LA-based Mariachi Arcoiris shattering stereotypes, using music to promote LGBTQ+ acceptance

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A local group of musicians that bills itself as the world's first LGBTQ+ mariachi band is not only shattering stereotypes, but also using music to promote acceptance one performance at a time.

Natalia Melendez is a transgender woman in the Los Angeles-based group Mariachi Arcoiris, which means rainbow in Spanish.

"For me, it's a dream come true and it's been a long time coming," she said.

The group has a massive mission to break stereotypes and to unite, instead of divide.

Ayan Vasquez Lopez, who is gender fluid, says the mariachi gives musicians a platform to express themselves, but also creates impact in the mariachi world, where machismo is still prevalent.

She says Arcoiris is shattering the ideals of what it means to be queer in a traditionally masculine music genre.

"We are demolishing them single handedly," she said. "Just by existing we just create that space. I can be queer, I can be Mexican and enjoy mariachi music."

That was always the mission when Carlos Samaniego created Mariachi Arcoiris, all while tackling the issue of LGBTQ rights in communities where acceptance is still not fully embraced.

"I encountered a lot of bullying and homophobic remarks and just a lot of negative experiences because I was openly gay while performing mariachi music," he said.

And, the world is listening. In June, the group performed in Mexico during Pride Month.

It was an unforgettable experience for Melendez, who says she dedicated the performance to the transgender community, which still encounters discrimination in Mexico.

"I want to be that pillar for them. I didn't have that when I was growing up and I needed that," she said. "You can be respected, you can be a musician, you can show your talent and you can live in your true self."

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