Read this article in Spanish at La Prensa Sonoma.

Two dozen elementary and middle school students sang and performed mariachi standards Friday to a receptive crowd at the Latino Cultural Experience, sponsored by the Sonoma County leadership group Los Cien.

The event, the group’s fourth held at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, was a precursor to Hispanic Heritage month, which runs Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Future gatherings include the Sept. 17 Fiesta de Independencia, the eighth annual free celebration at the Burbank Center, and Los Cien’s fourth annual State of the Latino Community Conference, which will be held Sept. 28 at Sonoma State University.

At Friday’s luncheon, an audience of about 300 received updates on local community and youth efforts by Los Cien founder and leader Herman Hernandez. That was followed by greetings from the Bay Area consuls general of Mexico and Guatamala.

After the meal, many in the audience moved from their tables in the lobby to seats in the auditorium for musical presentations that began with the Elsie Allen High School Drumline.

The younger players who followed on stage were among 140 children who took part in mariachi camps held this summer in Cloverdale, Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa. The children were backed Friday by members of Mariachi Barragan, whose member José Soto started the special camps three years ago, with help from the Burbank Center and public funds for gang and drug prevention.

Soto, who is studying at Sonoma State University to become a music teacher, said afterward he hopes to offer more-advanced mariachi instruction this fall through the Burbank Center.

During the performance, the audience cheered and roared with approval, especially when some of the students sang solos, duets and even a quartet to the accompaniment of the young and old musicians.

Santa Rosa City Councilman Ernesto Olivares, a backer of the mariachi camp, said watching the students gives both parents and community members a sense of pride.

“They’re our kids out there that are doing this,” Olivares said.

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or On Twitter @rdigit

'You just gotta get out of here:' Read the Mercury News story here


Read all of the PD's fire coverage here