Las Cafeteras | Credit: Farah Sosa

As its core agenda, the significant and soulful organization known as ¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! is boldly committed to bringing Mexican regional music and other Latin American genres to town, in the form of residencies with free concerts and workshops. The past four-part season has included Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar, the premiere Mexican folk ballet company Grandeza Mexicana and last month’s thrilling retro-bolero project Tres Souls.

Aptly enough, the current season closes this weekend with the famed Las Cafeteras, a band that proudly touches on many genre shores, from Mexican root systems to their neighborhood. They came together in East Los Angeles in 2005 and have landed in various Santa Barbara venues, from Casa de la Raza to the UCSB Multicultural Center to a Santa Barbara Bowl show a decade ago, on a bill with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

Recent years have found the group bumping up in popularity and scale of venues, including the Montreal and Monterey Jazz Festivals, the Hollywood Bowl, and WOMAD. They have shared stages with Ozomatli, Los Lobos, Lila Downs, Juanes, Common, and others.

Lead singer Hector Flores spoke about the genesis of the band’s natural mix of eclecticism and tradition-reverence in an interview: “We started out playing tradition son jarocho, but we really moved on. We don’t say we play son jarocho anymore. We’re ‘son jarocho–inspired,’ because we now do a fusion of hip hop, of ska, of cumbia, a little bit of rock and spoken word. I wouldn’t even know what to call us.

“We’re not from Veracruz. Most of our parents are Mexican and come from that part of the world, but we’re not from there. We’re all L.A. kids, so we started mixing in all this other stuff. What son jarocho taught us is that music is storytelling. You can tell your story and the story of your neighborhood and people through song, through dance, through poetry.”

Their mission can be sampled on such strong albums as 2012’s It’s Time and 2017’s Tastes Like L.A. But for the truest taste, the live show is the real deal with this band. Get down to the Luke on Sunday, or their other Santa Barbara County stops.

For a taste of the band’s hybridized house blend, check out their Spotify profile here. For more info, look here.

The free Viva El Arte performances are:

Friday, May 19 | 7 p.m. | Isla Vista School, 6875 El Colegio Rd., Goleta

Saturday, May 20 | 7 p.m. | Guadalupe City Hall, 918 Obispo St., Guadalupe

Sunday, May 21 | 7 p.m. | The Marjorie Luke Theatre, 721 E. Cota St., Santa Barbara


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