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Bell & Howell Information and Leaming
300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346 USA
800-521-0600
CANTANDO DE AVER (SINGING OF VESTERDA Y): PERFORMING
mSTORY, ETHNIC IDENTITY, AND TRADITIONALISM IN U.S. BASED
URBAN MARIACHI
by
Candida Frances Jaquez
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctoral Committee:
(Music: Musicology)
in The University of Michigan
2000
Professor Lester P. Monts, Co-chair
Professor Manuel PeiIa, California State University Fresno,
Co-chair
Assistant Professor Naomi Andre
Professor Frances Aparicio
Professor Judith Becker
UMI Number: 9963818
UMf
UMI Microform9963818
Copyright 2000 by Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company.
All rights reserved. This microform edition is protected against
unauthorized copying under Trtle 17, United States Code.
Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company
300 North Zeeb Road
P.O. Box 1346
Ann Arbor, M148106-1346
For my family, Sam, Frances the Salsa Queen.
And all the mariachis and their
Friends and families who made this
Work possible.
11
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Many thanks to the committee for their support and encouragement. The
University of Michigan Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives provided grants for
research in Mexico and Austin, TX. A Committee for Institutional Cooperation
fellowship provided support to pursue field research in Austin, TX. Sam Cronk digitized
many visual images for editing. Special thanks goes to Laura Sobrino who generously
gave her permission to include several of her mariachi music transcriptions.
111
PREFACE
The following work reveals finer contours of mariachi practices within a U.S.
urban context. Mariachi is a cultural expression that can remain relatively unknown to a
broader public. Only glimpses of this rich folkloric tradition may be seen at even the most
public events. Restaurant and bars are perhaps some of the most recognized venues;
however, weddings, parades, funerals, baptisms, Catholic masses, birthday parties,
serenatas (serenades), and baseball games are only a few of the contexts where mariachi
may be found in daily life. Its capacity to represent Mexicano/ChicanolMexican
American culture and history is well-known among some of its strongest proponents.
Many mariachi aficionados, musicians, educators, and Mexican descent people view
mariachi as an important life marker for MexicanosiChicanoslMexican Americans. They
strive to preserve its presence and evolving ways for its capacity to express ethnicity and
heritage as a vibrant, changing tradition.
IV
TABLE OF CONTENTS
DEDICA TION ............................................................................................................... ii
ACKN"OWLEDGMENTS ............................................................................................ iii
PREFACE .................................................................................................................... iv
LIST OF APPENDICES ............................................................................................ vii
LIST OF nONS .................................................................................... viii
CHAPTER
I. METHODOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES .......................................................... 1
Ethnicity and Cultural Mestizaje ................................................... 6
Academic Discourse Concerning Origins and Practice in
Contemporary Mariachi ............. ............................................. 9
Instructional Material Produced for Direct Application ............... 19
IT. HACIENDO COSAS (DOIN"G THINGS) ........................................................ 31
Detroit Mexican Town ................................................................ 35
Social Actors and Community ................................................. .45
Popular Media Portrayals .. .......................................................... 46
IlL MUSICAL REPERTOIRE AS SOCIOCULTURAL INVESTMENT .......... 63
Transnational Relationships ............. .................................. , ........ 65
Instrumentation ........................................................................ ... 68
Repertoire Considerations ...... '" .................................................. 82
Transcription ........ , ................................................................... 107
IV. CANTANDODE AYER(SINGING OF THE PAST) FOR THE
FUTURE .........•.........................•.......•.....•.•..•....•.............••....................•................... 123
Mariachi Conference and Workshops Format .......................... 125
Participants ............................................................................... 136
Amistad! AmbienteiCariiio/Confianza ................... , ................... 143
V. HACIENDO COSAS (OTRA VEZ [ONCE AGAIN]) ................................. 154
Professional Community .......................................................... 157
Fluidity ..................................................................................... 159
Motivations ............................................................................... 168
Public Presentation and Increased Visibility ....... ....................... 178
v
Women's Entry into the Professional Ranks .............................. 184
VI.. POR LO MENOS (AT THE VERY LEAST) ••••••••••••••••••.••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• 196
Criticims of the Tradition .......................................................... 157
Machismo in Performance ........................................................ 201
Women Mariachis on the Web .................................................. 208
The Tradition Revisited ............................................................ 213
APPEND ICES ........................................................................................................... 224
BffiLIOGRA.PHY" ..................................................................................................... 226
Vi
UST OF APPENDICES
Appendix
A. Glossary of Selected Terms ......................... ............................................ 224
Vii
UST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
lllustration
1.1 Taco Cabana Restaurant in Austin, Texas ...................................................... 2
2.1 Austin Mariachi Ensemble in Traje de Charro ............................................. 48
3.1 Mural at San Antonio Mercado (market) Las Margaritas Mexican
Restaurant Depicting Members of Las Campanas de America ..................... 64
3.2 Guitarran Front View .................................................................................. 70
3.3 Guitarran Back View ............................................................... , .................. 71
3.4 Vihuela Front View ..................................................................................... 73
3.5 Vihuela Back View .................................................................................... 74
3.6 Lyrics for "Volver. Volver" ......................................................................... 84
3.7 Music Score for "Volver. Volver" ............................................................... 85
3.8 Lyrics for "Ay, Jaliscot" ............................................................................. 96
3.9 Music Score for "Ay, Jaliscot" .................................................................... 97
3.10 Huapango Strum Pattern .............................................................. , ........... 106
3 .11 Lyrics for "La Malageuoa" ....................................................................... 107
3.12 Music Score for "La Malagueoa" ............................................................. 108
4.1 University of Texas at Pan American Mariachi Ensemble 1999 San
Antonio Mariachi Conference and Workshops ........................................ 129
5.1 Musicians at the San Antonio Mercado (market) ..................................... 155
5.2 Mariachis Inside Mi Tierra Restaurant at the San Antonio Mercado
(market) ................................................................................................. 156
5.3 Downtown Austin with Paramount Theater on Right-Hand Side .............. 179
viii
5.4 Paramount Theater in Downtown Austin, Texas ....................................... 180
6.1 Austin, Texas Armadillo Institute Members Where Adults Learn to
Play Mariachi Music in Community Classes for a Modest Fee ................ 218
6.2 Austin, Texas Mariachi Women Professionals .......................................... 219
IX
CHAPTER I
METHODOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES
Throughout this research, mariachi musicians and aficionados
1
often expressed
keen interest as to when this document would be completed. It was more than a polite
inquiry. In large part, this relates to the lack of published mariachi materials
2
• In another
aspect, it reflects disparate sources of knowledge in contemporary mariachi practice. Yet
to be located is the "thesis someone has" that was produced in recent memory. No one
could say when, where, or if it had been filed. At last report, there were only a few
xeroxed pages of it with (someone thOUght) no authorship indicated. People were
uncertain if it had been a master's or doctoral thesis. Written records and other recorded
sources 3 combine with oral and performative traditions to highlight (among other
things) cultural authorship, ownership, history, ethnic identity, and representation. This
research project views U.S. urban mariachi as a daily social practice that revisits and
proliferates those issues. As a performative practice, mariachi is not primarily a specific
musical style, genre, song repertoire, or style of dress. Although those elements help
define a performative plane, they remain secondary to traditionalism developed through
historical understanding in explaining how mariachi continues and what it means.
On one occasion, a mariachi musician/school teacher gave me an impromptu quiz
at a Taco Cabana
4
(see Dlustration 1.1) in Austin, Texas. His aim was to discern what I
knew about the history of Mexican mestizo musics. He asked what I knew about string
instruments. When I mentioned string instruments had been introduced to mesoamerica at
the time of the Spanish conquest, he asked if I was sure. I vaguely recalled an obscure
archeology article that had argued the contrary (only to be later discounted as based on
1
2
Illustration 1.1 Taco Cabana Restaurant in Austin, Texas
3
flawed icon analysis). He was well aware of this articles and agreed to speak with me
only after 1'd passed this competency test. In a related example, the precursor to this
document (an ethnomusicology master degree project filed at the University of Texas at
Austin) has enjoyed an unexpected high degree of circulation. As I was to learn much
later, this circulation was far from limited to the university comrnunity.6 Though it might
be nice to suggest this had to do with the quality of the work, it more tellingly reflects the
limited availability of mariachi resources and increasing interest in the subject area.
These two dynamics emerged as principal factors in how people spoke about this
tradition and what seemed critically important in maintaining its presence. In thinking
about methodological approaches, these three examples collectively illustrate how
knowledge is created and disseminated as a part of the mariachi tradition in daily life.
It was these cultural dynamics that led me to conclude that an appropriate
theoretical framework for this work should embrace mariachi as grounded in several
realms of knowledge- bases of knowledge. Within social practice mariachi can be seen
as emanating from three primary sources or bases of knowledge- oral, written, and
performative. While each of these bases can be distinguished from one another, they are
marked contextually by hybrid qualities. Each focuses musical meaning through a
complex where spoken words, written materials and actual performances may coexist but
where one aspect emerges as prioritized against the others in a given context. At times,
these bases of knowledge conflicted. For example, one of the popular notions of
mariachi's history is that it came from the French word "mariage." The "mariachis" were
the Mexican musicians who played for French weddings during French occupation. This
was proven false by the discovery of an archival document from Nayarit wherein the
priest San Cosme wrote complaining about the "mariachis" in a letter to his bishop. The
letter of 1852 predates French occupation (Clark 1993a, 1993b). Nonetheless, this
historical narrative remains part of mariachi oral tradition. Interestingly, the academic
sources that discount this narrative are also part of this community's consciousness.
7
4
The major point in discussing these frameworks was not to discern if and when
comparative parts of mariachi discourse were in fact contradictory or ''wrong'' in their
practical assumptions concerning history and tradition. Neither was the point to highlight
some kind of overall confusion that would substitute for conclusive insights. On the
contrary, mariachi musicians and aficionados were rarely short of conclusive opinions
and ideas about mariachi. Consensus varied significantly over micro-details (Le.
repertoire tendencies, stylistic interpretation, timbre qualities, etc.); however,
conceptualizations of mariachi as a cultural marker were comparatively (and remarkably)
consistent over a variety of venues such as community celebrations, public contexts (Le.
Mexican restaurants, festivals), and life markers (i.e. weddings, baptisms, funerals, and
birthday celebrations). Recalling the French occupation account, the important feature
was acknowledging an historical relationship between music and its capacity to express a
contemporary ethnicity. As will be examined further throughout this dissertation, the
striking clarity in all of these apparent contradictions was mariachi's complexity as a
vibrant part of community discussion. The vibrancy was perhaps no more clearly
expressed than in its performative expression.
This dissertation defines the mariachi performative context as a living tradition- a
practice built on a performative base of knowledge exemplified in daily practice.
Additionally, the performative context brings to light those popular discourses that help
define mariachi as a Mexicano/Chican0
8
tradition. Many of the interviews conducted for
this work were completed in the "field" of mariachi practice- restaurant venues during
performance breaks or after hours, mariachi conferences and professionally staged
performances, and family or community celebrations. Videotapes, general written
observations, and use of musical transcriptions augmented tape-recorded interviews. The
primary fieldwork was pursued in Austin, Texas. Initial research took place during fall
1991 through spring 1993. Additional work was pursued during January 1995 through
August 1995. A revisit to the area in November 1996 rounds out these Austin studies.
5
Mexico City field research trips to: Plaza Garabaldi for four months in summer 1994 and
for ten days in December 1996; and the Basilica of La Virgen of Guadalupe
9
for ten days
in December 1996 also inform this research. This was supplemented by numerous
mariachi conference and workshops attended throughout the whole research period in
such locations as Tucson, Arizona, Alburquerque, New Mexico, and San Antonio, Texas.
In addition to the oral tradition base and performative bases of knowledge, there is
a written base of knowledge. These written sources have become part of the
consciousness of mariachi musicians and aficionados. Specifically, three written sources
concerning urban mariachi are particularly important: the first is selected academic
material produced on the origins and practice of contemporary mariachi; the second is
instructional material produced for direct application; and the third is popular culture
sources (Le. newspaper articles, movie productions 10) highlighting mariachi performance
and related issues ofMexicano/Chicano ethnic identity. Each of these invaluable sources
forms the bases of knowledge upon which musicians and aficionados draw. Since the
subject at hand concerns the U.S. based mariachi tradition, the materials cited are those
which primarily inform this practice. For example, there is no shortage of material
produced in Mexico in all of these areas; however, because of access and availability,
significant portions never reach the confines of the U.S. based tradition. This chapter
focuses on the first two written sources (selected academic materials and instructional
material) while succeeding chapters focus on the third aspect of written sources (popular
culture resources) and both the performative and oral bases of knowledge. This
organization comes from the observation that while the written academic and
instructional material sources may have a presence in the performative and oral tradition
bases of knowledge, they remain in the background during daily practice. 11
Before launching into a detailed discussion of selected academic and instructional
materials, it is important to focus on the broader narrative concerning ethnicity that
interlaces the oral, written, and performative bases of knowledge. It was clear that
6
ethnicity plays a central role in mariachi practice at a variety of levels. What is less clear
is how ethnicity expressed through musical tradition engages a larger socio-cultural U.S.
urban discussion ofMexicano/ChicanolLatino identities. Ethnicity permeates several
parts of this dissertation work in dispersed fashion- a fashion that reflects the way
ethnicity plays mUltiple roles in mariachi practice. These qualities make it helpful to
explore briefly ethnicity's general underpinnings as found in contemporary U. S. urban
mariachi.
Ethnicity and Cultural Mestizaje
Mariachi music is a mestizo music. You have to understand that it has a
long history as part of the indios and European cultures Spanish really.
That's what gives mariachi its uniqueness- it's flavor. You can't say it's
just Spanish or that it's just from the indios. No, it has to do with that
[cultural] mixing. (mariachi group leader, 4/91, Tuscon, AZ)
They say it [mariachi] came from the Indians
12
• There was also a lot of
Spanish influence. They [Spaniards] brought instruments and things with
them when they came to make the Indians adopt their culture. (young
guitar player, 4/91, Tucson, AZ)
No one can really say for sure if it was one or the other [Indigenous or
Spanish] who had the strongest influence in what developed [in mariachi].
But I think it had to do with this music coming out from two very different
cultures. (guitarron player, 6/15/97, Austin, TX)
I really don't know ... I think people get really mixed up about who they
are so that they think that the Aztecs and everything and their culture are
something to be ashamed of. They're always showing the Indians as blood
thirsty but that's not all they were. Yes, they had sacrifices- human
sacrifices. They achieved so much in science looking at the stars and
figuring the cycles ... they built these tremendous cities. Not bad
engineers. (preferred to remain anonymous, New Mexico 1998)
Mariachi is based on Spanish music. The Indians groups, all these groups,
had their own culture when the Spaniards came. But they [Indigenous
people] didn't have string instruments. The Spaniards brought the guitars.
