Good News: The 2009 San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival

I walked into the press conference announcing the lineup of this year’s San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival wondering how it would be possible to match last year’s excellent presentations. I needn’t have worried about it. Festival director and Mexican Heritage CEO Marcela Davison Aviles and the festival’s artistic director, Linda Ronstadt, have managed to exceed even the highest of expectations created by the 2008 festival.

Aviles and Ronstadt were on hand at the Cinco de Mayo press conference in the Fairmont Hotel along with one of the guest stars of this year’s event, legendary guitarist and human rights advocate Carlos Santana, to give the exciting details of the now-renamed festival for 2009. Aviles explained that the festival’s new official name came at the suggestion of Linda Ronstadt, who wanted to acknowledge the greater context of Mexican and Mexican American culture that Mariachi is an important element of. Enlarging the scope of the festival has been coming for some time, and, accordingly, the new artistic vision is a more accurate reflection of the festival and the official aims of the Mexican Heritage Foundation.

The 2009 festival will run from Sept. 20 to 27 with the theme of “a tribute to the heroes of our heritage.”  Aviles began by acknowledging the vital support for the festival from the city, RDA, Downtown Association, Team San Jose and former mayor Tom McEnery. This year’s festival is also being supported by the Mexican government, and Mexican Consul General David Figueroa was on hand to announce his country’s participation. In addition, Target has made a generous gift of sponsoring the Sunday, Sept. 27 Feria del Mariachi outdoor family event—featuring performances on three stages in downtown San Jose—that will be free of charge to the public.

The festival continues last year’s educational theme with workshops on Mariachi music making, Mexican American culture and organic Mexican cookery. This aspect of the festival is close to Ronstadt’s heart whose enthusiasm for “teaching kids about their culture” and “connecting them with their grandparents” was evident in her answers to questions from the press. Santana agreed, pointing out that California spends more money on a prison inmate than a student, and referring to the governor as the “exterminator of education.” Ronstadt and Santana both expressed their personal affection for San Jose and recognized its uniqueness as a “great incubator” with its “multicultural population, fabulous symphony and ballet, progressive city government and the enlightenment of Silicon Valley.”

The festival’s music presentations begin with a Student Showcase Concert on Sept. 24. The following evening, Friday the 25th, Joan Baez will perform at the Center for the Performing Arts. The political songstress and civil rights activist grew up in Palo Alto in a Mexican American family and was one of the first popular artists to record an album of Mexican songs in Spanish (1974’s Gracias a la Vida).

Saturday the 26th there will be a tribute to the “golden era of Mexican film” in a concert entitled “Mariachi Goes to the Movies,” featuring Mariachi stars Aida Cuevas (who also appeared last year), Mariachi Cobre, and San Jose dance troupe Los Lupeños, celebrating its 40th anniversary year. After the outdoor events on Sunday, the festival will be brought to a close with a gala tribute to Cesar Chavez by Los Lobos, Linda Ronstadt and Carlos Santana, performing together at the HP Pavilion.

This festival has clearly become one of the very best and most important four or five annual cultural events in the life of our city. How lucky we are to have it here.

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  1. It definitely sounds like a great cultural event and something good for the city. It is very unfortunate, in my opinion, that we don’t have the same support from the city leaders for our 4th of July celebration. That is something my family has attended for years and is now canceled. I really can’t help looking at these other cultural festivals without a jaundiced eye knowing as a city we aren’t honoring an American holiday representing the birth of our great country as it is now apparently not that important to our city leaders.

  2. Steve: Your blame of “city leaders” is, in this case, misplaced.

    The America Festival was canceled when its major sponsor, NBC11 (not the city), pulled out with very little notice. The city, not being exactly flush with cash at the moment, was not able to step in with last-minute funding. (Could you imagine the outcry if it had?)

    Jack – Nice to see you back on SJI. I hope it becomes a regular thing.

  3. Gosh, I wonder if it would be okay to bring along a box of sparklers so that a few of us could find a quiet corner and celebrate the founding of our country….

