Nestled deep in the San Fernando Valley is Pacoima, a Latino-heavy working-class Los Angeles-area neighborhood with high crime activity and poverty rate. But it’s not all gloom and doom in Pacoima. The neighborhood’s Haddon Avenue Elementary School has implemented engaging and playful learning opportunities for its young students through its STEAM-rich (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) academic programs. One of those enrichment clubs is its Woodcraft Rangers mariachi club.
The Woodcraft Rangers Mariachi Club is the only one of its kind in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
“This is the home of Ritchie Valens, so when Jackie from Woodcraft said, ‘Hey, this is something we should bring to the school,’ I was like, all my chips are in because these kids really need the arts,” said Richard Ramos, principal of Haddon Avenue Elementary School.
But the program is doing more than expose these kids to the arts — it’s also helping them to stay in school.
School attendance at Haddon has increased. Not just that, but it’s helping improve the kids’ behavior. Ramos tells Fox 11 that a third grader curbed his bad behavior so he could join the mariachi program.
“One of the benefits that we’ve seen, is that the students that are participating, are doing better in class, and that’s significant for me as a principal because we want our kids to do better,” Ramos said.
On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.
Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.
When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.
While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.
As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”
“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.
The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.
“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”
For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.
After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.
Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.
At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.
“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”
Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”
Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.
Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.
“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”
“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.
In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.
In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?
The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”
That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”
“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”
The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.
In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.
Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”
As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.
Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.
Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.
“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.
“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”
You know the old saying: “If Ted Cruz can’t go to Mexico, bring Mexico to Ted Cruz.” At least we think that’s how the saying goes.
After catching major blowback from both sides of the aisle for going on vacation when his state was in crisis, some Texans don’t feel like accepting Sen. Cruz’s apology.
On Sunday, a Texas man hired a mariachi band to play in front of Ted Cruz’s house.
A crowd of Cruz’s neighbors gathered around the band while they played beautiful traditional mariachi songs. A group of protestors stood in front of the band, holding up signs that read “Cruz’s lives cost lives” and “Smash fascism!”
As a recap, Ted Cruz drew the ire of the entire country when he left a snow-drenched Texas to vacation in Mexico while his constituents were dying. According to reports, an estimated 32 Texans have died due to the freezing temperatures and continuous power outages in the state.
Once his trip went public, Cruz quickly returned home and placed the blame on his school-age daughters.
“It’s unfortunate, the fire storm that came from it. It was not my intention,” he told ABC13. “In saying yes to my daughters to somehow diminish all the Texans that were going through real hardship.”
Later, texts between Cruz’s wife and their neighbors were leaked. The texts showed his wife, Heidi Cruz, describing their house as “FREEZING” and asking the group if anyone was up for an impromptu trip to Cancun. She proposed they all stay at the Ritz-Carlton.
The man that organized the protest, Bryan Hlavinka, tweeted out a video of the protest with the caption: “There was a little fiesta in front of la casa de @tedcruz today.”
He posted another video of the band arriving at Senator Cruz’s house. “Just a typical Sunday. Mariachi band in tow,” said Hlavinka. “On our way to Ted Cruz’s house because he feels so bad about missing his vacation.”
Another similar page raising money for a Thursday mariachi visit to Ted Cruz’s house was also recently posted on GoFundMe. The description of the fundraiser is not without its fair share of sarcasm.
“Senator Cruz, being an amazing dad, dropped off his family in Cancun in the middle of a major crisis and came back to Texas to continue serving his constituents,” wrote the page’s organizer, Adam Jama. “We want to thank Senator Cruz for his leadership and pay for an amazing Mariachi band to perform for him. No one should go to Cancun and not listen to Mariachi.”