It [mariachi] is a part of the Spanish culture that replaced the Indians'
culture after the conquest. There were many parts of Spanish culture that
7
were brought over. I think they had their own way of doing things though
and that's why Mexican culture isn't exactly Spanish culture. It just wasn't
music that they brought over. Religion was a big part of that because they
tried to make all of them Catholic ... I consider myself Mexican and I'm
very proud of that. It means that I also have a strong Spanish background
as history will show you. (guitar player, Austin, TX, 7112/95)
These excerpts represent a complex that interprets mestizaje as bi-cultural,
Indigenous and European (Spanish). Though they may agree over the two main cultural
influences, they differ significantly as to the role each plays. Each subtly illustrates
political tensions in how Spanish and Indigenous roots are used to explain mariachi as a
mestizo tradition. These excerpts cover an interpretive range from mariachi as based on
Indigenous sources influenced by Spanish culture to Spanish culture supplanting
Indigenous culture, though marked by the process. Equally indicative are the comments
that see people as rejecting an Indigenous heritage (fourth speaker). The speaker
redresses this situation by invoking a precolumbian past that re-values Indigenous
culture. Far from building a facile relationship between Indigenous and Spanish musical
influences, these quotes show the stresses of a multi-racial history as engaged by the
needs of a contemporary aesthetic. 13 It's an aesthetic that searches for a validation of
MexicanolChicano ethnicityand culture where its ''whitening'' (Europeanization)
becomes a critical issue. The excerpts are as intriguing for what they mention as what
they omit. Most notably, any discussion of African influences remains absent.14 The
erasure of African influences can perhaps be best understood as part of the same
"whitening" dynamic that can inform MexicanolChicano ethnicities in relation to how
Indigenous culture is invoked. These ethnicities enigmatically distance themselves from
those sources interpreted as derogatory.
My great, great grandmother was Yaqui but we're really Hispanic,
Spanish. That's really our culture from Mexico. We don't keep the
customs of the Indians. Our family comes from people who were wealthy
ranch owners. (foIkl6rico dancer, 4/91. Tucson, AZ)
The poorest people in Mexico are the Indians. They suffer the most
because they don't have any rights. The Mexican government is so corrupt
8
and benefits only the very rich. Even though my family was very poor
when they came from Mexico, we're not Indians. We're of Spanish
background. (mariachi audience member and enthusiast. 4/91, Tucson,
AZ)
We know some of the old [Indigenous] ways but a lot of it has been lost. I
think of myself as Mexican American with more knowledge about my
Spanish roots. That's [Spanish roots] what makes the Mexican culture rich
(father ofa mariachi trumpet player, 4/91, Tucson, AZ)
In this vein, to be Indigenous is to be poor and disenfranchised. To acknowledge this
background (in some circles) is believed to invite negative race and class associations.
Claiming Spanish backgrounds while minimizing or even denying Indigenous cultural
influence makes clear how negative assumptions emerge as powerful social stereotypes.
In another respect, these excerpts illustrate how Indigenismo is distanced through
historical narrative. The "old ways" and sense of cultural loss provide both space and
time that separate Indigenous influence from contemporary identities. In sum, these
dynamics show ethnicities as highly mediated forms within the mestizaje cultural
process. It is a process that has strong implications for how people think of mariachi in
terms of history, ethnicity, and traditionalism.
Although there has been a significant body of literature discussing a cultural
mestizaje for people of Hispanic descent in the U.S. (Anzaldua 1987), there has been
comparatively little written on the importance of a musical mestizaje that addresses
contemporary musical practice. As evidenced by the excerpts presented, it is an issue that
remains part of the discourse surrounding mariachi practice. Cultural hybridities are often
problematic to identify in Mexicano/Chicano musical practice because of the propensity
to seek direct, non-mediated lines of descent between Indigenous and Spanish cultural
forms in regards to such things as form, rhythm, instrumentation, repertoire, and content
(Mendoza 1956; Stevenson 1952). These discussions become quickly rooted in the
framings of cultural understanding that have traditionally denied Indigenous culture as a
valid part of society. For example, works may look at Indigenous based forms in
9
contemporary society as musical retentions or survivals. Consider for a moment that there
exist cultures in Mexico strongly identified as Indigenous based. The Zinacantecos hold
religious fiestas that have long been the subject of photographic essays and scholarly
discourse. The hamlet and cargo systems
lS
have been closely examined as major
components in explicating worldviews and social organization.
The problematic is further complicated by a focus on European forms as part of
creating cultural validity. Mestizaje has been invoked as a sociopolitical cultural term to
explain the origins of Hispanic cultures throughout the Americas and thereby "whiten"
cultures as the expense of explicating Indigenous influences. Additionally, when
Indigenous cultures are acknowledged, these may form a romanticized version of the past
for use in the present. Additionally, mestizajeimestizo can be invoked to emphasize and
reclaim Indigenous roots as a positive association (recall excerpts).
Academic Discourse Concerning Origins and Practice in Contemporary Mariachi
Of all the works produced on contemporary U.S. mariachi expression, perhaps the
best well known is Steven Pearlman's University of California at Los Angeles
dissertation thesis "Mariachi Music in Los Angeles," 1988. Steven Loza's book Barrio
Rhythm: Mexican American Music in Los Angeles contains a brief section on the
mariachi tradition and its development within the greater Los Angeles area. The U.C.L.A.
master's thesis by Mark Fogelquist, "Rhythm and Form in the Contemporary Son
Jalisciense," 1978, is one of the most well known academic document within mariachi
performative circles. Daniel Sheehy's dissertation, "The 'Son Jarocho': The History,
Style, and Repertory ofa Changing Musical Tradition," 1979, also plays a significant
role. In recent work, the forthcoming anthology Changing Chicana Traditions
(University of Illinois press, Olga Najera Ramierez and Norma Cantu, eds.) has two
chapter contributions on mariachi music. Both pieces look at the cultural expression of
10
mariachi as related to women's participation. Collectively, these works form the veritable
backbone for contemporary mariachi research. Each, however, takes a unique role as far
as individual approaches and presence within the larger mariachi community.
Mark Fogelquist can be found at mariachi conferences and workshops because of
his devotion to the tradition. An "Anglo,,16 in appearance and of European heritage. Mark
did master studies in ethnomusicology at U.C.L.A While at U.C.L.A, he became a
member of the student university mariachi group Mariachi Uclatian. He recounted that
his interest in mariachi began when he and his family resided in Mexico while his father
pursued historical research on Pancho Villa. He recalled that he had been immediately
attracted to the music and its excitement. At the time of a summer 1991 interview, he was
part proprietor in a well-known Orange County Mexican restaurant. There are a number
of restaurant based "show" mariachi groups within Southern California. These groups
differ from typical restaurant mariachi arrangements. In most cases, ensembles
performing in Mexican restaurants have only a tangential relationship to the business
establishment. They typically receive compensation in the form of customer tips,
payment from the establishment,17 or some combination of these. The show groups
perform in restaurant venues that are tailored to their needs. Often ensemble members
andlor family members own and run these restaurants. Such things as stage construction,
microphones, decor, lighting, and table placement play major roles in highlighting the
ensemble. Mark's group was especially well known for its restaurant stage venue that
played host to a variety of musical groups.
F ogelquist gave an interview on his restaurant's outdoor patio as the well-known
conga musician Pancho Sanchez, the evening's featured guest, performed onstage. This
was in addition to the regular "ShOW,,18 offered by the house mariachi ensemble. It was
revealed during the course of this interview that Mark felt that his thesis was ''full of
mistakes." He also noted, not without irony, that people often cited that work. He has
recently relocated to San Jose, California, and focuses on developing mariachi programs
11
for young kids considered at risk socioeconomically. His status as mariachi scholar,
business entrepreneur, educator, and professional musician make him a popular
participant at a variety of mariachi public venues. In particular, he is a favored participant
at a number of mariachi workshops and conferences throughout the U.S. His role at the
Alburquerque event has also included teaching a mariachi course for academic credit at
both the undergraduate and graduate levels. More recently, he was a featured speaker at
the San Antonio workshops. He provided a lecture demonstration concerning the
historical development of the contemporary mariachi ensemble. His overall scholarship is
noted for presenting mariachi historically as music of resistance- part of the
socioeconmic struggle engendered in 19
th
century mestizo life. It is a message that finds a
receptive audience in young people facing challenging circumstances in contemporary
life. It also equally marks the thoughts of their parents and the generations before them
who remember the social movements of the 70s and formation of such organizations as
the United Farm Workers Union.
Fogelquist's thesis enjoys a presence in contemporary mariachi expression
through his continued active involvement in the community and because of several key
characteristics of the work. A primary characteristic is that the thesis focuses on the son
jalisciense-Iong considered the developmental core of the mariachi repertoire. As will
be discussed later, although mariachi draws upon a number of Mexican regional mestizo
musics, the son jalisciense predominates the regionally identified repertoire. 19
Transcriptions of the intricate hand strumming patterns within this thesis are useful for
individuals within the mariachi community. The specific rhythm patterns and
articulations on the rhythm instruments (guitar, violin, vihuela, and guitarr6nio as
transcribed can assist a number of individuals- from the novice just learning the patterns
to the professional interested in comparative studies. Another major aspect that gives the
work life within the contemporary mariachi community is its treatment of mariachi
history. Since there are so few resources in English on mariachi, it is often the only
12
academic resource of substantial length that students can consult. It is not a fact lost upon
the contemporary tradition in that F ogelquist is noted for his command of mariachi
history. His inclusion on programs invariably reflects this emphasis on historical
materials. I believe that this work will continue to have a critical role in contemporary
practice even as new works are produced because of Mark's commitment to the Mexican
American communities and their children. The work also holds the import of being the
fIrst major scholarship produced in English on mariachi music. Lastly, the work has
inspired other scholarship in this general area (this dissertation included). An example is
the dissertation completed by Steven Ray Pearlman, "Mariachi Music in Los Angeles,"
U.C.L.A., 1988. To read this work is to understand how heavily later scholarship draws
upon the historical research done by Fogelquist. Pearlman's mariachi historical
perspective relies almost exclusively on Fogelquist's master thesis with a few minor
references to other sources (Rafael 1982; Sonnichsen 1985).
At last report, Steven Pearlman continues to be an active member of a mariachi
group that often plays, among other venues, at Olvera Street in Los Angeles. Steven
recounts how he became involved with Mexican music performance. Although he had
previously performed other kinds of folk and popular musics, it was not until fInishing
master degree studies in anthropology in 1976 that he began studying and playing
Mexican musics. His increasing activity in a professional mariachi group and the "built-
in funding" with professional performance made it an inviting line of research (pearlman
1988:22). He recounts his ethical struggle in assuming the leadership role of the ensemble
while still conducting research. The dissertation was completed in partial fulfIllment for
a Ph.D. in anthropology and has a distinct sociological emphasis. Briefly, half the work
focuses on the social relationships among mariachis within a broader Los Angeles
Mexican descent community. Issues of immigration, economic systems, citizenship,
support systems, filial relationships, religious practices, and leisure produce a nuanced
picture of the mariachi community within a larger Mexican descent community. The
13
study then also explores how the mariachi community, as part of the Mexican descent
community, is integrated into greater Los Angeles society. These overlapping, multiple
social layers give one a sense of an integrated, diverse, and yet changing community
(pearlman 1988:69-172). One of the study's chief benefits is that it presents an intra-
ethnicall y diverse community wherein definitions of community fall more upon
engagement of related cultural forms. In other words, the definition of community
depends less upon shared interpretations (and similar of engaging cultural forms) than
shared cultural space within an urban landscape. Although the dissertation itself does not
make explicit this conclusion, this approach matches well with the explication behind
mariachi musical style and variable musical aesthetics.
The second half of the dissertation focuses on song style and meaning, music
performance, musical structure and content in performance, and concluding remarks on
the import of variable music aesthetics (pearlman 1988: 175-319). The dynamic in each
category tends towards figuring out a baseline comparative over which variation is seen
as subject to contextual pressures-- i.e. primary mode of work Cal tal6n, planta, show),
interaction of structure and context, and context and audience (pearlman 1988:241-63).21
In this way, variable musical aesthetics reflect both a shared cultural space (musical style)
and distinct contextual influences representative ofMexicano intra-ethnic social
diversity. This critical point explains how mariachi can still be considered a musical style
while encompassing a wide range of varying musical aesthetics. Pearlman's argument
views musical style and aesthetics as part of the "special relationship of music and
culture" (pearlman 1988:178). His review of Lomax's work outlines some of the larger
problematics. Among others, he discusses the improbability that one song style can be
taken as representative of entire culture. He additionally discusses the difficulty of
correlating work structures with musical structures (pearlman 1988:179-80). For
Pearlman, these issues promote mariachi musical style as the key component in
examining its social relevance. Perhaps most importantly, music performance is the
14
critical venue. As examined in later chapters in this current work, mariachi is often only
vaguely defined as a set of expectations that surround context, structure, repertoire,
instrumentation, and lyrical content. The focus is on a particular approach to music.
Pearlman found musical style as his primary basis for making such observations. It is a
definition of musical style that rejects an unmediated relationship between song style and
social structure. This work continues with Pearlman's emphasis on the performative
mode; however, it is a much more broadly defined interpretation of the performative
context. The premise is that the mariachi performative mode engenders a multitude of
layers that can simultaneously provide even contradictory interpretations based on
differentiated ideologies of Mexican ethnicity, traditionalism, and history. Consequently,
it is no project worth its undertaking to try and give a definitive version of mariachi. It
would not be consonant with the complex social diversity found within Mexican descent
urban communities.
Pearlman's work is perhaps less well known within the U.S. urban mariachi
community than Fogelquist's. His primary presence is that ofa professional musician
within the greater Los Angeles area. His group continues to be extremely popular and
colleagues speak well of him in particular for his skills as a fair, disciplined ensemble
leader. Mariachi professionals readily acknowledge that ensemble leader positions
encompass multiple roles-- business manager, bookkeeper, music director, talent scout,
mediator, publicist, and general music director.
22
Given these circumstaIJces, it is not
surprising that Pearlman's work holds a definite regional presence within the greater Los
Angeles area mariachi community. Given that his primary activities are more regionally
defined, Pearlman is perhaps less visible on a national level; however, this is only a
partial explanation as to why his work remains overall less well known. Compared with
Fogelquist's work, Pearlman's work is distinguished by its concentration on U.S. based
groups. Given points of contention between U.S. and Mexican based mariachi groups,23 it
is not an observation made lightly. In some informal discussions,24 mariachis noted that
15
since Fogelquist's work focused on Mexican mariachi primarily located in Jalisco that it
was somehow historically more significant and of greater interest because of its
"authenticity." Pearlman's work only tangentially presents an introductory mariachi
historical background that depends heavily on Fogelquist as a major resource. While
F ogelquist may be uncomfortable (recall interview) or reticent to have his master thesis
used as a credible source, the work has taken on a "life" of its own through its
dissemination and his continued presence on a national level.