  4. #3

    Are you kidding?  East San Jose on the 4th of July looks like Bagdhad under attack.  The residents have fireworks equal to Great America and other shows.  Where they come from I do not know, but it a pain in the butt every year. 

    As is the case every year, they have already started using the fireworks at night, and it will continue until late in the summer when they have finally used up this years supply.

    Interestingly, Cinco De Mayo is usually quiet around here, but the 4th is crazy.

  5. #2
    Your statement that my “blame of “city leaders” is, in this case, misplaced” is absolutely ridiculous. The city leaders control the money and where it is spent. These same people agreed to spend a billion dollars for a new city hall, millions on golf courses that are barely used, millions on a car race downtown, are annexing thousands of new residents from run down county pockets as we speak. They also find money for every other cultural celebration but can’t find a relative drop in the bucket amount of money to fund the most American of our own countries cultural celebrations.

    Nam, maybe you should pick up a book and study what those “pretty lights in the sky” and the associated celebrations represent to our country and its birth.

  6. #2-MC,
    If you look at the City Managers proposed budget, she recommends giving the festival $50K. She also recommends cutting the Crime Prevention Unit’s Neighborhood Watch Program by $55K. Hum. I don’t think the City should fund the festival over vital services. The City should fund our Neighborhood Watch Program. That program is responsible for helping to empower neighborhoods, and assist the Police in catching criminals. Just goes to show you our City Manager’s lack of common sense when prioritizing our tax dollars!

    Hey Jack, welcome back! I’ve missed you!

  7. “Nam, maybe you should pick up a book and study what those ‘pretty lights in the sky’ and the associated celebrations represent to our country and its birth.”

    Yeah, I know it. There are even hints in that anthem thingy we hear before sporting events. It still seems a reach that you’re now treating a fireworks show as some type of sacred ritual, without which you cannot properly recognize the holiday. Somehow, I don’t imagine the pyrotechnician views his job like lighting the menorah.

    We’ll survive this, Steve.

  8. #7 Steve: I’ll tell you what’s ridiculous: any suggestion that at a time vital city services are being cut the city should somehow suddenly step in come up with $$ to pay for a fireworks show! That is EXACTLY the kind of feel-good “bread and circuses” government spending that should not be happening in a fiscal crisis.

    On a more positive note, if you put up the first $100 toward next year’s fireworks show, I’ll match it. wink I’m sure that a patriot like you will be happy to put his money where his mouth is!

  9. #10-MC,
    Monday night, Kathleen and I went to Council Member Constant’s community meeting on the budget. Half the crowd agreed to donate to fireworks. The offer was ignored, but we got to listen to a long speech on his lost bid for porn filters.wink
    Kathleen sent an email to the Mayor, and Council with the same offer of donating $100.00 for fireworks. Still no reply on her offer.

  10. #11 & 12: I think we may be onto something here.

    It would be interesting to see how many folks would chip in $100 (or whatever) to pay for a fireworks show. My guess is people would support this.  Let us know of the Mayor’s office responds. I will ping them myself on Monday, maybe others could too.

    Citizens could make the show happen, without city $$ or a major sponsor. WE would be the sponsor. (Not sure about Steve though, now that there’s money on the table he’s suddenly gotten very silent with his flag-waving…) 

    Light #13: Tell the truth, you don’t get invited to a lot of parties, do you?

  11. Thank You Jack for your support of what has become the prize of The City Of San Jose.
    When years ago as I watched Mariachi Sol de Mexico in Salinas, and invited them to perform here in our city, I could not have dreamed that now in 2009 Santana would be the headliner along with Cobre, Nati Cano, Los Lobos, and my crush of all crushes Joan Baez.
      Marcela continues to amaze me with her gentle touch and formidable presentations to our Village’s self esteem.
      My hope is that all will rally around Marcela and support this monumental celebration that will no doubt span the country with acceptance of our cullture as providers of substanance and builders of the Nation President Obama is here to heal.
      I appeal to the powers, on this week end of celibration, bring out the old guard, lets present a face of unity. Sure there will be the usual issues, but, do we have to resort to the abusive tactics, so prevelent in the down town core of late.
      I met and accepted the sprit of Carlos Santana, at the National Hispanic University recently. The tears that flowed by the parents of the students that Carlos had supported, are with me Forever. One can only imagine what we as a nation can achieve if we follow in Carlos Santana’s foot steps.
        Gil Hernandez/The Village Black Smith

