ANAHEIM — Some of the finest mariachi bands of Mexico and the United States filled the rafters of the Anaheim Arena Saturday night with the strains of Mexico's popular music before an adoring crowd of nearly 8,000 fans.
Angie Garcia beamed in the third row as the violins, guitars and trumpets blared.
"Orange County needs a lot more of this," said Garcia of Orange, who came with her husband and three teen-agers. "I came for my children, to show them what to be Mexican is all about."
Four mariachi bands and the children's Ballet Folklorico de San Juan performed as part of Orange County's first international mariachi festival. The show featured Veronica Castro, a popular talk show host and mega-star of Mexican soap-operas, and Lucha Villa, a ranchera singer.
Bandleader Jose Hernandez said the show included 90 musicians and 120 child performers, making it one of the biggest mariachi gatherings in county history. Promoters promised to make it an annual event.
That's welcome news to Julian Carrillo of Anaheim, who said he has traveled as far as Tucson to hear his favorite ballads. Saturday night, he brought 12 friends and family members to the show.
The group included Carrillo's friends, Audelia and Wilfredo Pedraza, who said they bought their tickets, which cost $50 apiece, "the minute" they saw newspaper ads.
The finale of the evening was the Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan of Mexico City, one of Mexico's traditional mariachi bands founded in 1898. The band often performs with the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra and is the official mariachi band of the Mexican presidents, said the group's general manager Arturo Mendoza. The band played for British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1956, he said.
Most of the performers wore the traditional mariachi costumes of close-fitting pants adorned with silver buttons and \o7 charro\f7 jackets embroidered with silver thread. The costume is fashioned after outfits worn by wealthy Mexican landowners of the 19th Century, Mendoza said.
The bands played a cross-section of big band tunes, Disney themes and classic mariachi crowd pleasers, including "Volver, Volver," "El Rey" and "Ella." At the first strains of those classics, the crowd roared with applause.
"I think it's beautiful and a great way to showcase the richness of Mexican music," said Hernandez, leader of the Mariachi Sol de Mexico in El Monte. "My family has been playing this music for over 100 years."
"I was raised with this music," said Atanacio Fajardo, who traveled from La Puente to see the festival. "When you hear this music, you get goose-pimples."