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El Paso Community College
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Borderlands: New Generation of Mariachis (with 2017 update)

A unique resource of faculty edited college student articles on the history and culture of the El Paso, Juárez, and Southern New Mexico regions.

New Generation of Mariachis (with 2017 update)

By Lynn Córdova. Contributing research by Frank R. Martinez (Article first published in Vol 10, 1992)

Mariachis Update 2017

MariachisCrooning a song his grandmother might have sighed over in her day, the handsome young man sings of lost love and undying devotion. His fresh youthful face, shaded by his sombrero, is much too bright and shiny to make his woes believable. The crowd at the St. Raphael’s bazaar stops to listen and watch. For some it is a shock to see Anglos in traditional mariachi finery singing in flawless Spanish.

My surprise is twofold: the group on stage consists of Eastwood High School students fascinated with music of another generation and for some, another culture. Second, I am impressed with their talent. They sound professional. I later discover that this group and ensembles from Del Valle and Bowie High Schools, among others, are trained as part of the local high school curriculum. The Ysleta Independent School District and the El Paso School District support and encourage the groups as cultural ambassadors in the community.

In the Ysleta school district, the program started three years ago when the superintendent asked the fine arts director, Ramon Rivera, to start the program in the area high school curriculum. Guillermo Quezada, an instructor at Eastwood High School, volunteered to start the program. Quezada, finding great interest in the idea, decided, “If it’s going to be done, let’s do it right.” The Mariachi Reyna was born.

The Eastwood High Group is made up of 17 musicians, 10 young women and seven young men, a departure from the traditional all-male mariachi band. They are a bicultural group with 30 percent of their members Anglo and the rest Hispanic. Quezada, although a professional educator, has no degree to teach folkloric music, if indeed there is such a thing, but he does have a lifelong love of the mariachi sound.

Zeke Castro, maestro at Del Valle High School, is a classically trained, professional violinist who has also played mariachi music for more than 20 years. There are 10 young women and 10 young men in their mariachi group Primavera. Castro says the mixture reflects a growing interest by young people in the music they hear at home and in their community.

The Del Valle group attended the annual Tucson International Mariachi Conference in April for Southwest area mariachi musicians.  Members studied their individual instruments and performed in the concert featuring all groups in attendance, the highlight of the conference.  Similar conferences are held in Salinas and Los Angeles, Calif., and in San Antonio, Texas, in the summer. 

The El Paso Independent School District also has a very successful mariachi music program. Pete Ramos, Principal of Bowie High School, liked the idea of a mariachi band. Ricardo Barragon, a vocal music and guitar instructor at the high school, was a natural choice to start the program.

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