  12. MC #14,

    I already pay thousands of dollars in the form of property taxes which goes to the city. What I am upset about is our city leaders, who have decided to use our money to fund every other ethnic and cultural festival except the one unique to the birth of our own country because there is supposedly no money left. The city gets almost a billion dollars a year for its budget from the taxpayers. The 4th of July festival (not just fireworks) cost just $150,000. This amount represents just .00015% of the total budget, yet our city council in its lack of respect to our own great country has decided we can’t afford this amount. Tell you what though MC, since you are so passionate about each of us donating $100 I will be happy to do so too. Just let me know who at the city is now collecting this money to make the 4th of July festival happen this year.

  13. The city should not be supporting this festival, or any festival, with cash over services that contribute to public safety. I enjoy Mariachi music BUT would rather any funds be used for Neighborhood Watch instead. I can always enjoy the music but I can not pull out a CD and replicate the positive effect the NW program could have.

    As well, if the Mariachi festival gets 50K why not 50K for a 4th of July Festival?

  14. Add my name to those who object to the city supporting the 2009 San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage festival but giving nothing to the 4th of July. It’s one thing not to support any festivals but another thing to discriminate against your own country because it is not politically correct.

  15. MC, Steve, and any one else who wants to donate any amount of money for fireworks, let us make it happen! We should call AND send an email to the Mayor and the ENTIRE Council with our offers on Monday. Please report back what they say, if anything! (Tell a friend!)

    Mayor Chuck Reed 408-535-4800
    [email protected]
    Pierluigi OliverioDistrict 408-535-4906
    [email protected]
    Pete ConstantDistrict 408-535-4901
    [email protected]
    Madison NguyenDistrict 408-535-4907
    [email protected]

    Ash KalraDistrict 408-535-4902
    [email protected]
    Rose HerreraDistrict 408-535-4908
    [email protected]

    Sam LiccardoDistrict 408-535-4903
    [email protected]
    Judy ChircoDistrict 408-535-4909
    [email protected]

    Kansen ChuDistrict 408-535-4904
    [email protected]
    Nancy PyleDistrict 408-535-4910
    [email protected]

    Nora CamposDistrict 408-535-4905
    [email protected]     

    Good luck!

  16. You patriotic bretheren must concider that the flags you wave and the fire works you can’t do with out, all originate in China. Made by 8 year olds in sweat shops, just for you!
      What your empty point?

  17. After my post yesterday #15, I spent the day with my friend Dr. David Lopez celebrating 109 years of Redwood Forest Conservation, at Little Big Basin with the oldest Land Concervency in Calfornia, 2nd oldest in the Nation, Sempervirens Fund.
      I left Sempervirens Fund after many years on the Board of Directors to work with children that are part of our disfuntional system. We all know the drop out rate among children of color. 60 %
      I resigned Sempervirens Fund on Father’s Day of last year, to do just that.
      The most amazing thing occurred there after. I was asked to return to the Fund as an Advisor and asked to bring Dr. David Lopez to meet the Advisory Board.  We were welcomed as Members!
      My joy is that the National Hispanic University and Sempervirens Fund will collaborate on developing and educating those students that require the soft hand and hands on in the Forests that have been so much a part of my life, and that of My Children. We want YOU to join us there under the forest canopy next to that clear and cool stream flowing gently to the Sea.
      A Day in the Redwood Forest is Forever! The Trees that have stood for thousands of years, give assurance that some things never change. We as a Village need that permanence in our lives.
      Our children need the majesty and unique abundance of so many tall and straight symbols to emulate.
      The forest can become a teacher, a listener, and a special friend to all who belive in it’s existence.
      Visit In these times of fear and anxiety. A day in the Forest will give you strength and assure you that life continues inspite of the circumstances we are subjected to endure.
      We have the unique ability to change our Village every day, by simply changing our selves. God Bless our Village!
      The Village Black Smith