Pearlman's work is also noted for its review of the contemporary mariachi
repertoire. In this aspect, his dissertation gives a useful picture of what repertoire seems
most prominent in this region. In addition, he gives a summation of the diverse ensembles
possible within the mariachi performance realm (pearlman 1988:199-233). This is a
useful view of the U.S. urban tradition because it explains not only why certain parts of
the repertoire are emphasized but also how those tendencies change. One of the key
aspects of urban mariachi performance is that it must always respond to a changing
audience. This seems particularly true in the Southern California region. As Pearlman's
work seems to suggest, issues such as immigration, mariachi economics, and cultural
vibrancy promote a responsive repertoire able to absorb both internal and external
cultural critiques within an urban landscape (pearlman 1988: 100-124) . For example,
many ensembles in the area frequently accept small parts on film and other media
productions. Another Southern California mariachi director recounted how the producers
of the Leslie Nielsen film Naked Gun 2 Y2 had contacted him for a mariachi appearance
in the film.2S This visibility and kind of exposure effects the tenor of mariachi
performances given and the repertoire included. Beyond regional implications, these
dynamics are not unique to the Southern California context. A mariachi in Texas did an
ice cream commercial for a regional company. They were than subsequently asked to
play the "ice cream song" by their audiences and soon it was incorporated into their
repertoire. It eventually "faded" as the commercial lost its currency. It is within these
16
kinds of dynamics that Pearlman tries to identify key song types that form the core of the
repertoire-- sones, boleros, and rancheras. His work is not alone in attempting an
extended genre study of mariachi. Within mariachi practice, it's generally recognized that
though the son jalisciense
26
are the sones most closely associated with mariachi that other
son tradition within Mexico have become a substantial part of the contemporary
repertoire. In this way, the dissertation completed by Daniel H. Sheehy, "The 'Son
J arocho': The History, Style, and Repertory of a Changing Mexican Musical Tradition,"
U.C.L.A., 1979, also finds a presence within the contemporary mariachi tradition.
Dan Sheehy currently heads the Folk Arts division at the National Endowment for
the Arts. In addition, he remains active as a mariachi professional in the Washington,
D.C., area. Though his study is perhaps the least well known of the works mentioned thus
far, it still contributes a critical part to the historical narrative within contemporary
mariachi practice. The works by Fogelquist and Pearlman connect directly to the
mariachi tradition as, respectively, a Mexican regional study and an urban study within
the greater Los Angeles area. Sheehy's work is more indirectly related. Because the son
jalisciense is seen as the cultural core of the sones within mariachi, some people are
unwilling to consider sources that deal primarily with other song types. While other
Mexican regional son traditions have a presence in the contemporary repertoire, some
musicians and aficionados feel a greater connection to sources that deal either exclusively
with mariachi as a performance tradition or with mariachi as a regionally defined mestizo
music primarily associated with Jalisco. Sheehy's work remains important, though it
deals exclusively with the son jarocho tradition, for its detailed picture of mestizo musical
histories in general. It is difficult in both theoretical and practical terms to discount such
sources that make a general discussion of Mexican mestizo musics as they play major
roles in mariachi history and contemporary expression. As in the previous two cases,
Pearlman and Fogelquist, Sheehy'S continuing presence as a mariachi professional also
effects how his written work exists within this community. Similar to Pearlman, his
17
activities as a musician are more regionally identified. Although Sheehy may enjoy a
seemingly more significant national presence by virtue of his professional position with
the NEA, in specifically mariachi level- the Washington., D.C., area. At this point, it
might be useful to review exactly how Sheehy's work reflects upon this larger sense of
mariachi academic materials.
Sheehy'S work focuses on the sonjarocho as a genre study in the then (1978)
contemporary context. Also related to this part of the academic discourse is Lawrence
Sander's master thesis "The Son Huasteco: A Historical, Social, and Analytical Study of
a Mexican Regional Folk Genre," U.C.L.A, 1976. Both works focus on a regional,
mestizo, folkloric musical expression as a genre study. Both works approach musical
changes within the traditions as part of changing social circumstances-- i.e.
socioeconomic shifts. Though Saunders work is part of this general discourse, it remains
almost unknown in contemporary mariachi practice and scholarship. In some measure,
this may be attributed to the fact that it is an unpublished master's thesis. Though it may
be argued that Fogelquist's work is similarly positioned, this is off-set by Mark's critical
engagement of the tradition as a lecturer and professional musician and his resultant
social standing within the U.S. mariachi context. By contrast, Lawrence Sheehy is not
currently involved in mariachi performance or teaching.
27
Sheehy's work is similarly
situated with Fogelquist's and Saunders' efforts in that all three works spend a major
portion describing the various traditions. As Sheehy notes in his case, there exists no
"comprehensive description of the sonjarocho style or repertory" (Sheehy 1979:7). Each
of these scholars wrote from a similar position in that regard. As a consequence, much of
the material focuses on musical style, repertoire, lyrical content, instrumentation., and
song form and structure.
Sheehy's unique approach is that he is interested in how musical change has come
about as related to changing socio-economic conditions. His concluding remarks leave
one with a sense of urgency over the tradition's future:
18
It is clear that the son jarocho tradition is in a state of rapid transition of
content, style, function, and meaning. Such changes were inevitable, in
light of two factors: 1) the close ties of the tradition to its cultural context;
and 2) the sweeping economically and socially motivated alterations of
that cultural context ... Then, as the shifting socio-economic situation
made some of the son's vital social functions and meanings obsolete, at
the same time it created the climate for the development of new functions
and meanings. (Sheehy 1979:292)
In a related aspect Sheehy makes some parting comments in regards to the popularization
of the tradition within the structures of mass media and the recording industry:
The foothold of musica jarocha in the recording industry and mass media
promises to be self-perpetuating, and the exploitation of the folk ideal will
undoubtedly continue to be a financially and socially rewarding endeavor.
At the traditional end of the son's cultural evolution, the great loss of
content currently occurring, as the last generation familiar with the
fandang0
28
passes on, will likely continue, following which the tradition
may stabilize and look even more toward the professional urban musicians
as models. (Sheehy 1979:294)
While these comments may collectively sound as if they're pronouncing the "death-
knell" for the son jarocho tradition, they more importantly bring to light issues of musical
change for mestizo musical traditions as related to socioeconomic pressures associated
with emergent urbanization. In one way, it can be thought that Sheehy's could easily
describe an earlier stage for the mariachi tradition. Many of the same considerations have
had a decided effect on the evolution of mariachi as a musical style. From this viewpoint,
this current study begins somewhere where Sheehy's ended in following the continued
evolution ofa Mexican mestizo musical style. The focus of this study is indeed on the
urban, professional groups and their import on a larger mariachi community inclusive of
musicians, audience members, and aficionados. The major difference is that this study
approaches mariachi within the U.S. urban context.
Though it's clear these academic works clearly have a presence in contemporary
mariachi practice, these resources are not alone as far as a written intellectual base of
knowledge. From one perspective, it could be readily argued that the lack of academic
19
literature leaves large opportunities for community materials to be produced in lieu of a
well-developed body of resources. As we examine more closely instructional material
produced for direct application, it becomes clear that the development of these literatures
has more to do with how people perceive pedagogy needs as related to the challenges in
continuing the tradition.
Instructional Material Produced for Direct Application
Mariachi instructional materials produced for direct application are perhaps the
most difficult on which to undertake a comprehensive study. While a number of them
have emerged as "published,,29 resources, an even larger number are produced as
booklets, pamphlets, and binders through self-publication. They collectively form what
might be seen as a surprisingly diverse resource. As in the case of the academic materials,
the status and presence of authors within the mariachi community influence the uses and
proliferation of their instructional materials. Musical transcriptions, method books, and
general education materials comprise the bulk of these materials.
30
In addition, these
materials (even those commercially produced) are not easily accessible. They are found
in large part through mariachi professional and personal contacts with directors,
musicians, and educators involved with teaching mariachi music. There are a few
individuals who have begun distributing self-produced catalogues on a small scale. As
part of these networks, several individuals pursue professional contacts through either
exhibiting at and/or attending mariachi conferences and workshops. In that context these
resources are a part of a wider range of mariachi items- i.e. galas,31 ties,32 instruments,33
shoes,34 finger picks,35 and sombreros.
36
Of all the written instructional materials, it is
perhaps the musical transcriptions that are the most strongly pursued. For what may be
obvious reasons, the transcriptions form a major part of what is considered still to be
primarily an oral tradition. Because individuals who are skilled in teaching this music in
20
an oral tradition style are relatively few,37 various educators have come to depend upon
transcriptions as a major teaching resource. Educators also realize that many of the
children with whom they work have been trained in school band, orchestra, and choral
programs bring musical skills Professional groups often turn to transcriptions to learn
specific arrangements as quickly as possible.
There are several kinds of transcriptions available. The majority of circulating
materials has been transcribed and hand written by arrangers, directors, and musicians in
general. Trading or bargaining for hand written collections or selected pieces is
considered an important part of both professional and educational networks. Among other
examples, university mariachi ensembles typically carry their own archives. The
University of Texas at Austin keeps a collection of mariachi transcriptions in their
ethnomusicology archives that have been produced for the group since the mid 1970s. In
addition to hand written arrangements, there are arrangements produced using computer
aided transcription programs. Some people using computer based transcription programs
have begun offering arrangements for sale or trade. A few of these individuals have
formalized their work into business ventures. Of particular note are John Vela of Alice,
Texas, with his business Mariachi Unlimited and Laura Sobrino with her Mariachi
Publishing Company in Los Angeles, California. Vela produces a modest mariachi
catalogue that includes a number of transcriptions in addition to mariachi supplies and
equipment. His business imports mariachi goods from Mexico.
38
He is particularly well
known in mariachi circles for being able to handle almost any kind of order, given
enough time. His commitment to conducting his business at the highest and most ethnical
standards is well known. He has gained the respect of mariachi professionals and
educators alike.
Laura Sobrino is extremely well regarded as a professional musician, teacher,
speaker and transcriber. She began her mariachi studies while at U.C.L.A. when she
performed with the ethnomusicology mariachi ensemble. She is particularly well known
21
as one of the earliest professional women mariachi and, among a long list of credits, was
a co-director of Mariachi Reyna-- the first professional all women mariachi show group.
Her exceptional talents as a teacher make her a popular faculty participant at a number of
mariachi conferences and workshops. In addition to teaching violin classes and teaching
privately, she has given seminars on the experience of being a woman mariachi
professional. Her dedication to the mariachi tradition as an exceptional teacher is also
well noted for her concentration on teaching young women. Based on her own
experiences, she has chosen to forward women's participation in mariachi as a way to
enrich the tradition. Her transcription work in many circles is considered to be without
equal.
39
The kinds of transcriptions she produces are computer based. For any given
order, she asks questions about vocal ranges and instrumentation in order to fit the
arrangement to the specific ensemble. Individual parts are created for each instrument.
The violin parts typically involve first, second, and even third violin parts. The violin
parts are exceptionally well suited to the instrument as Sobrino is a fine violinist. The
parts include all the bowings and phrase markings. The trumpet parts are usually divided
into first and second parts with sometimes a third part. The guitarron part is individually
transcribed as well. 40 Guitar and vihuela parts have the strum patterns marked with chord
progressions on staff notation. Vocal parts are also transcribed with two and three part
harmonies, lyrics included. A director's score completes the packet for each song. The
director's score functions as a conductor's score in that it shows all parts and lyrics for
general reference.
Method books in a variety of forms supplement these transcription sources.
Similar to the way in which musical transcriptions are produced, method books are made
available through professional and educational networks. Southern Music Company in
San Antonio, Texas, is one example of a commercial publishing house that has done
limited editions of both mariachi transcriptions and method books. John Vela's The
Guitarron Book Vol. I is published with this company. This resource comes replete with
22
photographs on how to hold the instrument properly and produce the desired sound with
its unique "pulling" technique of playing the strings. Graded exercises follow an
introductory course on how to read the bass clef. Each hand position is meticulously
illustrated with the proper fingering to produce the desired tones. Exercises that focus on
rhythm patterns for different song types complete this study. The introductory remarks of
this publication review some of the instrument's developmental history and some of its
construction features. Also included is an introduction to the proper names of the various
instrument parts.
Vela's vihuela method book is produced under a self-publishing mode in which
Mariachi Unlimited is listed as the volume's publisher. This work is entitled Vihuela
Chord Book, 1995. Unlike the guitarron method book, this example is not so much a
resource for learning how to play the vihuela. It is more an instructional resource for how
to finger various chords complete with chord substitutions. It's assumed the individual
using this method book already has some command of the instrument and needs only a
general reference source for fingering. Since the vihuela is quite similar to the guitar
tuning system, most guitarists easily make the switch to vihuela once they become
accustomed to a five string system. Beyond the intricacies of learning the specific
strumming techniques required, use of the thumb in fingering is what seems markedly
different for guitar players making this transition. The notation scheme is based on that
which is frequently used for guitar chord books. A grid of the vihuela strings is given
with notations for where fingers should press down on the frets and which open strings
should be played. There is very little else written beyond the various fingerings. It should
be noted that the chord notations so follow the system one would find in guitar chord
books. Most at issue are seventh chords (Le. diminished, augmented, dominant seventh)
which are considered to me some of the more "complicated" chords.
41
The book does
include an introduction to the names of various instrument parts and a notated tuning
guide.
23
Another method book example that appears frequently is Lawrence Saunder's
How to Play Mariachi Violin. 1992. It's listed as published by Fue Imaginea in Santa
Monica, California. Although the copy I possess in only a photocopy, it seems clear that
the typesetting used and cover illustration are more than likely the work of a small,
independent publisher. An additional indication of this is that Lawrence Saunders retains
his individual rights to this product.
42
His name is listed next to the copyright date. Again,
this volume is intended more as a resource for an individual who already has a basic
command of the instrument and reading knowledge of West em staff notation. The
volume includes a cassette tape with listening examples. Not surprisingly, given
Saunder's academic engagement of Mexican mestizo musical history, the introductory
remarks included are one of the few instances in these kinds of materials where an
extensive history is given. It provides a musical overview of Indigenous musics and then
explains the developments of mestizo musics. An extended discussion on the variety of
regional mestizo musics with some technical remarks on cadences and violin execution
close the section. Saunders' remarks emphasize that the transcriptions should be viewed
only as a general reference since he views mariachi as primarily an oral tradition
(Saunders 1992:1-16).
