California Mariachi group raising funds to help families of musicians who died from COVID-19

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- An organization representing hundreds of mariachi musicians in Southern California held a virtual concert Friday evening to help the families of dozens of its members who lost their lives to COVID-19.

COVID-19 has changed the lives of mariachi musicians.

With weddings, birthdays and other celebrations canceled, they find themselves struggling to make ends meet.

The gigs that do come are usually to lift the spirits of those in mourning.

Christian Chavez runs his family-owned mariachi Mariachi Tierra Mexicana de Oscar Chavez.

"Sometimes we go to, let's say one city's cemetery, and then we have to go to another cemetery," Chavez said.

Chavez is the secretary of OMICAL, which stands for the Organización de Mariachis Independientes del California (Organization of Independent Mariachis of California).

The artists of OMICAL have even said goodbye to some of their own.

"The death toll is about 60. Sixty people that we have lost out of those 400 members right now," Chavez said.

Chavez said his mariachi thought it was safe to get back out to work in October.

"We thought it was OK to start working again, and then I got infected and then my father got sick as well, and two other people, or co-workers, from my mariachi got sick and they ended up dying," Chavez said.

They were his lead violinist and his godfather who played the vihuela.

Through it all, OMICAL has seen its Boyle Heights community suffer. That's where most of its membership comes from.

Chavez said every Friday at the Mariachi Plaza, the organization gives out 100 boxes filled with milk, eggs and other staples. Home deliveries go to those who can't make their way there.

With hundreds of canceled contracts and the deaths of dozens, OMICAL was asking its community for help to aid its families left with funeral expenses and heartache.

Friday evening, the International House of Music Incorporated, or iHOMI, hosted an online mariachi concert live on its Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The goal of the Mariachi COVID Relief Fund is $20,000 through GoFundMe donations and a raffle to win an accordion.

"The first people in line are the people that lost mariachi members," Chavez said.

Tickets for the accordion raffle are $20 a piece.
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