Sing it with us now: musicians have swagger! Ever since Elvis gyrated his bedazzled hips, we have been swooning to the symbiosis of melodies and machismo.
But if you automatically equate charisma with masculinity, you obviously haven’t heard the siren call of Natalia Melendez. Prepare to be wooed.
Natalia is regarded as the first transgender mariachi performer in what has become renowned as the inaugural LGBTQ+ mariachi band on god’s gay earth: Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles.
So, why has it taken so long to break this particular sound barrier? The answer lies deep within a maelstrom of societal phobias: fear of change, fear of the other and fear of being placed on a pedestal from which you can inevitably fall.
“When I did transition, I didn’t realize I was going to be a pillar for others,” Natalia tells Reuters. “I do feel I have to take responsibility. I owe it to my community and to show the world that we are to be respected.”
But tradition and toxicity are further obstacles preventing queer crooners from gaining the esteem they so richly deserve within the mariachi community.
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Carlos Samaniego explained what compelled him to found Mariachi Arcoiris.
“When I came out, other musicians, the total machos, would tell me I wasn’t good enough to represent this music… I wanted to create a haven for people who identified as LGBT in the mariachi world to play the music we love and not be made fun of, not be talked down to because of how they look, how they act, who they go to bed with.”
Putting petty prejudices aside, Mariachi Arcoiris lived up to their name and cast a rainbow of smiles across the Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles. Their recent show celebrated not only the empowerment of raising our collective queer voices, but also the importance of cherishing Hispanic Heritage Month.
“It’s pretty amazing for us too to be able to perform live in front of a crowd like this,” Natalia tells LGBT News Now. “We have missed each other. To be with our community is a bonus. To share our music is a double bonus! We are proud to be here playing our music.”
It is a tune that simultaneously makes our toes tap and strums our heartstrings. Play on, Mariachi Arcoiris!
Photo: Yannick Delva
Last modified: October 7, 2021