Other types of materials produced for direct application are materials that are
intended for general educational purposes. Patricia Harpoole, also a mariachi graduate of
the U.C.L.A. ensemble, produced with Mark Fogelquist's assistance a publication
entitled Los Mariachis!: An Introduction to Mexican Mariachi Music, 1989. An
audiocassette tape accompanies these materials. The introductory remarks give a brief
history of mariachi and Mexican mestizo musics in general. These remarks are geared to
the classroom educator and are easily accessible for at least fourth through sixth grade
reading levels. The packet's construction is flexible so that it can also serve as an
educational resource up to early high school. Included are black and white photos of the
regional instruments and individual parts for each of the instruments. There are also vocal
24
parts meant to engage full student participation- not just instrumental parts. An overall
conductor's score accompanies the individual parts. There are suggestions on how to
proceed, much as in the way of a lesson plan, for learning the son jalisciense ''EI Tirador"
(The Shooter). There are also suggestions for various kinds of curriculum for which these
materials might be useful- i.e. band, orchestra, or choral classes or even Spanish
language courses. Given that Harpoole's university studies were focused in education,
her talents for mariachi curriculum development are evident. How this work differs from
typical transcription packets is that the focus is on approaching music through learning
about the Mexican culture. There are a series of exercises and even quiz materials that
help aid the learning process. Indeed, these materials generate excitement in that they
were constructed to be "user friendly." It is not necessary that either the educator or the
students be familiar with mariachi or Mexican culture in general. Although it can be
imagined that this curriculum would have greater resonance is places such as the
Southwest where there may be a larger context to which to apply this knowledge, there is
also the opposite to consider. There is hardly any substantial u.S. urban context in which
Latinos, if not Mexican descent populations, remain invisible. Though they may lack
critical numbers in some areas, the importance of these kinds of materials in U.S.
educational systems is at least evident through the popular media presence of Latinos or
Mexican descent people. In other words, though the students in some urban areas may not
be exposed to large Mexican descent populations within their communities, there are a
variety of popular culture resources which the engage ideas of Mexican ethnicity.43 Given
the tendency of these expressions to focus on negative stereotypes in lieu of deep cultural
knowledge of observations, materials such as those produced by Harpoole are indeed a
welcomed part of the mariachi practice.
The scope and diversity of written academic materials and instructional materials
for direct application illustrate the complexities of what it means to pursue a traditional
folklore tradition within an urban context. In a larger sense, this musical mestizaje openly
25
reflects bases of partial knowledges that bear the markings of a culture not fully
incorporated into American culture on an equal basis. Rather than presenting a view that
focuses on that which can be said to be lost or deteriorated, mariachi is pursued as an
evolving tradition that draws upon musical change as a major strength. The mariachi
musical mestizaje is also representative of the creative contexts and extreme diversity
through which it is pursued as a daily social practice. What follows in succeeding
chapters is perhaps but a brief visit into those venues which show the life of this tradition
and its place in the thoughts and emotions of Mexican descent people who philosophize,
strategize, celebrate, appreciate, and make grounded these theoretical issues into keenly
pursued definitions of ethnic identity, traditionalism, and history within the urban
context. In many cases, because of the sensitive nature of the comments given, speakers
preferred some modicum of anonymity. In accordance with their wishes, only general
information about their backgrounds and positions within mariachi are given. In other
cases, speakers specifically requested that they be identified by name. In those cases as
well, their wishes are followed.
26
Notes to Chapter I
1 enthusiasts
2 Peter Manuel noted in his review of a Temple University Press forthcoming anthology
that my chapter on mariachi performance would be welcomed, in part, because of the
lack of published materials in English.
3 Perhaps most at issue here are commercially produced sound recordings, films, and
visual documentary sources.
4 A Taco Cabana is a chain of fast food eating establishments that serve Mexican food.
They are easily spotted because of the bright pink exterior and indoor/outdoor patio areas.
I was speaking with this person at an Austin Taco Cabana before he was to begin playing
with a mariachi group who had been contracted to make regular appearances.
S To this day, I cannot recall the article's title or its authorship.
6 The Perry Casteiieada Library at the University of Texas at Austin certainly maintains
itself as a university academic institution; however, it's not unusual to come upon local
school children as well as general community members making use of its resources. The
proof came when I found that excerpts of this thesis have become part of the resources
circulated through parts of the broader Austin mariachi community.
7 This example is especially illustrative. Though some mariachi practitioners are well
aware of the academic scholarship that refutes this argument, it continues as part of the
oral tradition as well as some written sources within this community (Le. CD liner notes
and website materials).
8 Chicano and Mexican American are used interchangeably throughout the whole of this
work. Those terms loosely refer to an individual of Mexican descent who was either born
and raised in the U.S. or primarily raised in the U.S. The term Mexicano refers to an
individual born and raised in Mexico or primarily raised in Mexico. In each case, the
term's usage refers to the person's own self-identity vis-a-vis issues of cultural identity
(class, gender, race, language, etc.). Mexicana and Chicana refer to females of Mexican
descent.
9 The Virgin of Guadalupe is considered the patron saint of Mexico and is much beloved
by certain segments of the U.S. Mexican descent population.
10 Visually oriented commercially produced films are included in this context as "texts."
They provide a ''written'' narrative ofMexicano/Chicano identity and are read as such in
mariachi practice.
27
11 These kinds of resources emerge most prominently only in a small number of contexts.
Most notable are mariachi conferences and workshops where there is conscious
engagement of these materials for pedagogical purposes.
12 The terms "indios" and "Indian" both refer to indigenous people.
13 It is important to note that there do exist parts of the Mexicano/Chicano community
that are actively engaged in studying Indigenous cultures and integrating studies into
daily life. A group of Arizona State University at Tempe students follow teachings of a
person they consider an elder in the local community. Other students make a conscious
effort to follow a kind ofIndigenismo that can be closely linked with the Chicano student
movement of the 1970s. Tremendous amounts of energy were put into rediscovering
Indigenous heritage as the historical roots of Chicano culture.
14 In the many interviews conducted, only two speakers even mentioned African
influences in mariachi. Both were vague in their comments, dismissing any influence as
tangential. Though mariachi professional and ethnomusicologist Mark Fogelquist gives
mariachi conference and workshop lectures that present mestizo musics as a combination
of Indigenous, Spanish, and African cultural influences, the idea is not embraced by the
majority of mariachi musicians and aficionados.
IS The hamlet system refers to a social organization principle whereby smaller villages
based on filial relationships exist in a general geographic area. The cargo system refers to
the religious, social, and political base of organization built upon reciprocal relationships
among families
16 Anglo denoting white person
17 Payment can include monetary and/or other kinds of compensation. Many restaurant
groups view the venue as a potential showcase that can lead other employment
opportunities and building repeat clientele. In most cases, there is some combination of
these modes of payment. In another respect, mariachi decorum holds that the ensemble be
provided food as part of the given celebration or event.
18 In this Southern California context, there are several "show" mariachis that are housed
in Mexican restaurants. These groups perform scripted presentations usually from a
staged venue inclusive of such things as microphones. Typically, the ownership and
management of the Mexican restaurant are somehow related to group members. This
allows for great artistic control of the group's presentation and practice. Nati Cano,
director of Mariachi Los Camperos, has been known to state that his presentations are his
version of "American dinner theater."
19 An example supporting this view is that the National Ballet Fo1kI6rico of Mexico often
concludes its performances with a rendition of the popular son jalisciense "La Negra"
28
("The Dark One"). It is presented as the epitome of the mariachi dance and music
tradition.
20 The vihuela and guitarron are the regionally identified string instruments considered
part of the Jalisco tradition.
21 As previously mentioned, show mariachi is usually based in a restaurant venue fitted to
the mariachi performance need where the business establishment is owned/run by
ensembles members and/or family members. The al talon mode of performance means
the ensemble depends on "piece" work. They work literally "on the heel" where they
solicit in venues where people pay a certain price for each piece performed. The planta
mode refers to ensembles where set arrangements are made with a business
establishment, usually on a weekly basis, for substantial length of time. Some mariachi
ensembles are known to have planta arrangements with places like hotels for well over
five or seven years.
22 Even though mariachi ensembles may have a music director who is not the
acknowledged ensemble leader, it is more often than not the ensemble leader who
ultimately determines repertoire choices within the performative context.
23 One of the larger trans-national problematics of mariachi performance is the respect
and musical abilities with which groups are attributed in regards to Mexican or Mexican
American ensembles. As Pearlman notes (1988:100-24), U.S. ensembles can be a mixture
of Mexican nationals and U.S. Mexican descent musicians. While mariachi musicians at
Plaza Garabaldi readily identified those U.S. based groups of the highest professional
rankings as musically strong, they were equally critical about U.S. groups in general of
not quite having that "Mexicano" sentiment. Conversely, U.S. based groups
acknowledged the professional dominance of selected Mexican groups; however, they
also voiced criticisms that saw Mexican groups as sometimes less disciplined or
inconsistent in their musical execution.
24 Several mariachi musicians at a Southwest mariachi conference and workshop
discussed at length their varying opinions and knowledge about these two works in
particular.
2S The ensemble director submitted the group's professional photo. Film assistants
responded that this was not the desired image. They were looking for "more the Pancho
Villa look" with "stuffed stomachs" and things like big mustaches. He declined their
offer for employment.
26 Song form from Jalisco
27 Saunders has in the recent past been associated with mariachi teaching and
performance though from primarily a "behind-the-scenes" approach. He is not a
nationally well known figure though, by several accounts, he is well-respected by his
immediate contacts within the mariachi community.
29
28 Sheehy defines the fandango as the "festive celebration of southern Vera Cruz in which
the tarima [wooden dance platform] and the performing of the son are the central part"
(Sheehy 1979:378).
29 Published in the sense refers to a recognized commercial press. As will be further
explicated, there are other resources published on home-grown presses in what might be
seen as an emerging cottage industry within contemporary mariachi economics.
30 There are a number of recorded sources that are routinely circulated with some
accompanying written materials; however, these resources are fairly idiosyncratic and
have not been consistent in their appearance and use within the larger mariachi
community.
31 Galas are the sets of silver or silver colored decorations sewn on trajes (mariachi suits).
32 These are the ties that are worn with mariachi suits. Their construction is unique to the
suit so they are not readily available outside of mariachi products.
33 These intricate networks are largely confined to the sale and distribution of the regional
instruments (the guitarron and the vihuela). Trumpets, violins, and guitars are of course
more readily available in a variety of venues.
34 These are more accurately referred to as a special kind of short boot style worn by most
professional groups. Because the pant leg on a typical mariachi traje (suit) is fitted
closely to the leg, a specific kind of short boot is considered to "look best."
35 A number of guitar and vihuela players have started using plastic finger picks. IN some
cases, these picks are specially designed for the specific vihuela string tensions and rapid
articulations required.
36 A large, wide-brimmed Mexican hat
37 The majority of mariachi teachers use oral tradition techniques to some extent- i.e.
playing demonstration with a great degree of repetition. There are various arguments as
to the role transcriptions should play in contemporary expression.
38 It is certainly possible for individuals to deal directly with a number of Mexican
businesses to obtain a wide range of mariachi supplies. However, many ensembles and
educators prefer to work with someone like Iohn Vela who deals with whatever market
uncertainties may exist- i.e. identifying credible establishments, ordering in bulk
numbers.
39 Laura kindly agreed to have selected portions of some of her transcriptions used in this
dissertation to help illustrate musical analysis.
30
40 It's not uncommon for gutiarron parts to be assumed as already included in the guitar
and vihuela part.
41 It is often the boleros and popurris of the repertoire that often require "complicated"
chords in a wide variety of keys. The popurris and boleros are a large part of the
repertoire used to highlight vocal performances. In these cases, the ensembles must be
able to quickly adapt to whatever musical key the singer prefers. Some mariachi
educators have complained that the "kids" are not getting a full mariachi education in not
being rigorously taught how to transpose.
42 Many examples found show people using things like desk top publishing computer
programs, scanners, etc., where they simply use the copyright symbol and their names to
claim ownership. These are not items that have been forwarded and registered with the
U.S. copyright offices in Washington.
43 Mexican chain restaurants and their decor are just one concrete example. Students from
non-Spanish speaking backgrounds are often shocked to learn that the Mexican restaurant
Chi-Chi's name translates to "breast." Among my contemporaries, a frequent jokes
relates to the suggestion that Chi-Chi' s might be some kind of "Hooters" place. Hooters
refers to another well known chain where its waitresses wear revealing clothing and it's a
definite departure from the family atmosphere that Chi-Chi' s seeks as a business
establishment.
CHAPTERll
HACIENDO COSAS (DOING THINGS)
"Que estas haciendo ?" ("What are you doing?") is a question that
can often greet a young ChicanolMexicano person. The blank may be filled in with your
full name or some address related to vou- depending upon the intention of the speaker.
As this young person could also tell you (from a bi-lingual perspective), it means a great
deal whether or not the question is posed in English or Spanish. Whether the question is
posed in English or Spanish, it carries its own specific meaning, intonation and
expectations and might mean the difference between an afternoon in the park or washing
dishes.. . Even at this level, the point is not so much that different language areas exist
as much as that in order for any kind of exchange to occur within those areas, both
speakers must be active, experienced participants in the enculturation process that gives
sense and meaning to those subtle language differences- a process that not only defines
those realms but also states how they relate to one another. In another sense, it reveals the
complexity of discourse that can only be learned as a process of acquiring a broad
cultural competency. It is a competency gained through minute components found in
an individual's immersion not bounded by several years of intense classroom or field
study.
As folklorist Americo Paredes has aptly shown, the subtleties of discourse can
escape even the most proficient student if the person is not intimately familiar with the
different modes of communication used by Spanish speakers. The element of "play" can
rise to the surface as it becomes a matter of cultural competency whether or not the
speaker and respondent have indeed traveled into the same realm of exchange or that a
31
32
series of miscommunications has ensued. As Paredes notes, this realm can be used
to the advantage of the native speaker in redressing hostilities and the contemporary
import of historical relationships. Paredes begins by mentioning the "current quarrel"
between minority groups and the social sciences- particularly Chicanos and
anthropologists. He focuses on misrepresentation where Mexicano/Chicano communities
become uncritically associated with certain liabilities or character flaws due largely to a
series of mis-translations between Spanish and English. Paredes' work reminds us that
cultural bilingualism is not so clearly marked by models that focus on vocabulary
acquisition or familiarity with grammatical structures as hallmarks of linguistic fluency
(1993).
