The fifth annual Chicago Mariachi Festival brings passion for mariachi to Millenium Park | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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The fifth annual Chicago Mariachi Festival brings passion for mariachi to Millenium Park


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There’s no other music as unapologetically Mexican as mariachi music. Designated an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2011, the genre has succeeded through the centuries and across borders—a shining example of its power, particularly in times of conflict. In the United States, mariachi’s history as a sign of resistance and cultural pride stretches back at least to the dawn of the Chicano movement in the 1960s. In Chicago and other U.S. cities, mariachi music is undergoing a revival as an indispensable representation of Mexican American identity. The Chicago Mariachi Festival, the largest such event in the country, is a prime example of that resurgence. It attracts more than 22,000 music lovers every year—a crowd so vast that in 2015 Lady Gaga confused it with a Pride gathering. For its fifth edition, the Mariachi Festival has booked Grammy- and Latin Grammy-winning traditional Mexican singer Aida Cuevas as well as Chicago’s own Mariachi Herencia de Mexico. Founded by the Mariachi Heritage Foundation (a cosponsor of the fest), Mariachi Herencia de Mexico is an ensemble of 11- to 19-year-old musicians from Chicago’s immigrant barrios. The group earned a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album with their debut, 2017’s Nuestra Herencia, and last year their follow-up, Herencia de la Tierra Mía, hit number two on Billboard’s Latin Albums chart. Their third album, Esencia, comes out two days before the festival. Mariachi is a big, bold form of music, designed to inspire strong, direct emotions: joy, pride, sadness, tenderness, courage, rebelliousness. And if that’s not enough to make this fest a soul-stirring experience, many of the bands will be accompanied by dance ensembles whose beautiful colors and movements will spread out and flow under the Pritzker Pavilion’s silver wings.   v

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