Jose Hernandez, along with his Mariachi Sol de Mexico, performs in Puerto Rico, at the Hollywood Bowl and at other prestigious venues around the world, but he always looks forward to the Boyle Heights Mariachi Festival (Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.).
Hernandez's father was among the mariachis who have plied their talents at the intersection of 1st, Boyle and Pleasant streets since the 1940s and '50s. Some of the men who played with him still perform there. "This is my way of going back and thanking these guys," says Hernandez, whose five brothers are also mariachis. "It's one of the most gratifying experiences. . . . You're playing for your peers."
Other groups scheduled to perform Sunday include Mexicapan, Juvenil Sol de Mexico, Reyes de America, Juvenil Tecalitlan and Los Galleros de Pedro Rey. Scheduled to be on hand at 3 p.m. for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Mariachi Plaza, a project of the city's Cultural Affairs Department set to be completed in June, 1994, are Mayor Richard Riordan, Councilmen Richard Alatorre and Joel Wachs, and Adolfo V. Nodal of the Cultural Affairs Department. The plaza will include a fountain, bandstand and antique street lights.
"It's going to be beautiful," Hernandez says. "It's going to mean more work for the mariachis here, and it will become more of a tourist place."
Today, the Donut Shop on the island in the intersection is a gathering place for mariachi groups and free-lancers. People looking for players for a wedding, party or other events can drive up and hire them. It's similar to Garibaldi Square in Mexico City, Hernandez says. "It's more than a hangout. Street mariachis go there for doughnuts, coffee and they talk," he says. "It's a unique type of place."
The festival is free. Booths, art workshops and other activities are planned. For information, call (213) 485-2437.