Fluency does allow you to communicate; and the ability to communicate
was enough of a goal for an ethnographer who wanted to elicit kinship
terms or to work out taxonomies of plants, animals, or statuses. It is a
different matter when you attempt to interpret people's feelings and
attitudes in actual speech situations. On should seriously question the
competence of a "fluent" ethnographer who cannot even keep his tenses
and genders straight, if he comes before us as an interpreter of a people's
ethos or world view on the basis of their linguistic behavior. Unwarranted
generalizations may be reached on the basis of misinterpretation of words,
especially if a dialect expression is taken in its standard dictionary
meaning or a metaphorical expression is taken literally (1993 :76).
As this excerpt elaborates, linguistic cultural competency is of unqualified importance in
cultural analysis where ethnographic interpretations illuminate deep socio-symbolic
meanings and affect.
"Que estas haciendo?" usually expresses more than a passing interest in what you
are doing and demands some response. It can provide a chaIlenge- what you are doing
may be less than desirable- or represent a call for information. In any respect, the
exchange highlights how people relate to one another in daily life in explaining for
themselves and others the meaning of what is being communicated. As Alfred Arteaga
explains in his introduction to the anthology An Other Tongue: Nation and Ethnicity in
the Linguistic Borderlands:
33
The words in An Other Tongue describe the words by which we are
marked subjects, particular subjects of particular states. The matter is one
of interrogating the processes of subjectification that define selves and
others as the subjects of nation and ethnicity. It is the contention of the
essays here, in varying ways, that the articulations of languages (e.g.
English or Spanish) and that of social discourses (anything from regional
dialect to legalese) participate in the push and pull struggle to define some
version of "self' over and against some "other." Similarly, it is a common
contention that these linguistic and discursive relationships manifest active
displacements of power, power that must be reinforced continually to
maintain a particular image of the world and hierarchy of relationships
(1994:1).
From this perspective, mariachi music and music making (not incidentally with its
predominance of Spanish language texts) provide a time and place where a response is
required and, through active participation/subjectification, understood. As one mariachi
musician explained:
[A good mariachi group] involves the audience. Gets them to be relaxed
and really enjoy themselves. We do a few jokes and talk to the people ...
it's like you're a guest only you're a paid guest to get things going for a
party!
An audience participant and mariachi aficionado further elaborated:
When everything is going well ... the mariachi can make it seem like
everyone there is completely involved. If there isn't that connection
between the musicians and people in the audience then there's something
missing ... dead about it [the performance]. The best groups are great
entertainers and excellent musicians. The know how to relate to people
very well. This is a very j o y f u ~ spirited music ... or that is the way it
should be I think.
The implication is that the audience commands the cultural competency to engage this
musical expression as a communicative process. In viewing mariachi practice, it is
helpful to keep Dan Ben-Amos' comments in defining folklore not as the collection of
cultural mentifacts but rather a performative context as folkloric practice.
The collection of things requires a methodological abstraction of objects
from their actual context. No doubt this can be done; often it is essential
for research purposes. Nevertheless, this abstraction is only
methodological and should not be confused with, or substituted for, the
true nature of the entities. Moreover, any definition of folklore on the basis
34
of these abstracted things is bound to mistake the parts for the whole. To
define folklore, it is necessary to examine the phenomena as they exist. In
its cultural context, folklore is not an aggregate of things, but a process- a
communicative process, to be exact" (n.d.:9).
How mariachi creates a time and space for cultural communication (process)
involves a complex of activities that simultaneously acknowledges the parameters of
musical performance as marked or framed as separate from other activities and totally
integrated within a cultural scene or place. Ethnomusicologist Mark Slob in notes the
proliferation of what he terms as "micromusics" within "big music-cultures" despite the
unequal power relations where micro musics are seemingly overwhelmed by dominant
culture. Although his comments are directed towards Euro-American contexts, aspects of
a specific musical diaspora seem equally applicable to Mexicano/Chicano communities in
the U.S. - particularly those in urban contexts. In speaking of regionally related musics
he notes:
Regions also pop up in the linkages among diasporic communities, groups
far from a perceived homeland and sharing familiar music. In the U.S., the
Polish polka exists in a region of population pockets stretched across five
thousand kilometers in widely separated urban areas.
It is within these urban areas then that mariachi practice is similarly situated as a micro-
music of distinction within Mexican descent communities. While mariachi may exist as a
musical genre in a variety of regions throughout the U.S., its expression as a part of social
practice helps define Mexicano/Chicano identity as part of a diasporic community. Issues
of a perceived homeland and cultural roots permeate mariachi in its lyrical structures and
overall affective qualities in invoking a kind of nationalism relevant to U.S. Mexican
descent communities (see Chapter llI). Of particular import is the social creation of
community through musical expression or cultural repertoires as part of cultural
diasporas.
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett addresses historical immigrant communities and
their relationship to a home or mother country as a folklore of ethnicity in which
35
"multiple cultural repertoires and cultural code-switching' prevail. She notes:
Italian families who eat American style platter (meat and vegetables) one
night and Italian style gravy (sauce with pasta) the next on a regular basis
may be said to be engage in cultural code-switching. Just as bilingual
speakers may vary in their attitude toward keeping their languages discrete
or allowing interpenetrations and code-switching, so too do their attitudes
toward the use of the cultural repertoires vary. An interesting research
problem would be to explore how people with multiple codes invokes
these codes and alternate among them: when, to what end, and with what
meanings and effects? (1983:43).
These observations seem most appropriate in discussing how Mexicano/Chicano people
express what is at stake for a given community by the modes of expression they choose.
It is especially intriguing how people negotiate arenas that have been pre-edited
for them. In other words, how people pursue those political and social agendas that seem
most relevant to their situations in affirming, rejecting, and creating societal codes of
normalcy. As writers such as Gloria Anzaldua have noted (1987), the politics of identity
for Mexican descent communities this side of the border engender a complexity that is
not reducible to the either/or proposition (Mexican or American) that may be invoked,
particularly when it comes to issues of cultural identity. The betwixt and between
conundrum points to a relationship that is mitigated by its own set of historical
contradictions as the process of cultural synthesis demands an ongoing process of
retrenchment. Cultural forms necessarily engage these issues in producing a variety of
meaning in how forms are approached and practiced. In analyzing how this is concretely
expressed in daily life, let's examine more closely the context of the Detroit Mexican
Town area.
Detroit Mexican Town
The Detroit Mexican Town area is an area that is perhaps less well-known to
would-be travelers than the celebrated Detroit Greek Town or Italian Town areas.
36
Mexican Town is located on Bagley, a relatively short street with several Mexican
restaurants, a panaderia,
1
a small grocery store, a Latino record store, a MexicanlLatino
goods import store, and a tortilleria.
2
Bagley continues on the other side of a major
highway. This second part of Bagley appears perhaps less glamorous than it's counterpart
in "el otro lado,,3 (the other side with all the restaurants). The second part's place and
the surrounding neighborhood as a not-quite-urban-renewal though not totally abandoned
sphere reveals the difficulties in maintaining a public space in relation to community
needs and desires. It also represents a certain socio-economic access (or lack thereof) to
community resources. The area is not generally considered to be among the most
economically successful portions of the city. The shops are serviceable but conspicuously
"shabby" in appearance in small effects ranging from comparatively poorly maintained
sidewalks and streets to peeling coats of paint. This is in stark contrast to the edifices in
Greek Town located in a part of the city where parking garages, BMWs, valet parking,
indoor malls, and glass front windows proliferate.
The main attraction in this second part of Bagley street is the outdoor venue
named Fiesta Gardens. This part, like much of the surrounding area, bears witness to the
idea that there are at least two parts to Mexican Town-- the part where visitors and
tourists go and the areas where MexicanosiChicanos go about the business of everyday
life. More than once, I have smiled at acquaintances who remark that Mexican Town is
"quite small" or "not really all that interesting." They have missed the richest parts of the
area, those stores and shops that extend well beyond the pockets of even both sections of
Bagley street.
4
While it is true you may occasionally find a displaced visitor in the
neighborhood streets surrounding Bagley or in the clothing stores on Vernor, they more
often than not relocate themselves to the Bagley tourist section once they reorient
themselves after having gotten "lost." The division between these areas is also marked by
the difference in population. Non Mexican descent people outside of the first tourist
section of Bagley are cause for second glances and commentary.
37
Fiesta Gardens is a grassy area marked by a central fountain and an iron arch that
states ''Bienvenidos'' ("Welcome") and two flag poles- one flying the Mexican flag and
the other flying the U.S. flag. Its physical dimensions appear relatively small. When I
first came to Michigan, I thought Fiesta Gardens was small and deserted. I had been
thinking of the Mexicano community areas in Austin, Texas where large gathering places
were fenced in and security teams were brought in during special events for crowd
control. Fiesta Gardens and the surrounding neighborhood appeared relatively neglected.
My earliest visits to Mexican Town were much like visits made by many of my Latino
colleagues who look for the familiar in the unfamiliar-- finding the grocery stores that
carry our foods and spices, the places where restaurants taste like someone's back kitchen
and where you see brown faces and hear Spanish on the street. The Mexican bakery and
Latino music stores became favorite places to visit on more than several afternoons when
Ann Arbor and the university seemed lacking in comparison. It was not long before I
realized how deceiving the initial impressions of neglect were for Fiesta Gardens and its
surrounding neighborhood. During summer celebrations, Fiesta Gardens can hold several
hundred people as they spill into the back areas that can double as parking spaces.
The summer of 1996 saw the launching of sustained fiestas over several
weekends. The idea was to showcase the area and Mexicano presence in Detroit, both
contemporarily and historically. Small tents with various Mexicano foods and goods
dotted the area while several tables and chairs were set near the fountain where musicians
could set-up their equipment. Each successive weekend brought out larger numbers of
people as the popularity of these events increased and included a different emphasis. One
weekend concerned the work of a community based organization dedicated to founding
historical archives about the history of Mexican os in the Detroit area. Displays with
photos of orquesta musicians from the 1940s and 1950s and pictures of the surrounding
Mexican neighborhoods as they looked then were the main attraction. The overall effect
reflected an agenda that promoted communal knowledge, history, and shared experience.
38
Scholars Manuel Peiia and Jose Limon have critically reflected upon the
relevance of a Turnerian communitas for Mexican descent communities in the U.S. In
Peiia's work, the social dance event becomes the drawing point where Mexicanos access
power and community in ways that have been denied in a larger socio-cultural context.
The dance event becomes an empowered space juxtaposed to an external reality that
systematically disenfranchises Mexican descent people from positions of socioeconomic
power (1985). Limon acknowledges the moment of community but questions the strength
and necessity of casting these events as forms of cultural resistance (1994). His writing
reminds us that the strength of socio-cultural analysis lies in the writer's ability to
effectively communicate the uneasiness in observing larger social patterns and the
complexities they engender within these spaces of empowerment. His not-so-rhetorical
questions of what happens after the dance foreground issues of exactly how successful
these spaces are and for what broader purposes. Both perspectives playa critical role in
how we look at the use of space and how people collectively create cultural knowledge
and history in staking their socio-cultural claim as a group. It seems though that these
kinds of observations are often approached from notions of insider/outsider observers and
participants along the lines of a specific ethnic background. While both writers maintain
that a particular ethnic identity (even one with a strong regional emphasis) is the axis
along which communitas emerges, questions arise as to how intraethnic complexities
engage group consciousness.
Anthropologist Patricia Zavella details in her work on Chicano families that the
insider/outsider researcher position is clearly marked as a somewhat artificial
construction. The point being that she, as a Chicana scholar and anthropologist, was
neither "fully in" nor "fully outside" in her relationships with women cannery workers
and their families. It was extremely context sensitive to the individual with whom she
was working and what they were discussing- Le. racial discrimination and sexuality.
Issues of class, education, gender. and maternal experience were but a few of the salient
39
factors (1987:17-29). She further reflects on the challenges in particular to her own
Chicana/feminist sensibilities in relating to working-class Mexican American women:
My purpose here is two-fold: I will discuss how my status as a
simultarteous cultural "insider" and Chicana feminist research reflected a
conundrum. My sense of Chicana feminist identity, constructed through
my participation in the Chicano movement, ironically hindered my
understanding of the nuances of the ethnic identity of the women I studied
here as historical actors. My status as insider also posed the dilemma of
how to present the ethnographic "other" to my peers, Chicano/Latino
scholars who privileged the term Chicano (1993:53).
ZaveIIa extends the import of this theoretical dilemma even further by noting the
intraethnic dynamics between herself and the community of Chicano scholars.
In addition, as ethnomusicologist Kay Kaufman Shelemay has discussed, the
expectations concerning ethnicity and cultural background can bring some unexpected
revelations. Shelemay focuses on coordinated group fieldwork and its impact in training
developing scholars. She discusses how a group of students worked on a community field
project within a Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York. The final team in
this multiple term project was composed of all first-year students and included three
cantors in the Ashkenazic Jewish tradition.
At times, the extensive liturgical and historical knowledge of the three
cantors in particular led them to assume information they had not yet
verified and thus impeded their ability to interview effectively ... In
contrast, the non-Jewish team members were given special attention by
our research associates because of their concern that the "outsiders"
understand esoteric aspects of Jewish tradition and Arabic music
(1988:379).
The Jewish students in the group found it difficult in the expectation was that they would,
of all the students, perhaps have the greater rapport. In the end, the information directed
to them was somewhat minimal and less detailed than that for their counterparts. The
perception was that they required less guidance.
Most of my research with mariachi has yielded another slightly different
perspective in at least two respects as far an insider/outsider relationship and its
40
relevance to ethnic identity. The first relates to the idea that mariachi has a history of
inclusivity and thereby its own theoretical and practical engagement of insider/outsider
perspectives. As one mariachi musician explained to me:
Mariachi has always been something that also brings other people into it.
While it's Mexican, the music also draws in different people. Even when
mariachi was starting in Mexico, you have people from throughout
Mexico who were attracted to it from outside where they say it mostly
came from-- Jalisco.
Although the speaker is clearly referring to the idea of insider/outsider when identifying
Mexican descent and non-Mexican descent peoples in the first part of his statement,
intraethnic Mexican diversity also remains a paramount concern. He acknowledges that
Mexico's intraethnic diversity has, in some sense, contributed to an overall stance that
mariachi (since at least the early twentieth century) has incorporated a number of
regionally identified song forms (Le. sonjarocho, sonjalisciense, son huasteco). It has
also emerged on an international front as the traditional music most closely associated
with Mexico and, thereby, emblematic of mestizo musical traditions (Chamorro 1983;
Rafael 1983).
In a second respect, mariachi musicians and aficionados see themselves as a
community with privileged knowledge and experience. They realize that mariachi is
neither universally accepted nor even familiar to many U.S. Mexican descent people. A
young mariachi musician commented:
I didn't really know what mariachi was before I started playing
[mariachi] violin. I had heard of it and thought it was this old-time music
... music of my parents. I have to say that I was really pretty ignorant
[about mariachi] ... and Mexican culture in general. We didn't learn
much about any of those things but my parents supported me when I
told them what I wanted to do. They wouldn't miss one of our
performances!
