In 2011, La Villita witnessed the birth of its first annual music festival. It grew from the passion of a group of young community members who were dedicated to creating positive, local spaces for music, highlighting the diversity of the neighborhood’s talent, and supporting the development of a thriving youth arts culture. With no funding and limited experience, the Villapalooza collective worked hard for a little over three months to organize a free, all-day, all-ages music festival with over 20 performers, 25 vendors and 500 attendees.
Villapalooza has grown in size and scope over the five years, yet it continues to be a grassroots music festival managed by a collective of dedicated volunteers. In 2015, organizers were honored to have the festival take place on 26th Street, which traditionally is only closed to traffic for the Mexican Independence Day Parade. Last year, Villapalooza had a record attendance of 20,000 people. The festival has hosted over 160 bands, including visiting acts such as Bocafloja from Mexico City, M.A.K.U. Soundsystem from New York City, and Orquesta El Macabeo from Puerto Rico. According to Hector Herrera, one of Villapalooza’s founders, the festival relies on more than 200 volunteers to coordinate multiple sound stages, art and food vendors, and family activities.
In collaboration with a number of neighborhood organizations, the Villapalooza collective has been able to promote community development and violence prevention through arts and music. It has been crucial to the development of the local music scene because it has increased the number of spaces that nurture its growth, and because it has prioritized the visibility and promotion of diverse, local and young artists. The collective is also intentional about buying local products, hiring locally and working with local companies. Finally, it has provided an opportunity for youth to engage in positive leadership activities by ensuring that youth continue to be a driving force behind the festival.
Local organizers continue to hard work each year to make Villapalooza possible. Enlace is proud to honor this powerful team of community members for their commitment to La Villita and for their ongoing respect for the traditions, history, and residents of their community.