2010 Inductee - Jose and Leopoldo Sosa


2010 Inductee - Jose and Leopoldo Sosa

Born on a small ranch near Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Leopoldo and Jose, taught themselves to play stringed instruments. Leopoldo first learned to play the harp and then the “Guitarron” (Bass Guitar). Jose the violin, and brother Miguel the guitar. As teenagers, they moved to Chapala, their parents having died weeks apart. To survive, the trio played for tourists from Guadalajara on weekends, eventually forming “El Mariachi Chapala”, as other musicians joined them.

As their popularity grew, they traveled to Mexico City to try their luck, only to find that there were dozens of Mariachi groups to compete with, and began touring around Mexico to earn a living. Then in 1951, they heard that Mariachis were needed in Mexicali, Baja California. Leopoldo, now the leader, moved them to Mexicali, where they played at a popular restaurant/bar. The rest of the musicians settled there and began raising their families.

In 1955, the Mariachi Chapala was recruited to play at the Club Granada in Los Angeles, where the owner helped them obtain work visas for a period of 6 months. When their visas expired and their only prospect was to return to Mexico, the owner offered to bring their families to the U.S. By 1960, the musicians had all obtained residency cards.

They continued playing Club Granada, and the Million Dollar Theater, accompanying famous Mexican singers who performed there. In 1962, the mariachi was booked to play at the World’s Fair in Seattle, Washington, but not all went; some stayed and joined other groups. Miguel returned to Mexicali until he passed away. From the original group, Nati Cano went on to form mariachi “Mariachi Los Camperos”, who played with Linda Rondstadt. Jose’s son, led “Mariachi Del Sol” for many years, while other members went on to play for world -famous”Mariachi Vargas” and other groups.

After performing in Seattle, the remaining members of Mariachi Chapala headed for San Francisco to look for work. Hearing that Stockton might be a good location for the group, Leopoldo moved them there, starting mariachi “Los Jilqueros”. Brother Jose joined him. Leopoldo died in 2006, and Jose continued to play violin with the group until he retired in 2006. He is currently 91 years old. Two of the group’s current members, David Gamboa and Jose Diaz, have been with “Los Jilgueros” since the late 1960’s. Locally, they played for weddings, Quinceañeras, and Catholic masses. The group, which enjoyed enormous success, often donated their performances for fundraisers, demonstrations, and political campaigns.