by Anne Petersen
On Thursday September 18th the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) hosted a spectacular concert and lecture program at the Presidio Chapel. We invited co-authors Catherine Kurland and Evangeline Ordaz-Molina of Hotel Mariachi: Urban Space and Cultural Heritage in Los Angeles to speak about a remarkable preservation project in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles which both were involved with. Kurland descends from the Lopez family, one of the original pobladores, or founding families of Los Angeles. She spoke about her family’s multi-generation legacy in the Boyle Heights area, and her relatively recent discovery of her family’s historic ownership of the Cummings Hotel building and its modern-day use as a residence for mariachi musicians.
By the time Kurland discovered her connections to this historic resource, the building had fallen into disrepair and was in danger of demolition. She soon met Evangeline Ordaz-Molina of the East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC). ELACC was in the beginning stages of a project to renovate the hotel and ensure its continued use as a residence for Los Angeles’s mariachis. Kurland and Ordaz’s publication about the project, Hotel Mariachi, includes beautiful images of the musicians and Mariachi Plaza by photographer Miguel Gandert and an essay about the mariachi tradition by Enrique R. Lamadrid.
Hotel Marichi is a story of family, community, and our connections to special places and traditions. Kurland shared her family story and Gandert’s photographs of Mariachi Plaza with the audience, and was followed by Ordaz’s engaging presentation of the challenges and benefits of taking on a low income housing project in such a formidable historic resource.
SBTHP is honored to have had the opportunity to host these talented women. The themes of Hotel Mariachi resonate with our work as stewards of Santa Barbara’s founding place, and efforts to keep related cultural traditions vibrant and accessible to the community.
To hear an interview about Hotel Mariachi with Catherine Kurland on Elizabeth Stewart’s Arts and Antiques radio show click here.
SBTHP was also thrilled to find new friends at ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara!, an organization dedicated to bringing the cultural arts of Mexico to our community. Viva el Arte coordinated a special performance by Mariachi Garibaldi de Jame Cuellar, a twelve person mariachi ensemble from Los Angeles, to precede the lecture. Mariachi Garibadli blew the roof off the Presidio Chapel, and those in attendance will not soon forget that incredible show.
Guests enjoyed a reception after the program, and welcomed the opportunity to speak with the authors and have their copies of Hotel Mariachi signed. We look forward to continuing to bring stellar programs like Hotel Mariachi to our community– just wait until you see what we come up with next!
Anne Petersen is Associate Director for Historical Resources at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.