These elements of both inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic diversity play crucial roles in
understanding the finer contours of how insider/outsider perspectives function as a
part of mariachi musical expression.
41
People coming together to form a community and to give celebration through
music, food, material goods and services, and talk may not seem a particularly
revolutionary concept in our contemporary theoretical circumstances; however, a brief
experience reminded me how very much is at stake for the concept of community as a
means of active survival. Although Fiesta Gardens was open to non-Mexican descent
people (indeed part of the agenda was to welcome people to learn about the area and
Mexican customs), the majority of people were of Mexican descent. I have many times
been to the Detroit Mexican Town area but stand no danger of being recognized. While
walking by an exhibit booth that held the wedding couple
6
wooden frame where people
could stick their heads through the hole and have their pictures taken, I stopped to look at
the display. A woman in her fifties greeted me in Spanish and asked how I was. She also
asked how my mother was and if my mother had come back into town yet.
The conversation was interesting, to say the least. My mother did not know this
woman, nor did L My mother lives in California; however, she had recently visited me in
Michigan. When the woman at the booth saw me approach, she thought she recognized
me. She gave a warm greeting and I, thinking I had met her someplace else, gave an
equally warm response. Although perhaps even fully realizing her mistake upon seeing
me at close range and hearing my voice, she would not acknowledge that I was a stranger
to her. There was too much over which to offend by stating what was perhaps the
obvious. We had mistaken each other for someone else. In another context, most likely
short laughs and apologies would have been in order- but here, at Fiesta Gardens during
a celebration en la comunidad, there was too much at stake to deny connections to one
another even on the seemingly most inconsequential of levels.
The morning at Fiesta Gardens had passed well into the early afternoon. Although
there had been several smaller musical groups with individual performers who, for
example, accompanied themselves on the guitar while singing a wide range of traditional
Mexican musics, the largest crowd was assembled for the full mariachi. A well-known
42
group from Indiana had been contracted. Although Detroit is known to have
approximately 2-3 mariachi ensembles, this occasion (in the eyes of community
organizers) warranted the contracting ofa major group known for its exceptional musical
expertise. The organizers were also concerned that the ensemble contracted be among the
best that the Midwest region had to offer. Balancing budget against financial needs,
overall status of the group, availability, and proximity to Detroit, the Indiana group
seemed to be one of the most logical choices. As organizers later confided, the final
reason why the Indiana group was contracted was because people on the committee had
becn impressed by their ability to engage an audience. The criticism against some of the
local groups had been that they were not that lively and did not know how to engage an
audience in this way. Speculating further, it seems that the reason why this might have
been the case is that the Detroit groups are most well-known for their Mexican restaurant
work. In that context, it is extremely difficult to make that full connection with an
audience that is otherwise engaged with food and conversation. Also, this particular
restaurant context sees the groups playing during the busiest restaurant hours when
general traffic, noise, etc., is not necessarily conducive to mariachi performance.
The physical arrangement of Fiesta Gardens promoted the enjoyment of musical
groups from chairs and tables set on the grass area in front of the food booths. The sound
equipment had been placed under a tent area but the musicians themselves came out onto
the cement plaza area next to this grass area. The cement area also had a center fountain
and decorative structures at the comers. During this performance, it was indeed difficult
to physically locate an audience as people wandered behind the tent area housing the
sound equipment, through the grass area with tables and chairs, and around the fountain
area as they engaged the performance. People moved the chairs were they wished and a
number of people had brought their own chairs to place in the area as it suited them. In
some important respects, these dynamics resembled the restaurant context- people talked
with one another, attention seemed sporadic, and there was a fair amount of background
43
noise. However, there were some unique qualities in this mariachi performance as related
to this specific community context.
Because this mariachi performance was included as part of an outdoor community
event in Fiesta Gardens (in the heart of Mexican Town), the issues of public space and its
usage were prominent concerns. As has already mentioned, people adjusted the venue to
their individual desires and needs. Older members of the community were pleased to
have chairs moved underneath shaded areas for the use. Younger people were more than
content to mill around the area with their parents or adult companions able to supervise
their activities from a comfortable distance. Elementary school-aged children were busy
playing with the fountain water while still others climbed onto the decorative sculptures
surrounding the fountain. The security persons (twO)7 strolled around the fountain area
and seemed relaxed in laughing with the children and keeping an eye on groups in
particular of teenagers and a few street people. Young adults were standing around the
cars that had been parked at the edge of the venue near the grass area. In all cases,
members from these various groups could be found milling around all the areas.
The mixture of diverse individuals did indeed represent a microcosm of the
Detroit and surrounding area's Mexican descent population. A distinct consciousness of
recognition and celebration was apparent. In close proximity there was yet another
section of Fiesta Gardens with tents that included (among other things) Mexican imported
goods, wares from a regional bookstore focusing on Latino culture, and items from a
company specializing in Chicano clothing.
8
The totality was one that sought to create a
specific Mexicano/Chicano cultural identity for public participation. The engagement of
mariachi performance in such a setting illustrates how the micro details of social
interaction come to play significant roles in defining a cultural heritage. No, people did
not cease their activities once the mariachi music began. There was a brief: introductory
segment when the majority of attention focused on the performers. The attention began
at the end of a taped music segment where the sound equipment and other preparations
44
were made. People began finding seats or standing closer to the equipment tent in
anticipation of the performance.
The presence of the mariachi was made known through their music sound and
engagement of the audience. As the performance progressed, it was easily ascertained
that they became part of the socia-cultural mixture and eventually blended into the social
background. Their sounds as much contributed to the conversations among people in
SpanishlEnglish/Spanglish, the colorful paper-mache flowers, streamers in red, green,
and white,
9
the smells of came asada con chile,10 limeade, and the physical movement of
a few carefully chosen zapateado
ll
or polca steps-- to name a few. In choosing to look at
the micro-detail of community celebration in this way (inclusive of the role of mariachi),
what is most compelling about the overall affect of these ethnically marked exchanges?
It is precisely on this point that how even what appears to be the most
inconsequential carries embedded, deep meaning in contexts where a sense of place,
time, and history converge to strengthen potent ideologies. Clifford Geertz has provided
an excellent conceptual model for incorporating multi-layered structures of social
interaction where social meaning is created (1973). Both Christopher Waterman and
Regula Quereshi have offered intriguing methdological approaches in illuminating the
rich details of social performative expression. Waterman's study of Yo rub a juju music of
southwestern Nigeria includes a section written in "real time" where events of a given
performance are related through a multiple layered approach. Gestures, speech, music
sound, movement, etc., all become part of the written transcript. This written excerpt has
a cassette tape of the actual performance which accompanies the volume (1990:196-212).
Regula Quereshi employs video recording technology for analysis. The visual document
becomes the basis of a written transcript in which multiple individuals are given a
specifically notated timeline of activity. Collectively, the inter-group relations become a
''thickly'' complex frame of socio-cultural interaction. The simultaneity of events are
accounted for by constructing a visual mapping of micro-details (1987). However, how
45
does one account for the competing ideologies that go into the creation of an ethnically
marked critical part of cultural expression- a plaza in the U.S. in which Mexican
descent people have gathered? Even more importantly, how can cultural analysis
account for how intraethnic diversity may be engendered in any such gathering-
mechanic, mother, college student, city employee, reluctant teenager, bi-racial/multi-
racial, California, Texas, Michigan, gay/straightibiltransgenderaI, recent illegal/legal
immigrant, naturalized citizen, U.S.lMexico born, 1
st
generation, 2
nd
generation, light
skinned/dark skinned, Spanish speaking, Spanglish, English only ...
Social Actors and Community
In answering some of those questions, the discussion can turn to cultural forms
that cast a long shadow in noting that they simultaneously operate on multiple levels in
social practice. In essence, the very thing that evokes richness in their expression
provides the strongest challenge to cultural analysis. Overlapping constellations of
ideas and intraethnic diversity over ethnicity, history, class, gender, and culture send
us in the direction of social actors as cultural bricoleurs (1963-76 Levi-Strauss) or
semiotic guerrillas (Fiske 1989:19). Apparent creativity and fluidity of social
expression cannot be wholly denied; however, a critical element in acknowledging
that creativity lies in acknowledging the constraints which not only inform but can exist
for specific communities as an integral part of that apparent creativity. In discussing
popular culture in general, Fiske notes that:
Everyday life is constituted by the practices of popular culture, and is
characterized by the creativity of the weak in using the resources
provided by a disempowering system while finally refusing to submit
to that power. The culture of everyday life is best described through the
metaphors of struggle or antagonism: strategies opposed by tactics, the
bourgeoisie by the proletariat; hegemony met by resistance, ideology
countered or evaded; top-down power opposed by bottom-up power,
social discipline faced with disorder (1989:47).
46
These arguments definitely forward the idea that social struggle for empowerment
between warring classes is a major underpinning for creative expression. More
specifically, Manuel Peiia has argued a case for looking at class relationships as a key
factor in interpreting Texas-Mexican musical expression and ethnicity.
Peiia historically links conjunto and its stylistic evolution with the Texas-
Mexican working class. Additionally, it is an expression that had, in the emergent
Texas-Mexican middle class, a counterpart- the orquesta tejana.
12
The prominence of
these ensembles as symbolic root metaphors (in a Turnerian sense) reveals the finer
contours of an intraethnic diversity that speak to multi-variegated issues of cultural
assimilation (1985). Recognizing the potential pleasure and pain associated with what
people have to gain and lose in cultural assimilation as an ethnic group reveals
mitigating power relationships. In its cultural existence, the culturally defined ethnic
group is neither totally removed nor welcomed as a full participant in those power
structures. Fiske states a somewhat qualitatively different case for social actors in that:
The people are not helpless subjects of an irresistible ideological system,
but neither are they free-willed, biologically-determined individuals; they
are a shifting set of social allegiances formed by social agents within a
social terrain that is theirs only by virtue of their constant refusal to cede
it to the imperialism of the powerfuL Any space won by the weak is hard
won and hard kept, but it is won and it is kept [emphasis in the
original] (1989:45-46).
Mexican descent people and other ethnic minorities must deal with a far different plane
of social realities that make such shifts in social allegiances less fluid and intensely
subject to cultural limitations that define the group as less than desirable or productive
members of society. In other words, the room for negotiation is critically limited by
social realities that highlight and strengthen racialized aspects that mitigate the
treatment and productivity of people of color.
47
Popular Media Portrayals
There is no shortage of material that is easily cited as far as how Mexican
descent people are depicted in the popular press as less-than-desirable and/or morally
flawed. It would require a far more systematic and in-depth study to delineate the
specific issues over which these portrayals find their strongest expression. For the
purposes of this study, even when limiting the scope to materials which deal
specifically with Mexican music and Mexican descent communities, materials remain
abundant. Even further limiting that scope to what has come into my purview (without
actively searching) within the last ten days (April 15
th
_25
th
, 1998), three examples
come to mind.
An article that appeared in the Ann Arbor Press focused on increased violence
to tourists in Mexico City. The opening lines related how a U.S. female tourist had been
beaten and raped. Although there were other incidents of violence related, the rape of the
female tourist was the lead introduction. In relation to the incident's placement and
comparative attention to details, this item was clearly highlighted as the worst
abomination-- the honor of U.S. (white) female virtue is at stake as the Mexican male
becomes a lurid figure lurking in the shadows. While some may argue that this may
appear to be stretching the issue a little, the photograph that is included gives ample
pause. The article and accompanying photograph were selected from the Associated
Press. The accompanying photograph depicted a male mariachi musician, in full traje
(see illustration 2.1), at Plaza Garabaldi getting his shoes shined. This is a normal
occurrence and often musicians can be found sitting underneath a canopy, or
simply with their feet on a wooden box, as the luster of their shoes are restored.
The musician's face was hidden behind a Mexican newspaper with a headline in
bold, large letters reporting violent crime in Mexico City. Not insignificantly, the
48
Illustration 2.1 Austin Mariachi Ensemble in Traje de Charro
49
accompanying photographs in the Mexican newspaper directly concerned specific
incidents and particular victims (Stevenson 1998), thus having some direct basis for their
inclusion. In an ironic commentary, the picture within a picture highlighted that the U.S.
publication refrained from direct visual reference to the incidents themselves. Instead, the
inclusion of a Mexican male at the broadest, most national level blanketed such
associations into a national identity representative of the society as a whole. It is perhaps
here that these indirect associations built on inference are most dangerous.
The close association of a national symbol of mestizo culture (mariachi) with a
portrayal of violence unchecked against primarily U.S. tourists does little more than
illustrate Mexican culture and its people as somehow flawed and morally
reprehensible for their apparent inability to conduct a civil society. In accessing the
symbol of national heritage and culture, the intent to portray this violence as a national
problem is clear. The photograph caption states that the number of attacks on tourists
"both foreign and Mexican-- has doubled in the first months of this year" (Stevenson
1998). The photo and its placement closely associates Plaza Garabaldi and mariachi
with criminal behavior. The area surrounding Plaza Garabaldi (inclusive of La
Lagunilla 13) already enjoys a poor reputation. A colleague in Mexico City in summer
1998 for a professional conference diwlged that she had been warned to stay away from
the area. Even recent urban revitalization of the plaza has failed to overcome this
association with violent crime. 14
A second example, from Utah's The Salt Lake Tribune, relates an incident in
which a public prosecutor and judge made disparaging remarks concerning Mexican
drug suspects who had been in front ofa camera for video arraignment in the Webber
County JaiL The article, entitled "Ethnic Jokes by Attorney, Judge Criticized" notes
that:
A public defender [Steve Laker] did a mock mariachi dance in front of a
smiling judge and suggested that "Spanish" music be played the next
50
time Latino drug suspects appear in court. "That would be good,"
replied 2
nd
District Court Judge Parley Baldwin. "Our interpreter could
probably sing for us."
The article further quotes the video taped incident:
"It occurred to me, your honor, that ifwe had some Spanish music or
something like that when we get four defendants we could, we could
choreograph this a little bit," said Laker, after his clients were gone
from the room. "And it would be entertaining." The interpreter pipes in:
"1 forgot my guitar." The judge, apparently realizing the camera was
running, cut short the laughter by saying: "Tum these guys off, will
you?" (Zoellner 1998).
