The mariachis of Boyle Heights took their year-long housing battle to the doorstep of the Mexican Consulate on Thursday, staging a "musical protest" to press for the consul general in Los Angeles to get behind their cause.
Cristina Ramos, a representative of the mariachis who live in the Boyle Hotel building on First Street, said what was at stake is "practically the Mexican culture, and as Mexicans we are here to ask for [the consul's] support."
The Boyle Hotel has long been a traditional meeting point for mariachis in Los Angeles, who congregate for work at Mariachi Plaza across the street.
The mariachis, courtly gentlemen who on Thursday let their music speak for them, have been lobbying the city and elected officials to intervene in their dispute with the Boyle Hotel landlord, a Spanish-language Christian church group named Asamblea de Dios, which bought the building in 2003.
They allege that the landlord has allowed already dire living conditions to worsen during a renovation project, while the church's meeting hall in a storefront downstairs is kept tidy and well equipped. The storefront church replaced a mariachi instrument shop, which the mariachis also allege was forced out by the new owners.
"Since [the new landlords] arrived, our lives have gotten worse," said Jose Morfin, a resident of the building.
Leaders of the church were out of the city and unable to comment, said a man who answered the door around the corner from the Boyle Hotel main entrance.
Ninety residents of the Boyle Hotel filed a lawsuit against the owners in Los Angeles County Superior Court in January claiming negligence and breach of contract, said John Joseph Ramos, a law clerk and the son of the residents' attorney, Juan Ramos. The case is pending.
At the consulate in MacArthur Park, two mariachis in traditional silver-studded suits were allowed to deliver a letter to the consul general, Ruben Beltran. Outside, about a dozen of their fellow balladeers strummed and serenaded with renditions of folk songs such as "La Negra."
Although the Mexican consular office has no jurisdiction to intervene in the dispute, the mariachis and their supporters hoped they could win more support from the consul's well-connected friends.
Mireya Magana, a consulate spokeswoman, said the letter would be analyzed for its merits.