Austin-based Mexican musician Lesly Reynaga makes history at ACL Music Fest – FOX 7 Austin | Directory Mayhem

The Austin City Limits Music Festival has been around since 2002, but with very few Hispanic and Latinx acts, despite the state’s Hispanic and Latinx community making up over 40 percent.

Your diversity efforts are improving and this year Lesly Reynagaan Austin-born musician and native Mexican, will make history at the ACL as one of the first acts to perform with a full mariachi band.

It’s a moment of pride as Reynaga waits for the moment to take the stage at Zilker Park. She’s cooking this morning to keep her grounded with so much excitement.

“I’m going to make chilaquiles, which are basically fried tortillas with salsa cheese,” says Reynaga, while tossing fresh corn tortillas into a hot skillet with olive oil. “I learned all my tricks from my mom and grandma in Monterrey, Mexico, where I grew up.”

Cooking takes her 400 miles south of Austin to Monterrey, the place that shaped Reynaga.

“I grew up in my grandmother’s house and my Abuelita was always just cooking and cooking and she loved doing that, so food has always been a way of bringing the family together,” says Reynaga.

Food wasn’t the only thing that brought her family together; it was also la musica.

“We just gathered in the living room and the dining room, wherever we were, and there are just so many memories from my childhood that have music playing a role,” Reynaga says while looking through old photos of families living in her Mexican living room are gathered.

Music is in her blood as she performed in kindergarten.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘When did your music career start?’ I don’t know, I could argue that it started when I was four years old and my grandma taught me this song,” says Reynaga.

The song “Atotonilco” is named after a Mexican city in the state of Guanajuato. While leafing through a memory box containing reminders of the various stops on her journey, Reynaga pulls out a bell of the same name.

“This is the first guitar I’ve ever owned,” Reynaga explains while going through the images and pointing to a small pink guitar in the photo. “My mom bought it for me as a birthday present in high school. I believe. I was probably 17.”

By that age she had moved from Mexico to McAllen, Texas, along the Texas-Mexico border, where she received her introduction to formal mariachi music instruction.

Her journey then took her to the University of Texas.

“I’ve always tried to convey both sides of my identity as a Mexican immigrant, but also as an American and a dual citizen,” says Reynaga. “I’m very proud of my heritage and cultures and it’s something I really only get through my music.”

She uses her music to travel between the two countries for those who cannot.

“My mom lives in Mexico and can’t cross the border,” says Reynaga, fighting back tears as she explains her mother’s immigration status. It’s a familiar story to many daughters of immigrants who have family across US borders

“A lot of the special moments like graduating from high school or graduating from college, like she just wasn’t there,” says Reynga. “That’s definitely the point where I would say if I had to dedicate my show to someone, it would be my mom.”

It’s an emotional moment for Lesly as she prepares to become a new mom herself. An upstairs closet now houses her music gear, something she had to clear out to make room for a baby.

“We used to have an office with all the music stuff in it, and now we have to make room for a kid’s room,” says Reynaga, showing the closet.

Mom isn’t here for moments like this or to spend time with her daughter as she prepares for the next generation, but even when Mom is 400 miles away, she always has a way to show herself through music.

Lesly pauses for a moment, looks in the closet, and at that moment Mom appears through the pink guitar she gave Lesly as a teenager. “You know what, Leslie?” Reynaga says during our interview, “I think I have this pink guitar right here. This is my very first guitar.”

Reynaga pulls the pink guitar out of her case and starts playing the song her grandmother taught her when she was 4 years old. Reynaga sits in her new baby room, singing and strumming her guitar as the sheet music helps her travel between being her mother’s mother, her mother and now her life as a new mother.

Lesly Reynaga enters Saturday noon on the Barton Springs stage. As one of the first artists to perform with mariachis, she will make history Mariachi Paredes from the University of Texas.

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