San Baltazar Yatzachi el Bajo (YEB) is one of 25 municipalities that form the district of Villa Alta in the northern region of the Sierra Mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. Today, the town of Yatzachi el Bajo has a population of approximately 90 people. This number is a result of heavy migration to other parts of Mexico and to the United States.
The city of Los Angeles is today home to a thriving Oaxacan population, which includes members of the Yatzachi el Bajo community. The earliest arrivals from YEB date as far back as the 1950s. By the mid 1970s, they had established a tightknit YEB community that began working to aid their hometown as well as finding ways to preserve and celebrate their traditions in their new environment.
The idea to create a traditional music band came from two members of YEB’s immigrant community, the late Bernardino Hernández and the late Arcadio Sánchez. Along with the help of many supporters, the idea was brought to life in May 1990 when Banda Yatzachi el Bajo was established. The goal behind the initiative was to teach new generations of Yatzachi descendants about cultural practices. The band was the second of its kind established in Los Angeles, and the first to include female musicians.
Throughout the years, Banda Yatzachi el Bajo has had the privilege of traveling throughout California to participate in various cultural celebrations in San Diego, Fresno, Santa Cruz, Oxnard, Bakersfield, Santa Maria, San Jose, San Bernardino as well as Las Vegas, Nevada and San Antonio, Texas. Since 1992, they have participated in the annual Guelaguetza celebration sponsored by Organización Regional Oaxaqueña (ORO). Among their greatest accomplishments has been the opportunity to travel to Yatzachi el Bajo and perform for the town’s annual fiesta.
In their hometown of Los Angeles, Banda Yatzachi el Bajo has been honored to perform at the Ford Amphitheater, Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Latin American Art, Hollywood Forever, Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, UCLA and the San Gabriel Mission among others. Ali Guzman has served as the band’s director since 1995.
This year will mark the band’s 28th anniversary. Banda Yatzachi el Bajo owes its evolvement to the tireless dedication exerted by its musicians and the genuine support it receives from its community. In return, the band has remained constant in its commitment to preserving culture through music and supporting migrant communities in Los Angeles including its own community of Yatzachi el Bajo, which they are very proud to form part of.