Coming up on its sixth annual gathering at the Musco Center for the Arts, the Heartbeat of Mexico will host a weekend full of enriching cultural activities and performances, focused on highlighting various aspects of Mexican culture.

After last year’s event went virtual, the family festival will bring Mexican and Mexican American art and culture to community members in person once again. In association with Latinx staff and faculty, Chapman’s Musco Center is inviting artists and performers from all across Mexico to come and share their heritage with Chapman students and families in the community. In previous years, performances have included Natalia Lafourcade, Mariachi Los Camperos, Alicia Villarreal, Lucille Rivera and Mexican pop duo Jesse and Joy.

With a predominantly white student body, Chapman University is trying its best to expand the Latinx demographic on campus and the surrounding community by carrying out cultural festivals like the Heartbeat of Mexico. Gabriela Castaneda, director of Latinx achievement at Chapman’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, hopes that events like this can aid in making strides toward a more diverse campus. In her position as director, one of Castaneda’s biggest goals is for Chapman to be designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) by the Department of Education. Currently, Chapman’s enrollment of Hispanic students sits at around 18%, a steady increase from years prior. 

To obtain the desired HSI designation, an enrollment of at least 25% is required. Castaneda hopes that any youth attending the Heartbeat of Mexico feel welcomed and recognized on Chapman’s campus, and that they will hopefully choose it as their home for their post-secondary education. Growing up in Orange County, she is glad to see how opportunities for Latinx individuals have only continued to expand. 

“Demographics have started to shift and now I see more Latinx as principals at middle schools, high schools, presidents of universities and especially Latinx women holding those higher authoritative positions,” Castaneda said.

The festival kicks off Friday with a performance by Grammy Award-winning group Kinky at 7:30 p.m. Formed in 1998 in Monterrey, the Mexican rock band has grown a strong international following with its genre-blending music that combines electronic beats, housey grooves and guitar licks. This is one of a handful of shows Kinky is playing this year and the only performance in Orange County.

The Monterrey, Mexico band Kinky, which bends genres like electronic beats, house grooves and tasty guitar licks. Image courtesy of Musco Center for the Arts.

“Festivals like the Heartbeat of México are essential to keep alive Mexican culture in the United States, and we are extremely excited and proud to be part of it this May 27th. We’re looking forward to rocking it and enjoying it to the max,” Kinky said in a statement about the group’s enthusiasm for performing this week.

Saturday’s main performer is Los Angeles-based group La Santa Cecilia, a worldly band who draws from a number of genres, including bossa nova, jazz, cumbia, bolero, tango and more.

Opening for La Santa Cecilia, Jarabe Mexicano describes itself as a bordeño soul folk band. Formed in 2015 while lead vocalist Gustavo Alcoser was enrolled at San Diego State University, Jarabe Mexicano has gained and lost members through the years due to life changes and the coronavirus pandemic. The group now finds itself with five members, all holding some sort of valuable connection to the Mexican border. This connection to the border is an important part to the group’s foundation, influencing the music heavily and motivating band members to keep their heritage alive as they perform to various kinds of crowds across the country.

Heartbeat of Mexico Festival

When: May 27-29

Where: Musco Center for the Arts, 415 N. Glassell St., Orange

Tickets: Prices for various performers vary

Information: www.muscocenter.org or call Ticketing Services at 714-997-6812

“The beautiful thing about that is we can use that as a way to inform the idea that we share a lot more than we think no matter where we go,” Alcoser said.

Jarabe Mexicano typically tries to perform in front of crowds who may not have a tie to Mexican culture or that may not know much about Mexico’s various genres of music including folk, rock ‘n’ roll and Latin rock. The band’s percussionist and artistic director Danny Brito expressed excitement to perform at this year’s festival in front of such a devoted crowd.

“For us, being able to be a part of this festival is exciting because we always want to connect with the Chicano community and a group like Santa Cecilia brings the sort of fan base that we are excited to be in front of,” Brito said.

After performances by Kinky, La Santa Cecilia and Jarabe Mexicano, the weekend of festivities concludes on Sunday with a day long of family friendly fun at the Aitkens Arts Plaza. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., families can enjoy arts and crafts, food and children’s activities all celebrating Mexican and Mexican American history, arts and culture. The lineup of Sunday’s performers includes Mariachi Panteras from the Chapman School of Music, children dancers from El Sol Academy, Mantra, Maria Blues, LoverSonicos Latin Grooves Band, El Santa Golpe and Los Santos Mariachi from Santa Ana High School. At 6 p.m., renowned Mexican singers Graciela Beltran and Lupita Infante will finish off the night alongside Mariachi Grullens.

Jen Marchese Ernst, programs and public engagement director at the Musco Center for the Arts, is pleased with the reaction from the community each year following the Heartbeat of Mexico festival. After all, the Musco Center’s goal is to be an accessible place for the entire community to attend, and where multiple cultures are represented.

“I grew up in Orange County, and this is really the most representation I’ve seen in the city of Orange and it’s what people want, and I think what people need,” Ernst said.
Throughout the year, the Musco Center for the Arts also holds events for holidays such as Noche Buena, Juneteenth and more. For more information on the Heartbeat of Mexico festival and other cultural events, visit https://muscocenter.org/.

Crystal Henriquez is a contributing for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at crystalh774@gmail.com.


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