Carlos Santana plans benefit concerts in Tijuana: ‘I want to give people a better chance at life’

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Carlos Santana is set to return to Tijuana, the Mexican border town where he grew up and honed his guitar playing skills in nightclubs as a teenager before moving to San Francisco in the mid 1960s.

The Latin rock pioneer hopes to headline a fundraiser next spring in Tijuana, where he hasn’t performed since a 1992 homecoming gig at the beach town’s now-shuttered bullring. If all goes as planned, the concert will become an annual event.

“It’s right around the corner. We want to be there real soon,” Santana, 74, told the San Diego Union-Tribune of her concert fundraising launch.

“I’m going to try to connect with some people in Tijuana and then maybe start doing that in April or May.”

Santana kicks off her summer tour tonight, June 17, at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheater in San Diego. The purpose of his proposed benefit concerts in Tijuana is, he said, “to feed people, clothe them, educate them and give them a better chance in life.”

Santana, recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2013, is from Autlán de Navarro, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. He grew up mostly in the Libertad neighborhood of Tijuana, which then had no electricity or running water. He and his younger brother, Jorge – who died in 2020 – helped their parents make ends meet by selling gum on street corners.

In 1998, Santana founded the Miracle Foundation. It is a publicly funded organization that provides grants to tax-exempt community groups around the world that work with underprivileged children to provide them with education, health care, and exposure to the arts. So far, the foundation has distributed $18 million in grants to nonprofits in 36 states and 18 countries.

Speaking last week, June 8, from Las Vegas, Santana said he hoped to get support from other organizations and individuals for the Tijuana fundraiser.

“It would be an annual concert,” he said. “I will also invite others with deep pockets and big hearts to contribute and donate food, clothing, books and education.

“With music, I can do more than just be ‘Tijuana’s guitar player.’ I want to be a positive force that helps people discover their own divinity.

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