  18. Community, Reality, Community! Try it you might like it! That is what the Mariachi Festival is all about. Keeping values alive and fixing what has been broken, so that even folks like you can understand that it benifits the whole community. You can change your envionment, by simply changing your self!  Good Luck Reality. The answers are in your Questions.
      Jack’s post is not about fire works. It’s about his Village and what makes this such a great place to live.
      The Village Black Smith

  19. #20

    I was also there on Saturday.  To bad we didn’t know each other were going to be there.  Otherwise we could have met, introduced ourselves, and discussed the lead pollution from Reid-Hillview.

    Little Basin is a very nice place, and it is great it is being added to Big Basin park.  After the lunch, we hiked into Big Basin for a 12 mile hike.  Whew, I sure am glad I took 4 water bottles with me.  It was an intense hike, but great to get out of noisy East San Jose, and into the quiet solitude of the woods.

  20. #22-Gil, said, “Jack’s post is not about fire works. It’s about his Village and what makes this such a great place to live.”

    His village is in AMERICA Gil, and in San Jose, a City that is funding an event over that of our own Independence Day.

    “Keeping values alive and fixing what has been broken, so that even folks like you can understand that it benifits the whole community.” 

    What does “even folks like you” mean Gil?

    The Fourth of July, and fireworks is about community, Gil, community! It most certainly should take precedence over any other event in this country or city, during these difficult financial times. We AMERICAN taxpayers have a say where our tax dollars go Gil. It is about OUR AMERICAN history. It is about winning, and establishing our independence, and about celebrating the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who risked their lives crossing the ocean to work, and build a beautiful new land called America. It is about the men and women who fought and lost their lives for our freedoms Gil. It is about immigrants of ALL races and cultures Gil, you know AMERICANS!

    The San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival is a lovely event, but it should not receive funding from the City, unless the City funds the 4th of July first.

  21. Kathleen #24

    I really thought I was giving my fellow citizens some good news about this year’s excellent and exciting SJ Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival lineup. But now that the thread has been sent off on a tangent I didn’t foresee, I would like to comment on what you and some others have expressed.

    The festival is only one of many such cultural events receiving funding from the city, so it should not be singled out and taken out of its greater context.  With that in mind, this is not an either/or situation. The city council is not going to trade off a fireworks display for other events, nor should they. If the city did withdraw financial support of the festival and all the other major cultural events unique to our city–Cinequest, the SJ Jazz Festival and ZeroOne come to mind as examples—in deference to funding a 30-minute July 4th fireworks display, it would be a terrible mistake.

    San Jose is not an isolated island in the Pacific, but part of the greater Bay Area community with a population of more than 8 million people. There are dozens of fireworks displays in our region, many of them within a short distance. If observing one as part of your holiday celebration is important to you, then it isn’t difficult to find one. Yet another one is not necessary and I support the city council’s decision to cancel the SJ city-funded show.

    Instead of fireworks in coming years, I would support funding the distribution of copies of the Declaration of Independence to every household in the city. Then on the Fourth of July, San Jose families could gather together, read the document out loud to each other, and savor its poetry and celebrate its great inspirational importance to our nation’s founding. There are more than enough intellectual fireworks in the great words carefully crafted by Thomas Jefferson. The enduring ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence are what we are about, not the empty instant gratification provided by ephemeral pyrotechnics.

  22. Village BS: When did you and proponents of the Mariachi Festival corner the market on commmunity and values? Are you speaking of Latinos? And who is “folks like you”?

    Did the founding fathers of this country lack values or community? Is the celebration of our Independence not as important to you? Or do you not consider it your Independence Day to celebrate?

