Friday, April 27, 2007

Tucson - El Centro del Mariachi

If a soundtrack was to be compiled of my life, this song would be near the beginning of the tracklist. I can close my eyes and still hear my nana singing it to me.

When Linda Ronstadt recorded Canciónes de mi Padre in the 1980s, she cracked open the mariachi world like a cascaron over the head of a child - but instead of a child, there was a new generation of Mexican American people full of joy for being reconnected to a part of our identity that struggles to remain alive.

Living in Baja Arizona, this is always a magical time of year with the Tucson International Mariachi Conference in full swing. The schools are alive with the excitement of young groups who will be undergoing training, and the hearts of parents, family and friends nearly burst with pride at the promising accomplishments of el futuro. As the Tucson Citizen noted earlier in the week:

Why do we love mariachi? Let us count the ways . . .
Students are inspired

5 Giving students the chance to rub shoulders with and learn directly from their musical heroes, providing young talent the inspiration to work harder. In no small sense, this conference made it hip to be a mariachi.

6 Indirectly providing incentive for students to remain in school. If kids are involved in what they do at school, they're more likely to graduate.

7 Creating a crop of better-trained music students, in part by insisting that mariachis learn to read music. This single element has elevated the level of playing and given students greater musical opportunities.

8 Getting more Hispanic kids involved in learning Spanish. After generations were punished for speaking Spanish, youngsters are now regaining their spoken cultural roots.

The final reason they mentioned is one that I understand all too well; but I can honestly say that due to the constant connection with music from groups like Mariachi Sol de Mexico, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and Mariachi Cobre; singers like Linda Ronstadt, Pedro Fernandez, Javier Solis, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, etc. the melody of mi gente has been reignited in my blood.

So, as Tucson celebrates 25 years of Mariachi Espectacular, I tip my virtual sombrero to all the instructors who keep cultivating our cultural soil so that it remains rich as far as the eye can see.

Mariachi Vargas in 2002 at the student workshops

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