Radio Bilingüe (Fresno, CA)

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Poster featuring a Mariachi playing a fiddle

An advertisement for the ¡Viva El Mariachi! Festival, which is sponsored by Radio Bilingüe of Fresno, California and features local, national, and international mariachi groups. Image courtesy of Radio Bilingüe

Radio Bilingüe is a public radio service that produces and distributes original programming to more than five FM radio stations in the Latino communities of the San Joaquin, Salinas, and Imperial Valleys and to 57 affiliates in the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico. It reaches weekly radio audience of more than 500,000 individuals, many of whom speak English as a second language.

In FY03, Radio Bilingüe received a $46,000 NEA Creativity grant to support production in 2003 and 2004 of the annual ¡Viva El Mariachi! Festival, which showcased local, national, and international mariachi groups. The festival also provides workshops where community members can work with master musicians as a means of passing along this rich cultural tradition.

The first day of the annual festival includes a daylong, hands-on Mariachi Musical and Cultural Workshop, where NEA National Heritage Fellow Natividad Cano (artistic director of the festival) and other master mariachi musicians lead workshops for groups of up to 200 people. These workshops, which are open to people of all ages and ability levels, offer instruction in the violin, vihuela, guitar, guitarrón, trumpet, and vocals. Students spend the day working with the musicians to master new techniques and eventually master new songs.

The highlight of the festival is the final concert, which occurs at the end of the weekend, featuring several top mariachi groups, including Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, Nati Cano y el Mariachi Los Camperos, Mariachi Imperial de Mexico, Mariachi Garibaldi, Los Cenzontles, Mariachi Mujer 2000, and Mariachi Mexico de Pepe Villa for the 2003 and 2004 festivals. Some of the intermediate students who attended workshops at the festival also took the stage and performed the songs they rehearsed together.

(From the 2003 NEA Annual Report)