Indeed it is too late as the tape is first broadcast on a local television station two days
before this article appears. The disclaimers of the tape being taken "out of context"
and that ·'racial insult was not intended" fallon skeptical ears as the judge issues a
statement that he has a meeting scheduled with Ogden City Councilman Jesse Garcia
to, in his words, "discuss how I might adequately apologize to the Hispanic
Community. "
This slippage revealing the underlying complex racial relationships is
underscored by the earliest responses given by members of the local Mexican
American community. Far from simply reacting to these events as an isolated
incident, La RazaIS attorney Mark Martinez is quoted as stating:
''The judge and the defense attorney set a tone for others to demean
Latinos," he said. ''Because of their [the defense attorney's and judge's]
authority and status in the system, other people see that and it trickles
down," Martinez said. "Court clerks are rude to [Latinos], police officers
pull them over without probable cause. And all of it happens because
someone in authority gives theme the signal that one group causes
more trouble than the other" (Zoellner 1998).
The emphasis is clearly on contexualizing these incidents as part of a significant social
pattem- one that is repeated on a multitude of social levels. This passage hightlights a
mode of thinking for its capacity to relate how social interaction incorporates unjust and
detrimental targeting of a racialized segment of the population.
51
A third example is the April 25
th
, 1998, ABC Saturday Evening News program
that highlighted corridos with lyrics related to drug trafficking culture. The program
depicted these corridos as valorizing drug traffickers and their lifestyles. After
presenting these corridos as Mexican musical forms in Mexico, the piece went on to
portray the genre's popularity, based on record sales of the group Los Hurcanes, as
soaring in U.S. Mexican decent communities. Clips from concerts for Southwestern,
Mexican descent audiences solidified this observation (ABC 1998). The overall effect
was one that surmised that as the corridos and their popularity in Mexico generate
debate over the merits of this music, so too should the U.S. become concerned about the
apparent musical "wave" that was enguifing parts of U.S. context. In the imagery of the
Mexican (re)immigration over-running the U.S.-Mexican border so too should
potentially "deviant" forms of musical cultural expression be eradicated, before it's too
late.
These three mass media portrayals collectively associate gang activity,
violence, rape, drugs, theft, rage, murders, and assault with Mexican musics and, by
extension, their creators (Mexican descent people). As a colleague wryly remarked
upon the ABC example, "We're drug runners even when we're being 'cultural.'" An
argument can be made that these examples have relatively little to do with the cultural
forms they seek to represent and those most knowledgeable would dismiss these pieces
as ill-conceived; however, they remain part of a broader conversation that
characterizes ethnically defined people as undesirables in society and therefore less
acceptable-lacking the ability and rights for full citizenship.
In a similar way, Olga Najera-Ramierez explores how the debate concerning
charreadas (Mexican rodeos) and animal cruelty becomes quickly polarized and
racialized in the popular media and the California legislature. Popular media portrayed
issues of rodeo and animal cruelty as solely emanating from a particular racial (Mexican)
sphere. Responses to these criticisms by Mexican descent charros and participants were
52
framed as an ill-conceived, stubborn, uncritical, almost maniacal adherence to tradition.
Ncijera-Ramierez's work suggests that these observations are far from being isolated
incidences for the whole of Mexican descent populations in the U.S. She concludes:
The debate concerning the issues of cruelty to animals in the charreadas
concerns the treatment of Mexicans, not just the animals. The "Pity the
Horses" segment of the respectable 20120 is an example of the subtle and
no-sa-subtle discursive strategies employed to gain the public support
necessary to ban the event. Despite the otherwise honorable intention to
protect the animals, the program promoted a racialized framing of the
event ... The racialized media portrayals of this debate are particularly
disturbing because they inform the way the public perceives other people
and conceptualizes a problem or, more to the point, conceptualizes a
people as a problem [emphasis in the original]. As such, these tactics
encourage racism (1996:510).
Because of this kind of relative instability for U.S. ethnic minority groups as far
as full participation and acceptance, I would argue that space "hard won," as Fiske
notes (1989:45-46), is not so easily determined because mitigating circumstances only
perhaps slightly recede (not actually disappear) at given moments. They are a part of the
subtext as long as the conditions which give rise to them remain a part of society at
large. In addition, space is often not hard kept for this fundamental reason. The
liberating shifts in social allegiances cited by Fiske depend a great deal on the
supposition that people are not "biologically determined individuals." For communities
of color, there remain critical differences. People of color are culturally constructed to
be biologically determined by parentage and, more specifically, phenotypic traits that
give rise to assumptions about ethnicity and its often concomitant misconceptions--
levels of intelligence, strengths and weaknesses, abilities, attitudes, language skills,
desires, and trustworthiness, to name a few.
16
The import of these ideas for musical
expression relates to modes of cultural expression that have become deeply invested
with meaning for the purposes or redressing and addressing those issues.
Throughout the course of this research, it became obvious that what was perhaps
most to be grappled with was not so much the definition of mariachi, but what value
53
it has as a distinct mode of cultural expression. The definition of mariachi itself is but
an indication of deeply rooted evocations that make it a part of a social landscape
within the U.S. primarily for and by Mexican descent people. The questions became
centered on why the tradition continues to exist and, recalling Dan Ben-Amos' remarks,
what is culturally communicated through mariachi practice as a living tradition. The
difficulties in figuring out what kinds of communities are established through
mariachi remain centered on how ethnicity and ethnic identity play crucial roles in
social organization. The key concept is realizing that no matter how clearly defined
moments of social practice remain rooted in the given performative moment, their
power comes from those aural/oral and visual contextual narratives through which
performance gains its meanings.
Mariachi as a performance tradition highlights how these spheres become
intertwined in moments of historical lucidity for a population engaged in conflictive
metacommentary. In confronting this process through literary texts in his work (My
History, Not Yours) concerning Mexican American autobiography and issues of history,
memory, and self-representation, Genaro Padilla concludes:
In each of the autobiographical texts I read, there is an echo, and a
reverberation of that echo, as ofa way of life lost irretrievably, yet never
lost to the imagination since remembering the homeland is always a form
of retrieval, a strategy for sustaining a complex of daily cultural practices
even as culture is changing, a way of never letting go of the idea of a past
reconstituted in the present in however transformed and contingent a
manner. The figuration of loss, grievance, and resistance survives into the
present in the Chicano historical and literary study in which loss of the
homeland and the ensuing resistance to American domination is privileged
in such histories as Rudolfo Acuna's Occupied America (1981) and John
R. Chavez's The Lost Land: The Chicano Image of the Southwest (1984)
and in such literary studies as Ramon Saldivar's Chicano Narrative: The
Dialectics of Difforence (1990) and Jose Limon's Mexican Ballads,
Chicano Poems (1992) (1993:229-30).
I would suggest that these figurations of "loss, grievance, and resistance" remain equally
valid as a way to approach ethno-theoretical
17
concepts of historical understanding
54
generated within contemporary practice. Throughout the course of many hours of
interviews, what emerged most prominently in musicians' autobiographical accounts
were descriptions of how they became involved in mariachi performance and what those
issues meant on a very practical level as far as their own understanding of
Mexicano/Chicano history and culture. Though there was a wide range of specifics
involved with the details told by each individual, the common desire to present a
narrative wherein the speaker shared some intimate knowledge of his/her trans-formative
process through mariachi was strikingly consistent.
One gentleman recounted how he was a young man in his early twenties when he
was stationed in San Diego as a service person. He traveled every opportunity he could
manage to listen to mariachi musicians throughout Southern California. At first only
tentatively, he stayed into the late hours to wait for when mariachis finished with their
performances elsewhere and came to this one small Mexican restaurant. They would join
the resident mariachi group for informal playing sessions. The mariachis there soon
recognized him as "that kid" who would stay for hours. A few months' salaries later and
he had his own vihuela bought on a driving trip to Mexico with the paper where he wrote
the name and address he had been given by his newfound compaiieras. His spoken
Spanish was poor and only by gesture with a few broken sentences could he
communicate to the instrument maker what he wanted. He recalled how he became ill
and had no money left for food on the return trip.
I'd never been to Mexico before that trip. I'd only heard stories from my
dad about how my great grandfather came from Jalisco on foot to Arizona.
It was a real journey for me but I had to have that instrument and the only
way I could get something like that I felt was by going there myself ... it
was like I had to make this journey to know better what it was I was
doing. Man- I felt bad as far as being sick and everything but then also
because of how little I knew about my own heritage. That really came
through on that trip. There were times when all I could think was if I
would really get back home. Then it became this challenge to prove to
myself that I belonged ... that everything I was seeing was a part of me
even though things had become really lost as far as me knowing anything.
55
The issues of belonging or finding a space or membership was often at the heart of these
interviews as well. Coming to mariachi was detailed as gaining entrance into a kind of
club where the various paths followed were anything but direct. The contours of these
paths were informed by these issues of loss, grievance, and resistance.
For majority culture, a membership in a "club" or quite literally something like
a country club has to do with established economic and social standing. Perhaps a
family name is already well-established or a peer, already a member, sponsors
membership/entry. I mention these kinds of associations explicitly because in
contradistinction there exists an alternate basis for how non ethnic minorities often
interrogate issues of ethnicity and cultural background through imposed ethnicities.
Recall the last time you were asked or asked someone where a good (ethnic)
restaurant was? Recall the last time you asked someone or were asked what nationality
are you? Recall the last time you asked someone or were asked where were your
parents born? Far from being an exercise in intense navel gazing or sessions in pursuing
cultural angst, these questions seriously considered have much to say in their framing and
the relative casualness with which they are often posed. Perhaps even more importantly,
what are those questions that don't get asked but are wondered about in viewing
someone's ethnicity?
Being a part of a community of color means negotiating at least two major
dialectical narratives about who you are and what your presence means. It is DeBois
doubled-voiceness actualized in contemporary practice.
After the Egyptian and the Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and
Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted
with second-sight in this American world, - a world which yields him no
true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the
revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-
consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes
of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in
amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness- an American, a
Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring
56
ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being
tom asunder (1989:2-3).
From within your cultural group, you learn what you are through a complex
socialization and as part of the broader society you often learn what you are not vis it vis
dominant cultural constructions dedicated to limiting the social relevance and power of
ethnic minority groups. In a sense, this gives rise to an internal "othering" wherein the
results can equally mean distancing one's self from a cultural background or embracing it
only in very specific terms. The paradox of this is that while it may seem apparent how
this internal "othering" creates detrimental effects when people become alienated from a
cultural background, the process camouflages how embracing that same cultural
background can equally create alienation. 18
From one important social perspective, membership in the U.S. Mexican
descent community is not through happenstance, direct knowledge, or even social
standing. In this realm of imposed ethnicities, it is by birth culturally defined as the
origins of ethnicity, gender, and inheritance of history. Far from being an argument
that posits the biological outside that which is culturally determined, the point I would
like to emphasize is that the cultural production of ethnicity, gender, and inheritance
of history are often defined through the social construction of the biological. This line of
argument is often criticized for its biological determinism and dismissal of entire
groups of people based on flawed genetics or pre-dispositions. I believe perhaps one
of the greater crimes attributable to this line of reasoning has to do with denying the
processes of socialization through which people become and remain active members
of an ethnic community-- haciendo cosas.1
9
The point is not to embark upon an
argument that wanders into the well-traveled theoretical routes of nature vs. nurture.
What is at hand is the sincere recognition of how critical a role both mitigating social
factors and the process of socialization play in the realities of everyday life.
The afternoons in the our kitchen or living room when the (MexicanaiChicana)
57
ladies would talk and speak in tones meant only for female ears gave me a
membership early into this club. It was here that I learned my Spanish, English,
Spanglish and history of our family. The slap of tortillas as ''women's work" and good
smells of food mixed in with the talk about a cousin who went to jail for marijuana
("Pobre Frances!" [his mother, my aunt who always lived in small, dusty houses near
fields]) and what was marijuana anyway? Another ria who ran away with a man
grandpa didn't like- she nearly starved in Mexico with babies. Grandpa kept her
"papers" [immigration documents, birth certificate] for the longest time. She re-
immigrated into the U.S. without documents, appearing to the youngest in the family as
a stranger because her name had not even been mentioned while she was gone.
It is these moments that come to mind when spending time at Fiesta Gardens
as an adult Chicana. In many ways, it is a continuation of what was started long ago
in learning how to listen. While I was writing this dissertation, a colleague made a
comment about our work in Chicano and Chicana studies being something akin to
managing Humpty-Dumpty. His meaning was that we often are put in positions of
having to put things back together again in a piecemeal fashion. I would suggest that this
excavation process and the piecing together of histories yet unwritten, cuentos
20
untold,
and those historical motions or shadows one encounters from the comers of the eyes
represent a refashioning project made concrete through daily life. In writing about
folkloric expression in these terms, one might be struck by the tendency to think of these
ethno-theoretical motions as based on cultural productions of nostalgia.
Ifwe revisit the notion of nostalgia less as a dismissive factor in defining folkloric
expression than as an agent of change and critical inquiry by social actors, several things
become possible. Nostalgia becomes a useful tool in ascertaining how the complexities of
ethnicity come to bear on whose definitions become most prominent at various times in
folkloric expression. Nostalgia as part of the post-modem condition becomes not an
emptying-out of social meaning through symbolic systems but a cogent mode of
58
intellectual inquiry on the part of social actors. Susan Wlllis provides the initial steps in
this by noting:
The discovery of a historical object during the course of our own daily-life
activities, defines us as something more than spectators. We might be
tempted to compare our world and the sort of activities we perform with
the imagined world of the object when it was in use. The question is
whether such musing inevitably slides into nostalgia. Many of us find
Adorno's flat declaration that "The right to nostalgia cannot be validated
(Adorno, 1982:109) much easier to affirm than it is to achieve.
Nevertheless, those instances when we actively come upon the past are
better able to produce critical rupture with the present than is possible
when the past is merely displayed for us ... While every encounter runs
the risk of recuperation, those moments when we use the p ~ s t to engage
the present have the power to escape nostalgia (1991: 15).
The key to this analysis then is active participation- haciendo cosas. The crucial
difference for mariachi performative expression is that rather than escaping nostalgia, it
openly welcomes it. It uses nostalgia as an active way to redress historical erasure and
displacement of Mexican descent communities. Engaging an historical past, mariachi
relies upon the cultural slippage of nostalgia between an antiquated sense of the present
and its mediation within dominant historical narratives. Because of nostalgia's less
"respectable" status as a way of dealing with historical inquiry, its malleability as a
concept promotes a place from which marginalized groups can speak.
