Physical Los Angeles

Home of mariachi gives up

La Fonda de Los Camperos has been fighting eviction from its historic building at Wilshire and Carondelet, but the restaurant and its world-famous Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano are admitting defeat. After 38 years, the troupe will perform its final Wilshire show on Oct. 28. Agustin Gurza in the LAT:

"When I first opened La Fonda, people told me that I was crazy, that I wouldn't last a year," says [Natividad] Cano, 74, a native of the Mexican state of Jalisco, the cradle of mariachi music. "But I did it. I survived and Los Camperos went straight to the top. For me, it was never a matter of power or money. I just wanted to prove to the world that mariachi music could be rescued from mediocrity, from the cheap cantinas where we used to play for a dollar a song....

Cano's concept called for showcasing the mariachi on a formal stage during fabulous dinner shows, an idea that has since been copied by competitors around Southern California. Los Camperos have been a training ground for many musicians, some splitting off to form their own bands. Although mariachi music makes up a declining share of the record business, a grass-roots movement has seen student groups, classes and festivals sprout up across the Southwest.

Los Camperos will continue to tour and are scheduled to perform in concert on Nov. 1 at UCLA's Royce Hall. Cano says he's looking for a new home venue, possibly in Downtown. The space at 2501 Wilshire has been occupied by restaurants since shortly after the building opened in 1926, a fine example of the Spanish Churrigueresque designs by architect Stiles O. Clements that used to be well represented along Wilshire Boulevard. If you remember the old Vagabond Theatre, that's the building.

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