Mexicana, 

Cano and other members of Los Camperos developed several new generations of young musicians through the City of San Fernando based program, the Mariachi Apprentice Program, which has been given the distinction of being one of the best after school programs in the nation. Members of Los Camperos actively teach and perform with students who attend Middle and High school in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, performing under the name Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando. This group of young Mariachi musicians have been honored at the White House and played for Michelle Obama and at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. . “So many musicians and dancers got their start from working with Nati,” Verdin said. “No one can dispute that Mariachi music is popular in the United States today and it has been handed down to our young people because of the work of Nati Cano.” 

Services for Cano are pending.