Hundreds of Mariachis, including those from the San Fernando Valley, filled the streets of Boyle Heights to say “Thanks,” to the patron saint for musicians. They gathered at the Mariachi Plaza, the historic center for L.A.’s Mariachi musicians and began the day long festival by singing the traditional song, “Las Mananitas” to her before walking in procession throughout the neighborhood, filling the surrounding streets with the big sound of trumpets, guitars and song.
This year, there was, an addition. A special tribute was held for Mariachi icon, Natividad “Nati” Cano, who passed away last month. Cano, the founder of the world renowned Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, is credited with elevating the mariachi musician to a higher status and for popularizing the art form in the United States. Since his passing, this was the first public memorial tribute held for him and gave fellow musicians and the public an opportunity to express their gratitude for Cano’s contributions to all Mariachi musicians. A small private service had been held previously in Ventura County where the famed musician had lived.
“It is fitting that this year, during the week of the Thanksgiving holiday, in addition to having this procession and program for St. Cecilia, this was a public homenaje, (tribute) and memorial for Mr. Natividad “Nati” Cano whose life work was to preserve the music of Mexico and bring Mariachi music to the world stage in the most esteemed of theaters,” said Panorama City resident, Francisco Javier Verdin, the Master of Ceremonies for the festival.
“This large gathering to share stories and memories of his work is important to all of us. “Nati” was quite literally ‘instrumental’ in gaining the much deserved respect of this genre of music while bringing discipline to this traditional art form,” Verdin told the crowd.
In addition to a shrine of Santa Cecilia that was set up there was an ofrenda (an offering) to “Nati” Cano in front of the stage that included his sombrero and vihuela (musical instrument). Many walked up to the stage to pause and give a private prayer, many left flowers as Monsignor John Moretta of Resurrection Parish in Boyle Heights held an outdoor Mass.
The image of Santa Cecilia carried at the front of the long procession was painted by renowned sacred artist, Lalo Garcia, who lives in the Mission Hills area of the San Fernando valley. Years ago, the painting was purchased by Nati Cano and donated by Cano to the Mariachis and to Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights for this annual pilgrimage and festival.
Garcia, who is noted for his work at the downtown L.A. Cathedral, is a longtime supporter of this event..
“As a folklorista, and as an artist, I wanted to contribute to this yearly tradition by producing an original fine art painting of Santa Cecilia, which is a true replica of the painting created in Italy,” said Garcia. “Thanks to Mr. Cano’s generosity, the dream to have our own work of art of Santa Cecilia for this special gathering became a reality,” Garcia shared. Arturo Ramirez and Eleno Caro, the organizers for the annual festival, are caretakers of the sacred artwork throughout the year.
Among the Mariachi groups that played were the High Desert Mariachi, Mariachi Ambiente, Mariachi Garibandi, Mariachi Tierra Querida, Trio Ellas, Mariachi Toros, Mariachi Internacional De Mexico, Mariachi Reyna de los Los Angeles, Mariachi Sol De Mexico, and of course the Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano. Music continued throughout the evening with a closing performance by Banda Sinaloense Rio Grande.
The Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights was built as a center for musicians and resembles the Garibaldi Plaza in Mexico City, which is a major gathering spot for Mariachis and a popular tourist attraction.
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