Mariachis were just declared a patrimony of the world by UNESCO. Mariachis in LA are protesting exploitative wages and calling for immigration reform.
On Dec. 12, over 100 mariachis are planning to march on Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles to denounce the growing exploitation of their industry and demand legalization for all immigrants and families.
The mariachis, lead by Arturo Ramírez, plan on wearing traditional Charro outfits and playing the mariachi hymn, “El Son de la Negra,” during next week’s protest.
“This is a part of an effort to mobilize this sector,” media and political strategist Javier Rodríguez told Fox News Latino. “They’ve helped us out in different ways, so now we’re helping them to get rid of a group of unscrupulous contractors who are totally cheapening the wages of the mariachis, almost to the tune of almost 70 percent.”
Mariachis, who stroll plazas and restaurants in Los Angeles playing traditional Mexican music, were just declared a patrimony of the world by UNESCO.
“Mariachis are the songbirds of our community–they are the recipients of disposable income,” immigration attorney Don Justin Jones told Fox News Latino. “When we feel bad, we go and listen to music. The mariachis are the first ones to become affected when we don’t have money to spend on entertainment. We have to stay home and cut our consumption–who gets cut first?"
"The artists in our community. With mariachis, it is cause and effect–if you don’t have money, you don’t go out and the mariachi doesn’t get paid,” Jones added.
At La Plaza del Mariachi in the heart of Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood, mariachis roam the plaza, looking for customers. A 7-piece mariachi band charges an average of $200-300 an hour for their services.
“This is what you might call the cradle of culture, right here in Boyle Heights,” Jones said. “Many people have come here–Jewish people, Mexican people, Italian people–and what’s kept us together is the spirit of signing and harmony; and mariachis translate that.”
It is estimated that 50 to 70 percent of the mariachis working in Los Angeles are undocumented. “We want to scream that the mariachis need legalization, just like the rest of the workers in this corridor,” explained Rodríguez.
“We’re at a very important time–we’re at a confluence of a lot of movements that are coming together,” added Jones. “The issues of Occupy LA have merged with more traditional issues, like immigration and economic reform. We’re here to support the mariachis and those who are interested in changing and reforming the system.”
Meaghan Murphy is a freelance writer and regular contributor to FOX411.com.