Arizona's tough new immigration enforcement law isn't scheduled to take effect until late July. But fear and anger stirred by the law are already beginning to take a toll on concerts in the state, particularly on events featuring regional Mexican artists.
Hip-hop acts Pitbull and Cypress Hill have canceled upcoming shows in Arizona to protest the law, which requires local authorities to determine a person's immigration status if he or she is suspected of being undocumented. Regional Mexican music acts Conjunto Primavera and Espinoza Paz have canceled their previously-announced Phoenix concerts, while their fellow Latin music stars Jenni Rivera and Wisin & Yandel will be skipping the state on their AEG Live-promoted summer tours.
A source at Live Nation says he isn't aware of any artists who have backed out of concerts the company is promoting in the state. Live Nation is promoting a Carole King/James Taylor concert at the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale May 19 and its summer schedule includes a July 18 concert by ranchera icon Vicente Fernandez at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix.
But the situation has been developing quickly since last week, when Pitbull's cancellation of his May 31 concert in Phoenix was the first such move by an artist on tour with AEG Live.
"My personal belief is that the law, which is misguided and poorly written, is unconstitutional and will not survive the multiple legal challenges being filed," AEG Live president/CEO Randy Phillips says. "Until that time, however, the economic impact on the state from losing even a couple of tours might be enough for the legislature and the governor to realize that there is still a political concept called the tyranny of the majority which is just as dangerous to our democracy as illegal immigration, maybe more so."
While the Arizona immigration law has only impacted a handful of concerts so far, the situation is more precarious for the regional Mexican industry, as its fans are particularly vulnerable to the new law.
Tucson's La Caliente 102.1 FM (KCMT) canceled its annual Tusa festival before tickets went on sale. The June 6 show was to have featured some of the biggest names in regional Mexican music, including La Arrolladora Banda el Limon, Banda MS, K-Paz de la Sierra and Julion Alvarez. The station is trying re-book the artists for its annual anniversary concert in the fall.
"Some of the events that we have sponsored here or presented just over the last couple of weekends have been very light," says La Caliente general sales manager Tara Hungate. "We didn't want to take the risk of having it not work out for our [sponsors]. Would we able to sell tickets between now and the beginning of June? I don't know."
Hungate says she believes the new law is having a chilling effect on regional Mexican music fans.
"I think people are scared," she says. "Whether they're legal or not, they don't want to jeopardize their paperwork. The tendency is, 'I am not going to go out because I don't want to have one beer and get stopped.'"
Fernando Camacho, manager of Arrolladora and Banda MS, points out that show cancellations aren't the only measure of how the law is affecting Arizona's regional Mexican touring circuit. He notes that concerns over weak attendance could prompt some promoters to shy away from taking on certain events.
KCMT sales rep Oscar Garcia de Leon says concerns over the immigration law appeared to hurt attendance at a May 7 concert in Tucson that the station sponsored featuring regional Mexican acts El Compa Chuy and Los Cuates de Sinaloa.
While the station had anticipated attendance of about 2,000, "we didn't even get close to a thousand people," Garcia says.
Maria Barquin, PD at Radio Campesina 88.3 FM (KNAI) in Phoenix, acknowledges that her station, part of a network founded by activist Cesar Chavez's National Farm Workers Service Center, serves many recent arrivals from Mexico "that are probably not here legally."
Barquin says Radio Campesina's Mother's Day carnival/health fair and Cinco de Mayo festival were well-attended just weeks after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the legislation into law on April 23.
"We thought about canceling because people might be afraid to go out," Barquin says of the latter, adding however that, "if we cancel, we're showing people that we're afraid. It has a lot to do with the message you're sending people. We have to keep living our normal lives."
Regional Mexican act Conjunto Primavera opted to take the protest route, canceling its scheduled June 19 show at Phoenix' Dodge Theatre "out of respect for our fans who live in Arizona," says the band's manager Jesus Guillen. The veteran chart-toppers released a statement calling the state's immigration law racist.
Lazaro Megret, president of El Paso, Tex.-based Latino Events, says tickets had been selling well for Conjunto Primavera's show, a double bill with Los Rieleros del Norte.
Not all artists agree that boycotting Arizona is the best way to make a statement about the new law.
"Just the opposite," says Dominican tropical music star Juan Luis Guerra. "We have to go [to Arizona] now more than ever...[I'd like to] play a little bachata over there."
(Additional reporting by Mitchell Peters, L.A., and Leila Cobo, Miami.)
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