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Mariachi Festival Sin Fronteras celebrates its 10th year


May 17, 2001|By ANTHONY LONGORIA, Staff Writer

The sounds of Mexican folk music will resonate from the Imperial Valley Expo on Saturday night as the Mariachi Festival Sin Fronteras celebrates its 10th year.

Four acts complete the festival, which at its heart is nothing more than a celebration of music, according to the festival's founder, Helen Lopez.

Throughout the festival's 10 years, its talent list has featured artists from all over the world. One staple of the festival's lineups has been Sol de México de José Hernández, the group headlining the event.

"We've sort of grown up with them," Lopez said. "(Hernández) is what this festival is built on."

Hernández's professional résumé includes a performance of "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" at the 68th Academy Awards and a performance with Alejandro Fernandez at the first Latin Grammy Awards.


Sol de México has had eight top-selling albums and has collaborated with numerous artists. The group maintains a busy touring schedule, which includes performances in the classical music circuit.

Also performing will local groups Los Reyes Del Valle (returning for their seventh year) and Mariachi Mixteco. The all-female Mariachi Las Princesas will make it festival debut. Dance company Grupo Azteca also will perform.

Young local artists might be disappointed to learn that the festival's workshops will not be offered this year.

Changes in the Imperial County Arts Council's administration forced the cancellation of the workshops this year, but Lopez promised their return next year.

Traditionally, workshops have been offered with the festival's artists leading classes on the basics of the mariachi genre.

Lopez said many local mariachi groups have been formed from the workshops.

"When we started this festival there were no mariachi groups locally," Lopez said.

Lopez created the festival after seeing La Frontera's Mariachi Festival while on a business trip in Tucson.

Then-director of the Work Training Center, Lopez developed the festival as a fund-raiser for the organization.

The festival has remained a fund-raising event for local organizations throughout its 10 years. This year's event benefits the Imperial County Arts Council and the Raintree Quest Foundation.

In its most successful years, the event has raised $30,000, according to Lopez, although this year's estimate of what will be raised is considerably lower.

"Our expectations are to raise $10,000 between the two organizations," Lopez said.

The festival has changed venues several times, most recently being at Cattle Call Park in Brawley. Lopez said rebuilding an audience after changing venues has impacted the festival, but she said the event has "found a good home" at the Imperial Valley Expo.

The venue's centralized location and intimacy it provides for the audience add to the festival's preference for the Imperial Valley Expo.

Several local sponsors pitch in to help offset the $20,000 it takes to book the festival's talent.

For Lopez, the event is a culmination of months of preparations, and after 10 years she said she's looking to hand over the reins of the event sometime soon.

"It's been a long journey," Lopez said.

In the meantime, she's planning on continuing the leadership she's provided since the event's beginnings and will seek to reorganize the organization to make it independent of her leadership.

Reflecting on her role in the festival over the years, Lopez said: "It's probably the most important thing I've done."

Mariachi Festival Sin Fronteras starts at 7 p.m. Saturday in the I.V. Expo grandstand. Tickets are $10 for grandstand, $20 for reserved seating, and $25 for star seating.

Tickets may be purchased at the Imperial County Arts Council at 230 S. 5th St. in El Centro or by calling 337-1777.

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