The artist who designed and illustrated this year’s poster for VivaFest!, the 20th annual San Jose Mariachi Festival, is a San Jose native and resident who wanted to tell the story of his immigrant family. In doing so, he captured the festival theme: “We Are All Travelers.”Alfonso Enrique Salazar, 49, also made headlines recently when his 25-year-old mural on the wall of a former Mexican restaurant at 4th and Taylor streets was whitewashed for reasons that still aren’t clear. He said he created the mural to show his family the skills he had developed at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles.
“It was always a dream of mine to do the mariachi festival poster,” Salazar said. “When they approached me, it was like a dream come true.”
The festival, which will be September 18-29 in several San Jose locations, features a lineup of performers that includes Los Lobos, the Orchestra of Spanish Harlem, Tito Puente Jr., Vicky Carr and Mariachi Cobre.
The U.S. Post Office, a sponsor of the festival, connected Salazar to the Mexican Heritage Corporation, the festival’s producer. Salazar is a postal worker at the St. James station, and lives nearby in a downtown neighborhood.“Alfonso is emblematic of what we’re trying to do with the festival,” said Marcela Davison Aviles, the festival’s executive producer. “He’s telling the story of our community. We’re all immigrants. We’re all travelers.”
The poster is reminiscent of the travel posters of the 1920s and 1930s, with Salazar’s immigrant parents at the center of the story. The artwork depicts letters his mother wrote to his father and presents festival performers in travel stickers common on the luggage of early travelers. His daughter, Celina, 17, wore her Ballet Folklorico costume to serve as Salazar’s model for the woman who is traveling with her husband in the center of the poster.
“It was so touching to see his homage to his family,” Davison Aviles said. “The image he created says ‘we are family. We are on this journey together.’”
The poster was unveiled on August 11, along with five stamps the U.S. Postal Service issued to honor Latino music legends: Selena, Carlos Gardel, Carmen Miranda, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz.
Prints of the poster will be for sale online by the Mexican Heritage Corporation.
Salazar, who also has donated his time and talent to create posters for the Berryessa Art and Wine Festival, would like to spend more time drawing and painting, and maybe create another mural.
“I’ve got a lot of ideas. I just have to take them out of the sketchbook and make them happen,” he said.
At Independence High School, where he met his wife, Marcia, Salazar spent his time on art and music as a trumpet player for the school band. He is looking forward to taking his mother to VivaFest next month and letting the sounds of mariachis remind him of his family’s journey to this country.
“My mom would tell me of coming to the United States by train on July 4, and seeing fireworks,” Salazar said. “She tells that story every Fourth of July.”