Jimenez says Francis Parker was only 2 percent Latino. "I was what you would call an outlier.”
Southwestern College professor Jeff Nevin has been teaching Mariachi music for 20 years. Proceeds from concerts he organizes fund $20,000 in annual scholarships for music students. His teaching clinics help keep Mariachi alive. But Nevin says Mariachi took a post-Trump hit. His clinics and concerts rely on Mexican musicians. Many, he says, have stopped coming.
“It’s gotten real bad,” Nevin says. “They cross the border with their instruments. Because [border agents] are clamping down on people who have proper work visas, some just stopped coming.”
Nevin points to local violin maestro Jesus Jimenez, 21, as the ugliest example of immigration grief he’s encountered.
“I was born in San Diego but my parents weren’t,” says Jimenez, who was raised in National City. He first learned to play Mariachi at age five. His extraordinary ability led to private lessons, a wunderkind buzz, and a full four-year scholarship to private Francis Parker High School near USD. “I was just starting high school when my parents got a letter of deportation. They had to leave the country. My two older sisters already had places of their own.”
Jimenez says his parents’ move to Rosarito (“They haven’t been back since”) has left him to fend for himself ever since. “The reason why I didn’t go with my parents is because they wanted me to use my scholarship and keep studying music.”
Jimenez says Francis Parker was only 2 percent Latino. “I was insecure a lot. I was what you would call an outlier.” But his biggest struggle was home life. He says the “six or seven” families he ping-ponged with during his high school years never got the violin thing.
“They discouraged me from playing music. They didn’t see benefits. I couldn’t practice. They were more into Ivy League schools and math and science. Because I had to take the bus I had to get up at 4:30.” He says with music lessons, “sometimes I wouldn’t get back until 9 at night.”
Jimenez now supports himself by giving private lessons and hopes to return to college in the fall. “But even when I was at rock bottom I never let it get me down, because that’s what my parents would want. I was fortunate because music opened a lot of doors for me. But what about the trauma to all the other families? To those people who did what they did to my parents, I say, ‘May they have mercy on whoever they are going to get next.’”
Jesus Jimenez appears Saturday, June 24, at the Ballet Folklórico 26th Dia del Folklore Mexican Dance Festival at San Diego City College's Saville Theater.