Mariachis, local politicos and a crowd gathered in Boyle Heights on a sunny Saturday afternoon to celebrate the renaming of a block-long section of Bailey Street between First Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in honor of pioneering Mexican mariachi singer Lucha Reyes. Fans searched for shade on the sun-baked Mariachi Plaza, where a concert and dedication ceremony took place. Why is Reyes, whose statue was installed in Mariachi Plaza in 2009, so revered? A press release from the office of Councilman Jose Huizar, whose sponsored the changing of the street name explains:
Reyes, whose birth name was Maria de la Luz Flores Aceves, was born in 1906 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and came to fame in the 1930s as one of the first women to take the stage as a lead singer in a Mariachi Band. Her groundbreaking path was difficult during an era when women were struggling for rights and Mariachi music was widely viewed as a male-only pursuit. Reyes died in 1944 and is a highly revered icon in the Mexican community for her music and extraordinary journey.
The dedication of Avenida Lucha Reyes, which runs along the eastern edge of Mariachi Plaza, is part of a public improvement project that includes gardens, seating areas and wider sidewalks.
There was a hitch in the Saturday ceremony, according to photographer Jesse Saucedo. A few minutes before the councilman was to unveil the new street signs, a worker prematurely loosened the the rope that held a black cloth over the sign, stealing Huizar’s moment.