    Kathleen: Thanks. You are right on point.

  23. #25-Jack,
    With all due respect, I honestly don’t think telling me that I can go elsewhere to see fireworks on 4th of July, even comes close to acknowledging the real point of the discussion here on SJI. 

    You said, “With that in mind, this is not an either/or situation. The city council is not going to trade off a fireworks display for other events, nor should they.” Well, you are very wrong about that Jack because that is exactly what they have done.

    And by the way, all these cultural events you are so excited about that take place here in SJ, also take place all over the Bay Area. May be the City Council should consider that when they are funding these festivals and considering lay offs of Police Officers, Fire Fighters, Code Enforcement Officers, Park Rangers, Mounted Police Units, closing libraries/community centers, and ending senior lunch programs etc.

    You, Gil, and others go on and on about how we live in a country filled with diverse cultures, and how we need to respect and keep those other cultures traditions alive, valued, and funded, yet when anyone of us wants our American traditions, or celebrations honored, we have to put up with lectures like the one you just gave me. I find it offensive to have to justify my love for this country and its traditions Jack, and I have absolutely no intention of making any apologies for my patriotism.

    I have put my money where my mouth is Jack. I emailed the Mayor and Council my offer of a $100.00 donation to keep fireworks in DT, so that I can sit in the park with hundreds of other Americans, and celebrate MY history. Not to mention supporting DT businesses! You see Jack; for the past 30 years, my family tradition has been to sit and enjoy people of ALL races and cultures, and share this AMERICAN tradition with them in DT. Just the same way my Vietnamese, Chinese, Iranian, Indian, and Latino friends share theirs with me.

    I’ll let you know what the Mayor and Council say in reply, but I wouldn’t hold my breath Jack, that they’ll value the wishes of we working class Joes. wink

  24. Kathleen said it perfectly in #27. I believe it accurately states how most of us feel about our city leaders canceling our own 4th of July celebration and being told to go to another city for the 4th if we don’t like it. Pretty sad when it is now politically incorrect to be patriotic and enjoy the pageantry and tradition associated with the national holiday to honor the birth of our own great country.

  25. Reality,
    Gil wants us to respect his heritage and Latino celebrations, but doesn’t extend that courtesy to us. You see, he like others on SJI feel entitled to having things their way, and if we disagree, then we are the lost souls doomed to walk the earth shrouded in a cloak of racism, and lacking sensitivity to cultural diversity.

    Rather then them understanding,trying to understand, supporting us, or having compassion for our feelings of loss about the way our tradition is being put on the back burner and ignored, they are going to tell us to go somewhere else to see fireworks, or give us instructions on how we should celebrate it instead. This is the “new” America Reality, at least according to Gil, Jack, and others.

  26. Kathleen & Steve,
    Maybe we could pay Marcela Davison Aviles to lobby our “representatives” on our behalf.
    I’ll bet they’d listen to HER.

  27. # 29 30 &31;,
      Please leave Me, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, The Alamo,and Slaves, out of your temper tantrums.  You got a beaf with Chuck Reed, you take it up with him. Poisoning the well for all, is so unpatriotic and mean sprited.
      You are acting as little brats, that cannot get what they want. Hey! the Little Saigon fast worked. Go! for it.
      My family and I have always left town to celibrate the 4th of July. We celibrate America as a family on the shores of Lake Tahoe, camping as the American Indians did before they were desimated.
      Too You spoiled brats! Some of us did not have to cross the ocean, we were already here. Anonymous cowards always want the last word, go for it.
      It is time you learned that life in these United States, does not cower to your overbearing way of life styles.  Pick on somebody your own size, 1/2 pints!!!
        The Village Black Smith / Gil Hernandez

  28. Village BS:

    Weak response. Your circular answer is a poor attempt to mask your inability to address the issues I raised. I’ll make it just a little easier on you. Go enjoy your horchata and wave your Mexican flag. I refuse to celebrate the city subsidized Mariachi/Mexican culture fest at the expense of celebrating my American heritage.

