With a diverse immigrant population and proximity to the border, Orange County can certainly detect the Heartbeat of Mexico.
That’s the name Richard T. Bryant and Dave Leavenworth attached to an event they created and co-produced in 2016 to commemorate the opening of the Musco Center for the Arts at Chapman University in Orange.
Now in its fourth year, the Heartbeat of Mexico festival has expanded and grown from one to three days over Memorial Day weekend. Each “Heartbeat” features well-known headliners, plus numerous local and regional performers.
The family-friendly event, produced in association with Chapman staff and faculty, emphasizes musical performance but also encompasses dance, arts, crafts, vendors and food.
Characterizing the event as “one of the most significant Mexican-American festivals in Southern California,” Bryant said its blend of the contemporary and traditional places it “at the very center of the Mexican and Mexican-American experience.”
Heartbeat of Mexico is, he said, “a lively invention, something that really resonates and has energy and life in it, created by a university responding to and reaching out to a community, saying, ‘How do we invent something that’s beautiful, that’s true to the Mexican-American community in which we live?’”
The festival, he said, is designed to celebrate and showcase three major aspects of performing arts and culture: “the traditional performing arts of the motherland — in this case, Mexico”; contemporary performing arts; and “fusion, the Mexican and American — that is to say, Chicano.”
The inaugural festival drew an estimated 10,000 people. Successive years have brought additional performers — from world-renowned stars to talented Orange County locals — showcased in a variety of indoor and outdoor venues.
This year’s lineup, Bryant said, “amplifies many of the vibrant, overlapping energies in Mexican culture today.” Appearing at Musco Center in evening performances are this year’s headliners: the superstar duo Jesse & Joy and singer Lupillo Rivera, backed by the musical group Mariachi.
Ballet Folklórico is being featured on the afternoon of May 25 in a series of free performances inside Chapman’s historic 1,000-seat Memorial Hall. The Orange County School of the Arts and OC Music & Dance are among the many local organizations taking part in the Ballet Folklórico program.
May 26 is a free, all-day family celebration at the outdoor Bette and Wylie Aitken Arts Plaza. It includes arts and crafts, food, vendors, mariachi music, authentic Aztec dancing and a live painting demonstration. Ballet Folklórico will again be spotlighted via Relampago del Cielo Grupo Folklórico and the popular Felipe Orozco and his Mariachi Tierra Azteca.
“The Passport Game,” also May 26, gives children a passport they can have stamped at a series of stations representing Mexican states. Developed by the Santa Ana Consulate, each station features images and facts about the states’ histories, cultures and economies.
In an area known for such events, the festival, Bryant said, is “not the biggest” but is “growing each year, and we’re dedicating a lot of energy to it.”
Eric Marchese is a contributor to Times Community News.
If You Go
What: Heartbeat of Mexico Festival
Where: Musco Center for the Arts, 415 N. Glassell St., Orange.
When: 7:30 p.m. May 23; 12 to 5:30 p.m. May 25; 12 to 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. May 26.
Cost: Tickets start at $35 and are $45 for headliners; free for all other performances.
Information: (844) 626-8726, muscocenter.org