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East L.A.'s Mariachi Plaza Hosts Hundreds Of Mexican Folk Musicians Looking For Work

Emmanuel Martinez |
May 2, 2014 | 12:19 p.m. PDT

(Mariachi plaza/Emmanuel Martinez)
(Mariachi plaza/Emmanuel Martinez)
An informal agreement between the owner of a doughnut shop and a few musicians looking for a place to strum their guitars changed Boyle Heights forever.

Boyle Heights took its name from an Irish immigrant, one of thousands who moved into the area in the late 19th century. European immigrants were followed by the Japanese, and by the 1940s Mexicans were a growing part of the neighborhood. Their arrival also introduced a form of folk music from Mexico known as Mariachi. But they had nowhere to play.

At the corner of First Street and Boyle Avenue stood an open space surrounded by a nondescript doughnut shop, the Boyle-Cummings Hotel, and the Rancho Market. Several Mariachi musicians approached the owner about standing outside and passing out cards to prospective clients, people who might hire a Mariachi band to perform at everything from weddings to quinceaneras. It was just a matter of time before the space nearby would itself become part stage, part employment agency.

By the time the main quisico, a kiosk that serves as a bandstand, was built in the 1980s, the plaza's fate was set. Now individuals stroll up to the Mariachi Plaza like they just walked out of a scene from the movie Desperado with their black slacks and matching blazers and their instruments slung across their backs. Cars line the streets advertising the attributes of various bands and the music's singular sounds waft throughout the plaza.


See the Mariachi players and the famous plaza:



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