Support the Mariachi Miracle

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 Mariachi Miracle is a film/book project that documents how treasured cultural practices can lead to social change. Specifically, it chronicles how Tucson’s youth mariachi and folklórico dance programs have transformed Tucson politically, socio-economically, artistically and educationally. Universally, the project champions the value of arts and cultural heritage in education.

The four year effort will debut in April, 2016 in conjunction with a very special edition of the Tucson International Mariachi Conference. In addition to its normal workshops and concerts, the 2016 conference will feature performers from the film and a two-day national summit on the state of mariachi education, with participation from the White House Initiative On Educational Excellence for Hispanics. National funders and industry representatives will also be included in the summit, underscoring the movement’s role as an economic driver. In addition the Arizona Historical Society will open a new exhibit of Tucson’s mariachi movement.

White-House-Stakeholder-P1000624-swThe story begins in 1964 with the birth of America’s first youth mariachi – Tucson’s Los Changuitos Feos – and the revolutionary idea of charging for performances, investing the money and sending each participant to college on a scholarship. Fifty years, 13 generations of players and a half million dollars in scholarships given away, Los Changuitos Feos continues to go on strong.

The Changuitos catalyzed the Tucson International Mariachi Conference – America’s longest continuously active mariachi festival. It was there that Tucson native Linda Ronstadt met her childhood idols, Mariachi Vargas, and against label objections, record her double Platinum selling “Canciones de Mi Padre” (1987) and “Mas Canciones” (1991) CDs. Ronstadt’s CDs ignited an international rebirth of interest in mariachi music and propelled Tucson’s school districts to create full-fledge mariachi and folklórico 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.

_DSC2007The film and book are the brainchild of former Tucson Citizen newspaper music critic turned documentary maker Daniel Buckley who has covered the mariachi scene for over 30 years and was inducted into the Mariachi Hall of Fame in 2013. Buckley is also the 2014 Artist of the Year winner at the Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards. In 2009, following the close of the paper, Buckley created the Cine Plaza at the Fox documentary series, focused on Hispanic history and culture in Southern Arizona. The Mariachi Miracle is the sixth film in that series (his eighth film total) and will be his first breakout to a national audience.




With Hispanic enrollment in public schools nationally exponentially on the rise and in the face of challenges for that population with respect to dropout rates, performance etc., mariachi education programs are making a clear and measurable difference. A recent national summit on Hispanic education pointed out how public schools around the country are turning to mariachi programs to surmount these issues, and are clamoring for materials like this to support and build their programs. The book and film will be marketed to educators throughout America as well as mariachi conferences and film festival around the globe.

Aztlan-violin_DSC2701-sw-dba2015 marks a critical year of intense production for the film, involving travel to interview mariachi pioneers no longer in Tucson, documentation of school programs from elementary through high school levels, multi-camera filming of the Tucson International Mariachi Conference performances and workshops, the filming of numerous high school and college graduations, and interviews with the broader community. In addition the writing of the book will start in May for a December completion date, while editing on the film will begin in late October for completion and post production by the close of March.

With a budget of $606,600.00 for just the film/book project and another $150,000 for the summit and museum exhibit ($756,600 total) there is still much to raise. We need your help.

So far $39,500 has been raised from the Tucson Pima Arts Council ($6,000), Southwestern Foundation ($10,000), Tucson Foundations ($2,500), Pima County Supervisors ($4,000), Kickstarter ($15,000), Chann Foundation ($500) and individual gifts ($1,500). A request of $185,000 has been made to ArtPlace, and $150,000 from the Surdna Foundation. A grant proposal to the National Endowment for the Arts is currently being written for $100,000 (due December 15) and another to the National Endowment for the Humanities for $100,000 will be submitted in January.

That leaves us with $182,100 yet to raise. And most of that will be needed in 2015 to ensure that all elements of the film and book will be researched, shot, transcribed and made ready for final production by year’s end.

A group of 2014 Mariachi Aztlán de Pueblo High School graduates with director John Contreras following graduation.

A group of 2014 Mariachi Aztlán de Pueblo High School graduates with director John Contreras following graduation.

What this means to Tucson, Arizona and Latino America is huge. Knowledge is power. The realization that solutions to widespread educational challenges are being developed and proven is a national game changer. Tucson’s pioneering youth mariachi efforts have given the city a perspective few cities in the country have. In the process of creating opportunities for the future of young Hispanics, Tucson itself is being transformed. And Tucson is just an example of what is, or potentially could be, happening all around the country.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation to make this film a reality. Make your check out to La Frontera Arizona Inc. and write in the subject line “The Mariachi Miracle – Daniel Buckley.”  Send the check to:

La Frontera Center, Inc.

Attn. Kathy Wells

504 W 29th Street

Tucson, AZ  85713-3353

~ by Daniel Buckley on December 30, 2014.

One Response to “Support the Mariachi Miracle”

  1. […] behind Arizona and the mariachi lifestyle. He also encouraged friends and followers to support the Mariachi Miracle and other groups. His work reminds us how Mariachis are a part of our culture and history and how […]

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