It’s difficult even for Marcos Mora himself to encapsulate everything he’s involved in. He’s been a real estate agent with Nebraska Realty since 2013. In 2000, he founded (and today still runs) Latino Productions, which serves a bilingual market with marketing services, event management, consulting and entertainment. He also founded A.B.M. Enterprises in 2000 and was involved in starting its El Directorio Latino—and this very publication—until his departure in 2006. He’s a lifelong musician who plays numerous instruments. And 20 years after volunteering to help with Cinco de Mayo for the first time, he now serves as the event’s annual coordinator.
At heart, he’s an entrepreneur and community leader, a calling instilled in him through family, just like his love for the arts. Mora’s grandfather Vidal Barrientos and two brothers migrated to the U.S. from Aguascalientes, Mexico, in the 1920s and brought their musical talent with them.
“From the 1920s to the 1970s they were well-known musicians in the South Omaha community. I think our family is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, Latino/Mexican family. And we’ve been in the arts like 90 years now,” Mora says.
Mora was born in Los Angeles but came to South Omaha with his family in early childhood and grew up there, attending St. Bridget School and South High before getting a degree in Spanish with a minor in Latino studies as a Goodrich scholar at the University of Nebraska Omaha. “By the third generation, people start to lose the language,” he explains.
His family cultivated connections to Mexican culture and arts. Mora remembers learning traditional dance through Baile Folklorico while still in elementary school. “We were the little kids dancing, me and my cousins, at Cinco de Mayo and all the different programs we were involved with,” he recalls.
In fact, “Music was always around us,” he adds. “I always felt we grew up bicultural; I was exposed to mariachi music and Spanish music and at the same time my mom and dad liked R & B, oldies, different music. I felt I was pretty fortunate and got the best of both worlds.”
Early experiments with trumpet, bass, keyboard and other instruments led Mora to eventually adopt the guitar as his signature sound. He now plays guitar, bass, vihuela, mandolin, guitarron and various percussion instruments. (“I can pick up almost anything.”) He’s formed several groups in multiple genres over the years like Conspiracy, Mariachi Luna y Sol, Marcos y Sabor, and Marc & Tori, and filled in as a guest artist with too many acts to count. And he’s helped to foster the next generations of artists, too.
“Every Monday for 10 years I volunteered (through a South Omaha Arts Institute Program) and taught kids. Now those kids are adults, and a lot of those kids I taught are involved in the major mariachi groups. Other kids are playing in other groups,” he says, adding that his former students are in groups like Patria Juvenil, Chavas, Rey Azteca, Zapata and the all-female mariachi Las Cecilias. “The whole objective of that program was keeping the music alive and teaching these kids, who are our future.”
Mora has as much pride in his community as he does in his musical heritage. “We have a long history of activism as well as art in the family,” he says. An uncle helped found the Chicano Awareness Center, now the Latino Center of the Midlands, for instance, and his parents and other extended family were active in various community endeavors. Mora is a South Omaha Business Association (SOBA) board member, a South Omaha Arts Institute board member, the
Barrientos Scholarship Foundation founder, a board member of the new South Omaha Museum, and involved with the Business Improvement Development (BID) for South Omaha.
He was also one of the first to recognize the potential of marketing to the growing Spanish-speaking population beginning in the 1990s.
“In the ‘80s, South Omaha had a lot of vacancies. We had a big influx in the ‘90s that basically revived south Omaha and filed in some of those vacancies,” he says. “These consumers new to town who spoke Spanish needed to know where they could find basic services and necessities. Companies needed to reach the new segment, too. That’s how we developed the product.”
First came the Spanish yellow pages, then the first monthly issues of El Perico filled with ads only, a precursor to the weekly news publication it is today. Mora says he believes El Perico was the first Spanish-language newspaper in the state.
He’s received numerous honors but Mora says he has other motivation for continuing to find time in his busy schedule to serve his community. “It’s people, when you come down to it, all facets of people. I’ve always found fascinating to work with a variety of different people, and I think that’s what South Omaha is, a little bit of everybody: Native American, African American, Anglo and the family base,” he says. “It’s just the love for your community and wanting to see something better for it, that’s what drives anybody. If you love everything you do, it’s not really like work; it just becomes part