Natividad (Nati) CanoNatividad (Nati) Cano

Grammy Award Winning Musician/Community Leader

California State University, Los Angeles

Born in 1933 in the small village of Ahuisculco, Jalisco, Mexico, the late Mr. Natividad "Nati" Cano enrolled at the Academia de Musica in Guadalajara to study violin. In 1950, Cano traveled to the border town of Mexicali to join the Mariachi Chapala, and several years later immigrated to Los Angeles. There he joined Mariachi Aguila, the house ensemble at the famous Million Dollar Theatre, a major stopping point on the Mexican Professional circuit. Upon the death of the group's director, Cano became the new leader and renamed the band Los Camperos. From these humble beginnings, Cano earned United States citizenship and took his legacy of Mexican culture to countless Americans across the United States, opening doors of opportunity for Mexican musicians and other culture bearers, and permanently transforming social and cultural attitudes toward the potential of Mexican culture.

Beginning in the 1980s, Cano dedicated much of his attention to mentoring young people. For nearly three decades, he led music workshops for young people throughout the American Southwest. His charisma and focus on character as well as artistic excellence touched hundreds of thousands of young people. His band conducted hundreds of workshops and taught thousands of young musicians the technique and art of mariachi music. He also created San Fernando's model Mariachi Master Apprentice Program, which resulted in the creation of the award-winning mariachi youth group, Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando.

Cano was a pioneer of mariachi music in the United States. Under his direction for 53 years, the Los Angeles-based mariachi troupe Los Camperos de Nati Cano introduced mariachi music to mainstream America. Cano and his band became an institution in Los Angeles, not only for their music, but also for providing a gathering place and musical hub for Angelinos at his La Fonda Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles for nearly four decades. In 1989, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Cano the American government's highest award in the folk and traditional arts, the National Heritage Fellowship award. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, published three recordings of his group which resulted in one Grammy award, a second Grammy nomination, and several other awards.

In recognition of his many accomplishments and contributions to the university and the community, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Los Angeles are proud to posthumously confer upon Natividad "Nati" Cano the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.​