Las Cruces music icon says this could be last year he performs
A local musical icon in Las Cruces who’s entertained many people from all around the world expressed his gratitude to Doña Ana County for all of these years people have supported his music.
“This is Johnny Florez, he’s our beloved mariachi legend here in Las Cruces. He’s actually our oldest living mariachi legend,” Joey Avalos said.
The love for music and the inspiration to create it came to Florez nearly 85 years ago after watching his father's band perform for the first time.
“It sounded so beautiful I just couldn’t resist not playing guitar like them,” Florez said.
But it was 50 years ago at a music store when Florez met his musical soulmate, Isabel Aguirre.
“Our love of music, I guess, has held us together as friends and all that helping each other for years,” Aguirre said.
Since then, they’ve never left each other's side and have entertained thousands with their music.
“We entertain the whole world, not just Las Cruces or United States,” Florez said.
"We're ready to retire but I can't retire from her because she takes care of me,” Florez said.
In 2014, Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima honored Florez with his very own day.
“(The) Sunday immediately preceding Labor Day (was) Johnny Florez Day. We’re very proud of him because he is a very good person to all. Even if he’s lacking something he will help whatever the need be. Playing music free or whatever the need be, he’s there,” Aguirre said.
“They gave him this proclamation for everything he does for the people, county and state,” Aguirre said.
But while people may know Florez as a talented musician, they don’t know he’s been battling cancer for years.
"When I'm playing guitar and talking to people, I forget that I'm sick. At that moment, I feel OK,” Florez said.
But with Florez’s health declining, he’s also fallen three months behind his car payment adding up to $900.
Yoli Diaz is the executive director with C.A.R.E. Cancer Aid Resource and Education, a non-profit organization that help people in Doña Ana County who have been been diagnosed with cancer and are in active treatment with none medical expenses such as gas cards, rent and lodging.
“I put it out there on social media to help us and it really becomes 'help us save Johnny’s vehicle',” Diaz said.
“They said if he does not come up with the money by May 1, they are going to repossess his vehicle and I said we can’t let that happen, we need him to get to treatment,” Diaz said.
That is why local artist Joey Avalos, founder of Ransom Art, is teaming up with C.A.R.E to sell portraits of Florez at the Las Cruces Farmers Market.
For each painting sold, 20 percent goes to help save Florez’s car so he can get to his appointments every day.
Florez said this could be the last year he performs for the people of Dona Ana County.
“I tell him, if he goes before I go, that’s it. I don’t think I can find another partner like him,” Aguirre said.