Latinos remembering Kobe: Mexican band leader talks about the viral Kobe tribute

The Latino community honored the life and legacy of Kobe Bryant with traditions native to their culture.

ByEric Resendiz and with USC-Dimelo student Melody Waintal KABC logo
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Latinos remembering Kobe: Mexican band leader talks about the viral Kobe tribute
In the days that followed Kobe Bryant's death, the Latino community joined others outside the Staples Center to honor his life and legacy.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It's been a year since Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others passed away in a tragic accident.

In the days that followed Kobe's death, fans gathered outside Staples Center at a makeshift memorial to bid farewell, and many of those fans were from the Latino community.

"As soon as we got there, we just felt the emotion with the people," said Rudy Garcia, a band member with Banda Imperio. "You could feel you know, the vibe, it was so much emotion."

There were candles, rosaries, mariachis and musicians performing-among them was the band Garcia is a part of called Banda Imperio.

"The song that we played, one was 'Puño de Tierra' (Fist full of Dirt), 'Te Vas Angel Mío' (You're Leaving, my Angel), 'Mi Gusto Es' (It's to my Liking) like some of the traditional songs that we play as a banda [band] when we send off people," said Garcia.

There is a strong bond between the Latino community and Kobe Bryant-which is why Latinos chose to pay their respects using traditions native to their culture.

Kobe was familiar with Latino culture and spoke Spanish. His wife, Vanessa Bryant, is Mexican-American.

"The Latino community when they recognize that Kobe is also speaking Spanish, there's something I think rather remarkable, a very strong attraction that here's a person that has gone to the other side, if you will, and being able now to sort of understand my culture in a very deeper way," said Rafael Angulo, a clinical professor at USC's School of Social Work.

According to Angulo, Kobe's Black Mamba way of thinking resonated with Latinos' same thinking, determination, and grit to be successful-which was another connection.

"The Latino community, very much embracing their own culture as a way of saying, we are mourning you. We saw in you something so beautiful and remarkable that our music, our poetry, our language, is attempting to capture that pain that we're feeling, but also that admiration that we have," said Angulo.

As Garcia looks back at last year's performance for Kobe, he said it was an honor for him to be at the Staples Center.

"We love Kobe, we love LA, we love the Los Angeles Lakers," said Garcia. "It'll just feel so great. And then having all the support with the Latinos that day, [too]."