Often when we think of mariachi, we think of Mexico and its beautiful culture and folklore. Mariachi, means something different to everyone. To some, listening to a mariachi group at a restaurant will bring you joy and excitement with its rich rhythmic melodies that speak about love and land. But to others, mariachi music means home. Every note reaching the heart, embracing the memories of loved ones and most memorable life events.
Mariachi has popularized vastly in the United States within the last decade. With the growing number of Mexican-Americans in the U.S., a great interest has sprouted in helping the genre expand not only in our border cities and towns but in the entire country. More schools are offering mariachi classes either as part of their curriculum or as an extra-curricular activity to help embrace multicultural education and allow our Hispanic and non-Hispanic students to have the opportunity to value cultural beliefs and backgrounds.
Despite mariachi being a genre struggling for acceptance in our schools due to its history of being an oral tradition and with different musical standards than band, choir and orchestra, it has developed greatly through time. With the help of music educators, mariachi has gained a positive perspective resulting with more published music and various books available on the teaching of fundamentals in the mariachi classroom.
Having a mariachi program at your school can bring great benefits to students, educators and communities. This program makes itself available to students who harbor a great talent but do not participate in other fine arts programs. It will allow them to feel a sense of belonging and become familiar with an organization that is linked to their cultural roots. It will not only help them improve their grades but also aid in their attendance and participation in school.
Performing mariachi music takes skill but also takes a great deal of confidence. Singing or performing an instrumental solo on a stage enhances their abilities to become great performers. Those who are not afraid to take the stage have proven to take on life’s challenges with more ease and have shown much improvement in character.
Leslie Hernandez, a student at La Joya I.S.D.’s Palmview High School in Mission, Texas, confesses, “Being part of the mariachi helped me break out of my shell and showed me how beautiful our Hispanic culture is. I now have the confidence to go anywhere, do anything and share my culture with others.”
A great sense of responsibility, discipline and time management is developed through the art of mariachi. An important role is given to the student as an active participant in the group. Each one is unique to his or her instrumentation, including solo singers. The importance of being there, and being reliable and dependable is a skill that aids in their growth process.
Communities also greatly benefit from this popular art form. Having concerts and events year round is a treat for everyone. The surrounding communities will have the opportunity to listen and enjoy great Mexican music in big celebration days such as Cinco de Mayo and 16 de Septiembre (Mexico’s Independence Day) as well as other major holidays. An aspect that is influential in multiculturalism is encompassing a learning experience that creates links to cultural traditions. Learning the music of the Mexican culture through mariachi becomes of importance when students are allowed to discover themselves as representatives of the culture. Wearing a glamorous mariachi suit with its sparkly “gala” and wide-brimmed hat along with performing mariachi music is not merely a performance; it is a demonstration of pride for a valued culture.
About the Author
Mayra Alejandra Garcia is the mariachi director for the award-winning Palmview High School “Mariachi Los Lobos” in La Joya I.S.D. and director of the award-winning all-female mariachi group “Mariachi Mariposas” from the Rio Grande Valley, Texas.Her mariachi groups have established a legacy of excellence by becoming one of the top high school and professional mariachi groups in the state of Texas.The group photo credit by Magallonphotography.com