The Mariachi Miracle in brief

A future mariachi is born at El Casino Ballroom.

A future mariachi is born at El Casino Ballroom.



“The Mariachi Miracle” is a film and book project tracing the social, political, economic, artistic and educational impact of youth mariachi and folklórico dance programs on the city of Tucson. Moreover it will show how Tucson then became an important crucible of mariachi education in America.


Tucson will be the example of a broader movement that is transforming America. It is a movement that has very real implications for social justic, economic opportunities, political power and educational enrichment for Hispanics. And it is a largely self-generated movement that shows that in the absence of real help from the prevailing culture, determined Mexican Americans created opportunities for themselves.


Linda Ronstadt endorsement

An endorsement letter from singer Linda Ronstadt

Quantitative and anecdotal information is being compiled in this project that will shed light on the evolution of the youth mariachi movement in America. It will show how Tucson’s Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos seeded the movement with the profound ideas of creating a college scholarship program, giving youngsters life experiences that would impact everything they would do in their future, and instilling a sense of cultural pride and personal confidence that had been institutionally denied young Mexican Americans. In the process, speaking Spanish would become valued again, families would become partners in changing racial attitudes, and a city that once hid its Hispanic roots would embrace them with pride.


An early version of Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos – Tucson and America's first youth mariachi.

An early version of Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos – Tucson and America’s first youth mariachi.

The Changuitos catalyzed the Tucson International Mariachi Conference, where Tucson native Linda Ronstadt (a member of the advisory board for The Mariachi Miracle) would hatch her “Canciones de Mi Padre” and “Mas Canciones” CDs, igniting an international rebirth of interest in mariachi music and propelling Tucson’s school districts to create full-fledge mariachi and folklorico music and dance programs. Not after school activities but real accredited programs. Attendance rates rose, dropout rates fell, graduation rates rose and college matriculation among Latinos grew, all to the soundtrack of trumpets, viheulas, guitars, violins and guitarróns.


Singer Linda Ronstadt

Singer Linda Ronstadt

Tucson mariachi teachers entered administration and became sought after by school systems in other states, and soon mariachi programs started in these new locales, driven by excellence started in Tucson. From there it continues to take on a life of its own. Mariachi graduates have become doctors, lawyers, engineers (including one of the designers of the Hubble Space Telescope), scientists, the youngest state senator in Arizona history AND some of the greatest mariachi musicians and educators in America.


Yet somehow this story has managed not to be told in a holistic and comprehensive way. The need is huge, as a recent White House gathering on Hispanic Arts Education in northern California pointed out. Hispanics are quickly becoming the largest ethnic group in public education throughout the U.S. There are mariachi programs now in Nashville, Chicago, the Carolinas, the whole northwest coast, New York City and most of the U.S. southwest. All of them desperately need materials such as this film and book project to help them get the word out, buck institutional racism secure funding and ensure the educational future of America.


Jerry Gay, Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos' first trumpet player, went on to become an engineer on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Jerry Gay, Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos’ first trumpet player, went on to become an engineer on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Moreover this project shows the resilience and self-reliance of the Mexican American population, turning to its culture to fix educational shortfalls and put its people on the path to success, equality and prosperity.

For links to a wide range of addition information on The Mariachi Miracle project click here to go to the Mariachi Miracle One Stop.

~ by Daniel Buckley on October 10, 2014.

2 Responses to “The Mariachi Miracle in brief”

  1. Mr. Buckley, What a marvelous project! I recall the beginnings of Los Changuitos Feos as a summer project of the CYO and followed their development into various mariachi groups and their long-term affiliation with Disney World in Florida. As a Washington, DC area resident, I helped accommodate their appearance in Washington for a presidential inauguration event. It is encouraging to see the successful growth of practitioners and admirers of mariachi music stimulated in no small part by Tucson’s Changuitos Feos. Please let me know how to make a donation to your Mariachi Miracle project. Roberto Reveles

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