Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, the world’s first queer mariachi band

Mariachi music, a genre made up of predominantly heterosexual men, is finally getting a splash of the rainbow.

Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, who bill themselves as the world’s first LGBTQ mariachi band, is a sonic catalyst for change and acceptance in the genre known for its “macho” male musicians. The sport rainbow-colored accents as part of their traditional wardrobe.

Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles (Rainbow Mariachi of Los Angeles) will perform Saturday in downtown Los Angeles at Grand Park as part of El Grito Festival.

“We have an amazing show prepared,” Melendez told Billboard magazine. “It’s about an hour long and we’re catering to not only Latinos, but also millennials outside of the Latino community.”

Humble Beginnings

The band’s founding members, Carlos Samaniego and Natalia Melendez, started the band in college about 24 years ago after seeing discrimination against the LGBTQ community, according to Billboard.

Melendez also bills herself as the first transgender female in the history of mariachis.  

“I want what I am to make a statement for the next generation,” Melendez told the magazine. “To let them know that you can be a role model. To show them you can be a transgender woman and be successful without letting society bring you down.”

Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles

Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, who bill themselves as the world’s first LGBTQ mariachi band, is a sonic catalyst for change and acceptance in the genre known for its “macho” male musicians. Photo: Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles

Melendez and Samaniego met as teenagers in an after-school mariachi band, according to the Los Angeles Times. Samaniego, who came out in college, had the idea to start an all-gay mariachi band while planning a same-sex mock wedding for a campus LGBTQ activist group. Samaniego knew a true Mexican wedding wouldn’t be be complete without a mariachi, he told the publication.

The band played some shows, but eventually disbanded.

Transgender Discrimination

After beginning her transition, Melendez was told she’d have to choose between transitioning and being a performer. She stopped receiving calls for jobs, and even was rejected for a gig because they thought she would make someone uncomfortable.

New generation of mariachi

The band regrouped in 2014 and added the rainbow colored accents to their wardrobe. They have played everything from weddings to Pride festivals, including the DTLA Proud Festival.

For Friday’s show at Grand Park, Melendez told Billboard, “We’re going to give what we represent — an LGBTQ mariachi group that is on fire, sharp and tight.”

About the author

Lauren Torres

Lauren Torres is a journalist who has watched enough "Investigation Discovery" to be obsessed with chasing investigations through writing for the rest of her life. When not chasing investigations or aliens, Torres writes non fiction, collects anything Spider-Man related, and eats copious amounts of Hot Cheetos while watching "The Office."

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