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Dismay Follows Canceling of O.C. Mariachi Festival : Reaction: Latino groups say decision shouldn’t have been based on disturbances that marred event in L.A.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Latino groups that had looked forward to this month’s Mariachi Festival and Fair in Orange County expressed disappointment and even anger Tuesday over the abrupt cancellation of the event, saying that problems in Los Angeles should not ruin their own celebration.

Festivals West, the group that organized the annual event, said that last weekend’s violent disturbances at the Fiesta Broadway in Los Angeles forced the cancellation.

But John Palacio, spokesman for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, called the cancellation “premature.”

“We cannot allow an isolated incident to determine, or prevent, the continuation of a festival that has historically been well received and free of any kind of such incidents,” Palacio said. “I cannot recall any incidents like that spoiling (the festival) in the past.”

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Florinda Mintz, head of Festivals West, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. On Monday, she said in a prepared statement that the cancellation came at the request of several corporate sponsors that were pulling out “due to the incidents at . . . Fiesta Broadway.”

Eighteen people, including six police officers, were injured Sunday at Fiesta Broadway--the nation’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebration--after police clashed with crowds of party-goers.

Orange County’s fifth annual mariachi festival was set to run from this Saturday through May 22, with events scheduled in Santa Ana, Fullerton and San Juan Capistrano.

Nativo Lopez, executive director of Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, said the idea of canceling such an important event because of problems in Los Angeles seems ludicrous.

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“I suspect that the cancellation had more to do with the lack of organization by the promoter . . . and (Sunday’s disturbance) becomes a simple pretext to cancel the event,” Lopez said.

In an interview last week, Mintz acknowledged that organizing the festival on her own was a more daunting task than expected--especially after a mariachi musician who had helped in the past moved out of the area. She was still working last week to finalize financial sponsors.

David Kilpatrick, a music teacher at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, said his students, many of whom belong to the school’s Mariachi Alanos band scheduled to perform at the festival, “were very, very disappointed.” The cancellation could cost the band $650 in donations that it had expected to receive during a Fullerton performance this Saturday.

“They work long and hard to put (the music) together and look what happens,” Kilpatrick said. “I’m upset that a few gang members and difficulties in organization at the Broadway celebration will severely cut back our funding. We all have to pay for it.”

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Correspondent Rick VanderKnyff contributed to this report.


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