Salsa Tasting and Idol Contest Highlight 25th Annual Mariachi Festival Sin Fronteras

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CALEXICO – The 25th Anniversary of Mariachi Festival Sin Fronteras culminated Saturday evening with a grand concert put on by the Calexico Chamber of Commerce at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church’s Parish Hall.

Performances by Mariachi Estrellas de Chula Vista, Leslie Lugo and Mariachi Viajeros de UABC entertained a room holding close to 500 people with a history of 19th-century rural Jalisco, development, uniforms and a musical taste of Mexico’s most celebrated composers.

Mariachi music combines traditional Mexican music styles like son jaliscience and son jarocho with more modern huapangos, baladas, and polkas, calling upon five-string guitars, violins, trumpets, and even harps, to make magic happen.

Also performing Saturday was renowned winner of La Voz Mexico, Oscar Cruz, who gave an astounding performance bringing guests to their feet as they took the dance floor, while other opted to sing along.

“There was a good vibe,” said Cruz.” Being close to the audience gives me an adrenaline rush.”

“I enjoy coming to the Valley,” Cruz added. “People here are very friendly and make me feel at home. They enjoy my music and as they sing along with me, my heart fills with joy.”

The festival was hosted by Gerardo Venegas, the famous host of Con “V” de Venegas, who entertained the audience with his singular personality.

“Since I married my wife, mariachi music has become part of my life,” said Imperial County Superior Court Judge William D. Quan. “I enjoy listening to mariachi music and as a matter of fact, Mariachi Estrellas de Chula Vista has performed during some of our family gatherings.”

Imperial County Public Information Officer Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter attended the concert accompanied by her grandmother, Maria Esther Baxter.

“It was greatly entertaining as always,” said Terrazas-Baxter. “It was nice to have it indoors which was a different scene than the past years. It’s nice to change things up every so often.”

The five-day celebration began May 9, with the coronation of 2016 Señorita Mariachi Festival Samantha Gutierrez along with her court that included the Señorita Mariachis from the past three years and five young madrinas.

“I am very excited to be this year’s Señorita Miss Mariachi and am very thankful to have been chosen,” said Gutierrez. “I will do my best to represent the city of Calexico.”

Featuring local talent, the Mariachi Idol Competition was intense as three competitors, 13-year-old Yahir Garduño, George Prieto and Esther Alicia Marquez battled to be this year’s winner.

Calipatria resident George Prieto won first place with his breathtaking performance of “Me Cai De La Nube Que Andava.” Young Yahir did not go unrecognized, as his vocal talent at such a young age brought the audience to their feet.

“I love mariachi,” said Prieto. “I never expected to be the winner. It feels great. I was nervous the entire time, but the people from Calexico are wonderful and made me feel at home. The competition was tight. Yahir is a good vocalist and a good person. I wish we could both be winners.”

Sharing his anecdote as he prepared to participate, Prieto said finding a charro outfit was very difficult and he finally had to improvise and make it himself.

A charro outfit has a traditional vest and short suit with iron works in the pants along the sides, in lieu of buttons on the vest and coat.

“I went to Mexicali and was told a charro outfit would take three weeks to arrive, so I had no choice and bought the suit from JC Penney, purchased the iron works in Mexicali and sewed them on myself.”

Also at the festival were artisans from Mexico and Oaxaca who displayed an array of handmade clothing with detailed embroidery, purses, jewelry and beautiful household decorations.

The traditional Salsa Tasting competition added pizzazz to the festival as four participants, Lizbeth Buelna, Dolores Jimenez, Juana Inez Esparza and sisters Martha Sandoval and Liz Zepeda, competed for first place with savory hot and spicy homemade salsas.

Lizbeth Buelna will have bragging rights for a year as her “Mi Sabrosura” salsa, consisting of chile, tomato sauce, garlic, onion, cilantro, salt and her “secret” ingredient, wowed the judges for first place. Dolores Jimenez, a  resident of Bell, took second place while third place went to Juana Inez Esparza.

As the saying goes, “para un buen mariachi, un buen tequila,” (for a good mariachi, a good tequila). Tequila at a Mexican reception is traditional. In recognition for their contributions, sponsors and guests were treated to an evening of tequila tasting where they savored 13 different brands of tequila accompanied by traditional Mexican tacos and of course, mariachi music and a serenade by Mariachi Idol winner George Prieto.

Calexico resident Jessica Parra said she has attended the festival for the last five years and each year it gets better and better.

“The Mariachi Festival is an event I look forward to attending year after year,” said Parra. “This is the music I grew up with as a child. It’s great that the city puts on this concert.”

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