Best of Show ACP Entry: Santa Ana LGBT students seek community

Mariachi Arcoiris, the world’s first LGBTQ+ mariachi, broke cultural norms as they performed at Santa Ana College’s Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration on Oct. 5. Under the intense heat, the crowd of about 70 students and staff yelled and celebrated, cheering on all seven performers. 

Natalia Melendez, world’s first female transgender mariachi member / Photo by Lizeth Martinez / el Don

“We take a big responsibility,” said Natalia Melendez, the first transgender female in the history of mariachi. “It’s very important for us to be relevant, to be in the public and to be making music. It’s important for the world to see maybe a little change that we add.” 

The group brought intersectionality onto SAC’s campus, showcasing the unique challenges many  queer people of color face. 

Mariachi Arcoiris became a safe space for LGBTQ+ people to come and express themselves, free of taunting and bullying, says Natalia. Where others can, “Express themselves musically. No fear of anything, just make music.”

Three Mariachi Arcoiris members / Photo by Lizeth Martinez / el Don

Michael Morales, founder and Inter-Club Council Representative of the Gender Sexuality Alliance club said that the performance was validating and bridged the gap between his heritage and passions.  

“I grew up with mariachi in my household and singing with my family so having them come here you can be like, ‘Oh, you can be queer and sing mariachi,’” Morales said. “It was just like ‘wow.’” 

Audience members seated in the Amphitheater included students, administrators, faculty and staff. / Photo by Lizeth Martinez / el Don

“[The performance was] a symbolic gesture that shows you can be queer and be Hispanic and you can be everything because your experience is just as valid as everyone else,” said Michael.   

Mariachi Arcoiris played a mosaic of classic ballads, rancheras, and more. “Popurri” by Juan Gabriel was Michael’s favorite, he said.

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