    But by all means, as I am sure you do, enjoy our Latino-centric PC council members. They will fund this Mariachi Fest to court voters and try to catch the wave of the new voters expected to be legitimized by Obama. Surely you understand that this is sadly pathetic truth about this Mari-Mexi Fest. 

    BTW, “Our National Holiday” as you blandly describe it, is called the 4th of July, Independence Day. Or was I mistaken and were you speaking of Cinco De Mayo or Sept 15th? 15th?

    Kathleen: As always,…well put. Gracias!

  29. Reality,
      The answers to your questions are there before you.You wrote them! Why can you not see that?
      The greening of Our National Holiday, could not came at a better time. There are enough Bombs bursting in air already! Let’s bring our troops home for the Fourth. Now that would be a celibration.
      Come and enjoy the bursts of colors Red, Whites and Blues thay make up the costumes of the folkloric dancers, that dance to celibrate life all over this country of OURS.
      Must you turn a priceless beautiful event into a negative to satisfy your mind. Some one said, “Get Off The Porch!” So, Reality,“Come and play with the rest of us”!
      Ther Village Black Smith

  30. #33
    Mr. Hernandez, with all due respect I have absolutely no idea what the point is you are trying to make in this post.

  31. #32- Jack,
    “It’s no accident many accuse me of conducting public affairs with my heart instead of my head. Well, what if I do? … Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.”
    Golda Meir

    “Patriotism is easy to understand in America; it means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country.”
    Calvin Coolidge

    “A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.”
    George William Curtis

    “A thoughtful mind, when it sees a Nation’s flag, sees not the flag only, but the Nation itself; and whatever may be its symbols, its insignia, he reads chiefly in the flag the Government, the principles, the truths, the history which belongs to the Nation that sets it forth.”
    Henry Ward Beecher

  32. #33- Gil,
    I have a great deal of respect for the Latino culture. They are a hard working, talented, proud people who have contributed many wonderful things to our community. All I asked of you was to respect our traditions, our history, our values, and our community. Not a lot to ask considering the many things you’ve asked of us~

  33. MC, Steve,
    Reporting back on responses from the Council regarding fireworks, and my offer to donate $100.00.
    Rose and Sam thanked me for the generous offer. They are working together to try and work something out and will get back to me.
    Madison: Got the automatic, thank you for contacting me, I will keep your comments in mind.
    Pierluigi: Thank you for contacting me. Your comments matter.
    Ash: I actually spoke to him yesterday at the press conference for saving the Mounted Police Unit. After I told him I wasn’t too happy about not receiving a response from him on my email, he apologized and told me he’d look into whether the City can take public funds for this or any other event, and get back to me.

    That’s it folks. No response from the Mayor or anyone else.  So how did the rest of you fare?

  34. My experience over the past two years is that the Mayor does not respond to anything. I have sent several letters that have never received as much a generic acknowledgment. So much for open and transparent.

  35. 41 – She has also been undergoing chemo for a number of months. So, maybe you should cut her a little slack at the moment.

  36. 40 – I’ll try that next time but it shouldn’t be necessary. The office of an elected official should be responsive regardless of who the letter is addressed to.

  37. Thank you and still trying to put something together for the 4th. Doesn’t sound too hopeful at this late date.

  38. I just bought tickets for a 4th of July fireworks show accompanied by the San Francisco Symphony. The show is at the Mountain View Shoreline Ampitheatre and the cost was less than $80 total for 4 tickets.

  39. Well Steve, I want to thank you for proving my point. If our Mayor and Council are dumb enough to follow Jack’s advice and send us to other cities to see fireworks, and have us spend our money there, instead of here in SJ, so be it. Our local businesses will suffer, and our city will lose the tax revenue. Locals who can’t afford to go elsewhere will just buy illegal fireworks and blast a way 4th of July. I guess our city never learns.

    Congrats on finding such a great deal! Enjoy!