Carlos Augusto Alves Santana was born in Autlan de Navarro, Mexico on July 20, 1947 to Jose Santana, a well-known Mariachi violinist, and his wife Josephina. When he was only five years old, his father taught Carlos how to play the violin.
Carlos and his family moved to Tijuana, Mexico in 1955. As in many border towns, Tijuana has benefited from the fusion of both host and neighboring cultures. In the late 1950s, the traditional music played by Mexican Mariachis could be heard throughout Tijuana, but American blues and rock & roll was also heard, thanks to American radio. Carlos had learned to play traditional music on his violin, but at the age of eight, he learned to also play the guitar in order to perform the songs he heard on American radio. By the age of eleven, Carlos had left home and was playing blues and rock music in Tijuana strip clubs. He regularly played throughout the night and into the early morning hours at the tough bars and cabarets.
Life in the United States:
In 1961, Carlos moved to San Francisco, California in order to join his family who had earlier settled in the City’s Mission District. Carlos later recalled how different life was in the United States when he told a reporter that, “I moved to the United States from Tijuana, Mexico when I was 13. For me it was like entering into Disneyland.” Carlos graduated from San Francisco’s Mission High School in 1965 and became a United States citizen the same year. He began his professional career as a musician in the United States the following year when he co-founded his first musical group, the Santana Blues Band. After a few years, the band was signed to Columbia Records. Their first album debuted a few months after the band’s electrifying performance at Woodstock in 1969.
Over the course of his career, Carlos has had several hit songs and records, been awarded eight Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1998, he co-founded the Milagro Foundation, which works to benefit underprivileged children throughout the world in the areas of health, education and the arts. To date, the organization has provided more than 2.3 million dollars to over 300 organizations in thirty different countries.
Carlos Santana is proud of where he comes from and says that that is what gives his success meaning. "I know what it's like to - to live in a neighborhood with no running water, no electricity, no toilet," he says. "When I go to Hong Kong, Tijuana or India whatever - whatever it is, it smells the same. People who identified with me from - from those places who are - not so well-to-do on this planet, they claim - you know I represent them to a certain extent. That is my reward: to be connected with just people."