Many important cultural traditions in Santa Barbara have emerged from long winters’ naps in the past year, sent into hiding by the pandemic and struggles for recovery. This weekend, the list of returning treasures will include the much cherished series known as ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara!, celebrating mostly Mexican regional music and other sounds from south of the border.
As a fitting soundtrack to the series’ first event since 2020, the featured artists will be the respected Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuellar, returning to town after playing in the series in 2014. The group, led by founding member and Bakersfield-raised multi-instrumentalist Cuellar, will perform Friday through Sunday (January 13-15), in venues around Santa Barbara County — Isla Vista School, Guadalupe City Hall, and the Marjorie Luke Theatre, respectively.
Admission is free. Ergo, arrive early. All performances start at 7 p.m.
Launched in 2006 by UCSB Arts & Lectures, in conjunction with other local organizations, ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! has been a rewarding fixture on the cultural calendar, lending valuable attention on under-served Latin American music. Until the two-year hiatus, the series hosted significant ensembles and artists for a few days of free-to-the-public concerts along with educational masterclasses and other events during a several-day residency.
Mariachi culture — and bands in the upper echelon of that world — has accounted for a strong part of the series’ artistic agenda over the years, but other genres and countries other than Mexico have been hosted, as well. Among the highlights have been Cumbia-and-more group Buyepongo, Los Vegas son Jarocho, Puerto Rican band Plena Libre, dance troupe Grandeza Mexicana, and the acclaimed alternative Mexican-American group La Santa Cecilia. A standout in the 2018 season was the bedazzling Guatemalan-in-Los Angeles singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno (who recently wowed the crowd at Campbell Hall as a surprise guest in the Watkins Family Hour show there).
In the spirit of ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! and its welcome return to the County, we have to send a shoutout of “¡viva!” For more information, visit artsandlectures.ucsb.edu/learn/viva-el-arte-de-santa-barbara.