"This work is varied," Zaragoza said. "Sometimes I make $1,000 a month, sometimes much less.... I just pay my rent, eat, sleep, and everything else goes to my kids" in Mexico.
After months of claims and counterclaims, orders and meetings with housing officials and Los Angeles City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, the Boyle Hotel mariachis took their case to the public on Tuesday, during the annual Santa Cecilia celebration and Mass that draws musicians from throughout Southern California.
Organizers dubbed the festival a "musical protest" for the Boyle Hotel mariachis.
Hundreds of onlookers sang along with mariachis.
"Behind this symbol, the plaza, there is another symbol," Father Luis Angel Nieto of the Resurrection Catholic Church told the crowd.
"It's the building where many of you first arrived. Today, many of you have moved on to other places, thank God. But many still there are being intimidated.... What hurts one, hurts everyone."
Some mariachis cheered, and the priests began blessing players and their instruments. Then the musicians lifted their violins, guitarrillas and trombones and together began playing the old mariachi standard "Mi Virgen Ranchera."
As the sounds set off a tangible vibration through the crowd, a few mariachis released a flock of white doves.