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Mariachi Matters

Escalator to Heaven: José Hernández's Mariachi Sol de Mexico headlines a celebration of Mexican culture and music this weekend.

Musical great José Hernández leads a parade of food, culture, and arts at this weekend's Feria Mexicana

By Judi Blackwell

LITTLE MORE than a year ago, both Mariachi Sol de México de José Hernández and Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles received well-deserved standing ovations on two consecutive nights at the sold-out San José International Mariachi Festival. Now both mariachis return to San Jose to kick off what may well become a new tradition in the Bay Area, the Feria Mexicana '96 (Mexican Fair).

Headlining the three-day event, which is dedicated to enhancing and showcasing the Bay Area's Hispanic culture, music, dance and art communities, is Mariachi Sol de México de José Hernández. A superstar in the world of mariachis, director José Hernández, at the relatively young age of 36, has already done the Hollywood thing, composing music for such popular films as American Me, Don Juan DeMarco, Old Gringo and A Million to Juan.

His mariachi, which will perform Saturday and Monday at 7pm, consistently sells out the Hollywood Bowl in his hometown of Los Angeles, along with other national and international venues. He's even worked as Linda Ronstadt's vocal coach, and he founded the first professional all-female mariachi in the United States.

None of the above accomplishments, however, compares to Hernández's true abilities as a leader in creating innovative arrangements. Under his leadership, Mariachi Sol de México is currently the only mariachi in the U.S. that performs among the classical-music elite, having shared the stage with symphonies from El Paso, New México and even the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. "We get criticism from traditionalists," he explained before last year's concert. "But I believe mariachi should continue to grow and educate."

Along with composing music for his mariachi, Hernández also writes for Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, the premier all-female professional mariachi group. Formed less than three years ago, Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles is a trailblazer in the world of mariachis, a music profession dominated by men. The three generations of mariachis that encompass Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, from high school students to university graduates, will show off their talents Saturday­Monday at 4pm.

Feria Mexicana '96 also showcases the Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Carlos Moreno, the Paso Fino Horse Show, a mariachi mass on Sunday and dozens of food booths and the brilliance and thunder of Castillo Mexican fireworks nightly.

Feria Mexicana '96 takes place Saturday­Sunday, 10am­11pm, and Monday, 10am­10pm, at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, 344 Tully Road, San Jose. Tickets are $17/$5 seniors and children (ages 4­11)/family passes and three-day passes are also available. (510/742-9140)

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From the August 29-September 4, 1996 issue of Metro

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