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Victor Mariachi didn't believe in voting. How did he end up writing the title song for a get-out-the -vote concert?
Get to know local Atlanta rapper Victor Mariachi and what changed his mind on voting
By 285 South Contributor Phoebe Quinton
On Saturday September 10, Victor Mariachi performed the headline song at the Estamos Aquí Fiesta, hosted by the Latino Community Fund - Georgia (LCF-Georgia) as part of their Get Out the Vote Campaign. It was his first performance that his mother attended.
The event filled the Historic Fourth Ward Park Amphitheatre with booths for Latino-focused nonprofits, local artists, and food vendors as well as a packed lineup of performances by Folklorico dancers, DJs, and singers.
CLILA Grupo Folklorico performing at Historic Fourth Ward Park Ampitheater. Photo Credits: José Berlingeri
Arte Terrestre, one of the vendors at the event. Photo Credit: Phoebe Quinton
While performing, Mariachi commanded attention, waving his arms above his head and calling out to the crowd to dance along. Yet during his interview, he was soft spoken and hid his face beneath a white UGA bucket hat.
He described himself as an introverted kid, born in Phoenix, Arizona. He was the only US citizen in his family at the time. His parents are Mexican immigrants, and his family lived in Arizona, Georgia, Mexico, and Canada. They first moved to Gwinnett County for his parents' construction jobs, when Mariachi was in sixth grade. After moving to Mexico and Canada with his family later on, he returned to Atlanta by himself in 2011 to pursue music.
Mariachi began taking music seriously in middle school. He had always been artistic, spending his free time drawing and performing for his family in the living room. He also wrote poetry and studied rap. "I printed the lyrics of my favorite rappers - Nas, Tupac, Biggie - had them in a binder and would read through them," he said.
Two albums and a handful of music videos later, Mariachi is on stage performing Estamos Aquí, a song which he wrote. While music is not new terrain for Mariachi, voting is.
Victor Mariachi performs at the Estamos Aqui festival at Historic Fourth Ward Park Amphitheater on September 10th, 2022. Photo Credit: Phoebe Quinton
"I just started voting," Mariachi said. "I was one of those people who didn't believe in voting because of my upbringing. I didn't want to participate in a system that I felt was very prejudiced."
Mariachi is not alone. According to a NPR/Ipsos poll from January 2022, 64% of Americans think that American democracy is in crisis and at risk of failing. LCF-Georgia focuses not only on registering voters, but convincing people their vote matters and developing greater trust in the system.
They host an Election Protection Coalition with Latinos for Democracy to send volunteers to polling places and offer resources to help voters to cast their ballots. "Our folks feel intimidated, when they go out and vote, and profiled. And some times, many times, our folks get rejected at the polls," said Michelle Zuluaga, Civic Participation Manager for LCF-Georgia.
Feeling like his voice wouldn't be heard through voting, Mariachi expressed it through music. When Donald Trump became President, Mariachi sought to take back the negative narrative about Latino immigrants. "I wanted to push back and really be extravagant about my culture and be braggadocious about where we come from," Mariachi said.
His songs are real stories. Some, like "Homerun," are inspired by his mother's experience moving to America without speaking English, alone with two kids and working as a cleaning woman. Others are more lighthearted. "Foreigners" discusses his co-workers' uncanny ability to party all night and start work again at 4 a.m. "Estamos Aquí" highlights the diversity within the Latino community and that they belong in America. The album's title Super Humans captures his message of pride for his community.
In response to hate, Mariachi often chooses to reject rather than respond. He thinks that ignoring hurtful statements takes their power away, while reacting allows others to control the narrative. "We're always going to the beat of their drum," Mariachi said. "We have our own drum. We have our own rhythm."
Mariachi's opinion on voting changed as he became a voice for his community through music. "I see now the change in things that are happening," Mariachi said. "It's important for people to be heard because I feel like you can't get what the community wants or feels if not everybody's participating and saying what their concerns are."
He said that his music isn't political, but just retells his experiences. His next album will be more introspective and personal. His goal is simply representation. "Right now, it's just I want to be seen," Mariachi said. "I want my people to be seen."
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