Thursday, November 18, 2021

Magnificent mariachi band tours, delights, breaks ground for LGBTQ


Founder and band leader of Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, Carlos Samaniego, is a talented,
classically trained musician who formed the world's first LGBTQ mariachi band. 


Natalia Marie Melendez is a first-rate mariachi musician,
the world's first trans woman player in the genre.

IMAGINE A GIFTED young violinist -- gay, Hispanic, bullied as a kid.  Picture this talented guy dreaming of forming his own band as he experiences discrimination, derision and bullying.
Then imagine the courage it took to organize such a group, an unorthodox ensemble of  top quality musicians.  The dream is a reality now, as Mariachi Arcoiris is gaining an international reputation, emerging brilliantly and distinctly apart from and beyond the macho world of Mexican folk music.
THIS IS no movie script or fairytale.  It's the true, real-life story of  mariachi musician, Carlos Samaniego. He directs this unique ensemble, which boasts an all-LGBTQ lineup -- including the world's first trans woman mariachi player.  The group is getting raves around the country with Samaniego also singing and playing lead violin as the ensemble's concert master.
Individuality and diversity are the trademarks
of the colorful ensemble and its players.
Arcoiris, which means rainbow in Spanish, embodies Samaniego's love for the beloved musical genre held in reverence in Hispanic culture.
Says Samaniego, "It is a beloved genre in our culture -- distinct, powerful, dramatic -- a staple at Mexican events and celebrations."
HAVING HEARD my share of mediocre mariachi in hotels and folk festivals in Mexico, I was completely unprepared for a recent, flawless concert at Oscar's in Palm Springs, California.
Oscar's owner, Dan Gore, invited the group after it garnered lively publicity for playing three gigs in May in the Los Angeles area. Gore lived many years in Los Angeles and heard of the gifted ensemble during celebrations for the Cinco de Mayo holiday. The music and its message appealed to Gore, whose Oscar's programming encourages  acceptance and honors the rainbow theme
Carlos Samaniego founded
and directs Mariachi Arcoiris.
espoused by supporters of the gay community.
Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles is the brainchild of Samaniego, who studied classical violin and singing and has a 20-year history with the gay music industry. He talked engagingly about growing up in a macho culture, being a "different kid," and wanting to share his talents in an environment that accepted his sexuality and saw him as a fine musician. 
Mariachi Arcoiris (Rainbow Mariachi) is available for tours, bookings.  
Oscar's has a new
chef and  tasty
menu options.

SUCCESSFUL GIGS at a gay Latino cowboy nightclub gave him and others a leg up, but the machismo continued and became depressing. So by 2014, Samaniego formed a 10-member group identifying itself as "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, asexual and pansexual," Samaniego said.

ACCORDING TO  Gore, "There's a real need for a platform for this caliber of entertainment."  Oscar's is known for its programming diversity, welcoming a heavily gay audience for its drag cabaret, brunches, strip shows and tea dances. It's a
Oscar's owner Dan Gore runs the lights for
productions, here for the mariachi band.

place where people feel safe on both sides of the footlights, and because of this has a loyal, supportive clientele.  

Natalia Marie Melendez is the world's first transgender woman mariachi musician. The Lawndale resident has joined the ensemble for Pride celebrations around California and hopes her speaking out is "a positive moving force in the world -- not just for us, but for generations to come." As the world's only transgender female that plays mariachi music, she says, "It's been difficult. There is a definite machismo culture in mariachi."
There was no machismo the night we heard these splendid mariachis. The appreciative crowd leapt to its feet in immediate standing ovation, begging an encore after Samaniego announced the finale. So of course there was another number. 
EACH MEMBER of the troupe performed a cameo, show-case number -- some singing, some instrumental,  in a range of repertoire than included "The Impossible Dream," from "Man of LaMancha." The audience sipped and supped through the relaxing, well tuned evening and buoyed by the evening's success, Gore said he hopes to book the ensemble again.

 MORE INFORMATION, to book the mariachi band or an Oscar's reservation:; 

Keller and Cookie give thanks for being vaccinated, for
being together, and able to travel and enjoy the world.

UP NEXT: Thanksgiving is a time for reflection and appreciation. For Cookie and Keller, Thanksgiving has been "on the road" for their 14 years together -- sometimes with family in California, Oregon, Montana or Georgia, sometimes in Europe or Asia, maybe seeing a show in Las Vegas  or New York. It's also a time for memories of family-friends Thanksgivings in a happy Norman Rockwell world of long ago. More on a nostalgic Thanksgiving Day when we publish our weekly post -- a fresh spin on travel, cruising, nature, family and the arts. Please share the links:
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! May we carry the spirit of kindness into the holidays of December, giving thanks for our life on Earth, our friends, family, talents, travels and many blessings.


  1. Thank you for this fine piece. Great Thanksgiving theme!

  2. Fascinating. So proud to live in a town so welcoming to diversity.