What do mariachis do?

Mariachi Cobre performs at the Tucson International Mariachi Conference.

Mariachi Cobre performs at the Tucson International Mariachi Conference.

Mariachis are so integral a part of modern Mexican and Mexican American life, but are also a global phenomenon.

Everywhere they exist, they serve profound social and cultural roles.

When a child is born, or a person dies, mariachis mark our arrivals and departures. They are there for weddings, quinceañeras, birthdays, anniversaries and celebrations of every sort.

In Tucson the mariachi has become as much a symbol of our city as the iconic saguaro cactus. It symbolizes cultural pride, history and heritage. The mariachi is a noble symbol at that.

The symbolic power of the mariachi is never lost in times of political struggle either. The repertoire unites people and helps movements to find a voice.

Mariachis in Tucson have made an important contribution to our city’s educational system. In schools where mariachi and folklórico dance programs have been instituted retention rates are higher, scholastic achievement greater, and the numbers of college bound students elevated over schools without such programs.

Youth mariachis outside of the schools, such as the legendary Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos – America’s first and longest running youth mariachi – provide scholarships that send students on to college. Often times these students are the first in their families to graduate college.

Participation in mariachi and folklórico programs teaches important life skills as well – teamwork, discipline, self reliance, and the ability to get up and perform in front of others. These become true leadership skills that are needed in the political process as well.

Mariachis are an important part of the modern fiber of America, and deserve respect for the important roles they play, as well as the quality of their music.

The modern mariachi is among the most versatile folk orchestras in the world, comparable in complexity to the gamelan of Indonesia.

The “sones,” which are the roots music of the mariachi, are handily among the most rhythmically complex folk music forms on the planet.

It takes skill, style and cultural mastery to become an accomplished mariachi.

~ by Daniel Buckley on January 4, 2013.

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