It is important to realize that the Fiesta Gardens festivals as celebrations, though
often threatened by organizational difficulties and lack of financial and institutional
support, still strive to confirm and maintain the presence of the Detroit Mexican
American community. That the mariachis from Indiana came to perform only
strengthens the importance of the tradition in a specific Midwestern context. The group
had traveled in a van and looked a little worse for wear upon their arrival. A few miscues
with the designated navigator saw their arrival unexpectedly delayed by several hours. As
one singer commented, they would leave Detroit Mexican Town in the late afternoon to
begin the long trip home. Along the way, they would stop and discuss a multitude of
59
aspects in evaluating the performance. Although musical execution and overall technical
merit would certainly figure into this discussion, the main subject would be how they
contributed to the overall sentimient0
21
of the event. How successful were they in
communicating the alegria
22
of this musica23 and what did they contribute in helping
creating a sense of comunidad?24 And, sometime (perhaps some evening later), someone
might remember that they told me they stopped for gas along the way and remained close
to one another. They had not had time to change out of their trajes
2S
and felt it necessary
to stay together while meeting strangers' glances.
60
Notes to Chapter II
1 A Mexican bakery.
2 A tortilla factory that makes masa (com or flour dough) and the tortillas (round, flat
bread-like items) from that masa.
3 When speakers use this term to refer to the section of Bagley that is more
commercialized with people drawn to the restaurants, they are also referring to the
use of this same phrase in making a border distinction between the U.S. and Mexico.
The economic opportunities sought by immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border are
reflected in a playful way as people speak of this economic division of Bagley
street. It should be noted that the reflection and these divisions are not simply the
embracing of these economic opportunities but also a social critique of limited
access to these opportunities as well as the social ramifications for the community in
general. The more commercialized section of Bagley tends to attract tourists of non-
Mexican descent.
4 Vernor street is a specific example where many Mexicanos do their actual daily
shopping. The stores are more practically oriented stores than the ones on Bagley that
usually hold tourist import items such as over-sized sombreros and zarapes.
S The speaker was referring to mariachi participants in terms of audience members.
For large, U.S. urban areas that have several mariachi groups, it seems the rule rather
than the exception that there are at least a few "hueritos" (fair-skinned or white as in
Anglo) who practice the tradition as singers or instrumentalists. In addition, Latinos
from non-Mexican backgrounds also perform. In Austin, IX, one of the better
known groups during the early 90s was distinguished by an African American
member. He was known for his fine voice and excellent guitarron skills.
6 The couple was of course dressed in a charro traje while the bride dress appeared very
elaborate with lace and a tall comb at the top of the head.
7 The two security people were from a private company. Their only formal markings
were a work shirts with the company insignia, dark dress slack, and black loafers. One
was an African American woman in her 30s and the other was an African American male
in his early 40s. The organizers had specifically asked for security persons of color,
recognizing that racial tensions could intensify any confrontation in the heart of Mexican
Town. After the event, these security guards were especially recognized for their good
work in maintaining general order. I believe their relaxed manner and experience in
having worked at a number of public events where people of color predominated were
both factors in their success.
8 They included hats, t-shirts, and sweatshirts that were decorated with specific Chicano
iconography- Le. black t-shirts with Azthin, La Virgen de Guadalupe, etc. Their baseball
61
caps with the words Chicana or Chicano stitched on them with cholo type figures were
especially popular. A cholo is perhaps most closely associated with Southern California
ChicanolMexicano culture. The cholo figure is perhaps most stereotypically represented
as clothed in, among other things, bandannas, flannel shirts, baggy khaki pants, and white
undershirts.
9 The prominent colors in the Mexican flag.
10 Grilled/roasted beef with sauce made from hot peppers.
11 The term refers to a kind of foot stamping technique used in Mexicano folklorico
dance. It is this kind of dancing that is most closely associated with mariachi music.
12 See Peiia 1999a concerning the orquesta tejana.
13 La Lagunilla is a series of stalls in warehouse-like contexts near the back of Plaza
Garabaldi. This general reference also sometimes includes the outdoor stalls in the area as
welL It is also an extremely popular gathering place on the weekends for street vendors as
welL
14 Plaza Garabaldi underwent a major face-lift beginning in the summer of 1995 where
the old iron fences were replaced and major cement construction was done. Among other
things, an outdoor cement overhang was created near the main street. Mariachis now
routinely solicit work from underneath this structure. With the introduction of a new
metro stop at the square, police sweeps of the homeless, streetwalkers, and drug activities
have increased.
is The article itself did not elaborate on the exact form and purpose of the La Raza
organization. It can be surmised, however, that the title (The People) indicates some
dedication to Latino/Chicano social issues.
16 In a provocative speech delivered before the Wisconsin Legislature on March 25,
1998, Greenbay Packers football player and ordained minister Reggie White offered the
following observations: Blacks are gifted at worship and celebration; Whites are good
at organization; Hispanics were gifted in family structure; the Japanese and other
Asians are inventive; and Indians are gifted in spirituality. Although White later
apologized for his remarks offending anyone, he said his comments were about
society as a whole and not meant to stereotype (Theimer 1998).
17 The term "ethno-theoretical" is decidedly clumsy; however, a distinction was necessary
to ensure a place for critical analysis and theoretical observations made by social actors
as well as academics.
18 An excellent example of how ideology plays a crucial role in just such a process is Jose
Limon's article, "The Folk Performance of 'Chicano' and the Cultural Limits of Political
Ideology." It recounts how students in reclaiming their cultural heritage through the
62
Chicano student movement actually alienated themselves from certain aspects of
Mexican descent culture in adopting "Chicano" as a self-identifier.
19 I have often heard these phrase used to indicate that a person is engaged in something
but not necessarily at that particular moment. In other words, the person has a sense of
engagement even though they may not appear to be "busy" at that moment.
20 A cuento is a story usually communicated orally that can have some kind of moral
implication or directive.
21 feeling
22 Joy or happiness.
23 music
24 community
25 suits
CHAPTERm
MUSICAL REPERTOIRE AS SOCIOCULTURAL INVESTMENT
When Mariachi Campanas de America of San Antonio, Texas (see Illustration
3.1), takes the stage, audiences are often confounded by a drum trap set (when it is
included). There is something almost visually shocking to the uninitiated in seeing a
musician wearing a full traje
l
(complete with sombrero) strike drum heads with a flurry
of drumsticks. Indeed, Mariachi Campanas de America has been known to announce that
they are the world's first mariachi to include a drum trap set. It is a claim that, notably,
remains uncontested. The announcement and the drummer's presence never fail to elicit a
range of responses. In a crowded Austin, Texas theater in 1995, some audience members
laughed at the instrument's inclusion while others seemed perplexed by the group's
desire to include it in the first place. Still others seemed curious to hear what it sounded
like.
The contemporary debates over what musical instruments should be included in a
mariachi ensemble are directly related to issues of authenticity and traditionalism. What
seems most pertinent is how the group's overall sound can respond to the demands of the
evolving repertoire. Since a great deal of this depends upon a combination of each
instrumentalist's ability and experience (including how well the musicians relate to one
another), it is difficult to speak in consistent terms of the numbers and variety of
instruments considered a good mariachi ensemble. Additionally, availability of
musicians, financial considerations, and scheduling remain prominent factors in what
63
64
Illustration 3.1 Mural at San Antonio Mercado (market)
Las Margaritas Mexican Restaurant
Depicting Members of Las Campanas de America
65
kind of ensemble appears at each engagement.
Discussing instrumentation foregrounds the intertwining of traditional
expectations, historical understanding, and the meanings through which musicians and
participants understand the ensemble and repertoire as a whole. In some sense, for the
mariachi, instrumentation fills that role of providing syncretic, symbolic
acknowledgments of the tri-ethnic Mexicano mestizo heritage- Indigenous, European
(primarily Spanish), and African influences. Suppression of both African and Indigenous
roots in Mexicano/Chicano culture have been well-documented in pieces that critically
reflect upon contemporary ethnicities (Anzaldua 1987; Limon 1994; Moraga 1983; Peiia
1985). Issues of class, color, gender, and the ways in which communities have been
racialized (Almaguer 1994; Gutierrez 1991) emerge as the cultural expression of
historical knowledge as part of every day usage. These complexities help explain why a
trap drum set is of such cultural in dissonance in mariachi performance where ethnicity
assumes a key role in explicating social meaning in musical performance.
Transnational Relationships
u.S. Mexicano communities can focus even more sharply on how musicians are
placing themselves within an international context- how the tradition is defined as a
distinctly Mexicano tradition within a U.S. based context. Mariachi Los Camperos de
Nati Cano is acknowledged as one of the premier U.S. show mariachis. Briefly, a show
mariachi is larger ensemble fully capable of staged presentations that can include dancers
and the use of intricate arrangements. Show mariachis are also often based in a home
restaurant that may be ownedlrun by the musicians andlor family members. Many of the
members pursue their work on a full-time basis. Mariachi Los Camperos, a Southern
California group has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. It is based in
La Fonda Mexican Restaurant and, as Nati Cano, the group's director, has stated his
66
mariachi does something like "American dinner theater," having set shows for specific
dinner seatings.
In addition to the scripted show, the physical space of the restaurant is arranged to
fit the requirements of the ensemble. A stage built at the front of the dining area is the
visual center of the room. All the tables are arranged so that there is not a poor seat in the
house. Microphones, lighting, and stage sets present the group to its best advantage.
Los Camperos de Nati Cano appears to be one of the few U.S. based ensembles that
seeks to have the Jaliscan harp as a regularly featured instrument. Although several
other groups may from time to time include a harpist as a guest musician, Los Camperos
often bills itself from the stage as one of the only U.S. groups who regularly features a
harpist. By including the Jaliscan harp, Los Camperos refer to early nineteenth century
mariachi history when the harp functioned as the bass instrument (Fogelquist 1977). Los
Camperos have occupied an interesting role in having been characterized by other
musicians as perhaps "less traditional" than other groups because "they do shows where
they play for the Japanese tourists, playing 'Sakura, ,2 and all that." In more general
terms, what the speaker is actually referring to is a sense among U.S. mariachi groups
that there are some ensembles considered more traditional, usually on the basis of
repertoire, instrumentation, and performance situations, than the rest of their counterparts.
As Steven Loza notes, Mariachi Los Camperos remains a fixture on the Los
Angeles mariachi scene and regularly includes some of the best musicians from Mexico
(1993:88), The instrumentalists' talents are showcased in carefully scripted presentations
that strive to maintain some of the mariachi's spontaneity by incorporating audience
participation and frequent movement of the musicians from the stage onto the floor with
the patrons. Despite its record of excellence and numerous awards, Mariachi Los
Camperos must constantly negotiate the tensions that exist both within its own U.S. based
mariachi performance complex and its international standing vis-a-vis groups based in
Mexico. Although filial relationships are a part of a mariachi performance complex that
67
exists both within U.S. borders and between U.S. and Mexican groups, professional
competition and community standing remain equally important factors.
I can't really say if it's one thing or the other, but I know when I hear a
group from there [the U.S.] I don't think they quite have the same
feeling for it ... and that comes through in the music. It's mostly just the
sound. Mariachi is a very definite style. I have some good friends over
there [in the U.S.] who are really good musicians. But their groups don't
have the same life to them (plaza Garabaldi mariachi trumpet player).
Some of them [mariachis based in Mexico] say we [U.S. based
mariachis] don't playas well. In a way it's a little true because I think
most of the best teachers are in Mexico- the people who know this
tradition from having been professional musicians for longer than I've
been born! Here, you have to work a little harder to study with someone
really good. But I think we're a little more professional sometimes
because we have to be. You know we go someplace where people might
think, "Oh lazy Mexicans," and that kind ofstuff so we're really sure
that we show up looking good and the guys don't drink during a job.
We also practice a lot as a group to make sure we sound good and
everyone's part is sharp (guitar and guitarron player in Austin, Texas).
These tensions
3
extend over a number of public and private displays (Le. mariachi
conferences and workshops, professional concert series, and unofficial "jam" sessions)
that debate the merits of different playing techniques, singing styles, trajes, presentation,
training, and musical arrangements. Premios (prizes) awarded in national and
international competition and official recognition such as the National Endowment for
the Arts Music Heritage Awards and many other honors recognizing outstanding artistic
achievement remain highly contested. An increasing part of these discussions are
recordings released by individual ensembles. With the advent of compact disc recording
technologies becoming more accessible and economically feasible, a number of high
school, university, middle s c h o o ~ and professional mariachi ensembles have released
their own CDs. As always, the recordings released by venerated groups like Mariachi
Vargas de Tecalithin and solo singers such as Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Miguel
Aceves Mejia, Lola Beltran, Vincente Fernandez, and Jose Alfredo Jimenez provide
historical and contemporary performance standards. The wealth of commercially
68
released recordings of this repertoire provides ample opportunity for comparative study,
as aspiring mariachis intently study their favorite groups and specific song
arrangements.
Within the broader tradition, core debates center on issues of traditionalism and
the recognition that mariachi exists as a vibrant, evolving practice. Innovations and
developments interpreted as more modem or recent events (approximately within the last
50 years), are continually measured against issues of historical understanding of
mariachi as an established tradition and its possible future. The internal conflicts over
what values traditional and more modem approaches to mariachi foreground a lively
discussion among musicians and their audiences. Though total agreement is rare over
where boundaries of musical style, execution, interpretation, and stage presence are
located, the discussion remains consistent over how groups and individuals view their
efforts. In terms of instrumentation at least, there exists a general expectation or "ideal"
against which actual instrumentation in a given performance context is measured.
Instrumentation
The ideal ensemble should include trumpet, violin, vihuela, guitar, and guitarron.
As to the ensemble's exact configuration, this seems most directly related to the issues of
balance and the role that each section plays within a mariachi ensemble. As Steven
Pearlman notes in his work concerning the L.A. mariachi performance complex, groups
exist at a variety of economic and social levels. Ensembles that work as planta groups
maintain the most stable memberships, depending primarily on standing engagements at
such places as hotels or restaurants and chamhas Gobs/single performances). Ensembles
that work al talon follow a circuit of places which have little or no financial obligations
to the ensemble so that the musicians are usually paid by the piece by patrons making
requests (1988:71-2; ibid.:89-90).
69
As can be imagined, these professional performance modes engender a range of
instrumentation that take into account whether or not the ensemble exists as a regular
group, emerges primarily from "pick-up" players, or is some combination of the two. In
any case, the overall musical sound generates the most commentary about the
instrumental configuration:
There needs to be a good sound. If the vihuela and guitarron are there,
then at least one trumpet and a couple of violins I would say is what you
need. You can even manage without a vihuela if you have a really good
guitarist or two (Tucson, AZ, mariachi director).
The underlying process behind this ensemble director's opinion concerns the
relationships between each instrument and the divisions between larger sections of
instruments. For example, the trumpet and the violin handle the melody lines, sometimes
harmonizing with one another between the trumpet and violin sections and within each
instrument section, in parallel3rds, 4ths, or 6ths. The vihuela, guitar, and guitarron
collectively form the rhythm section, though each has a distinct role.
The guitarron, tuned A-d-g-c1-e-a,
4
(see lllustrations 3.2 and 3.3), functions as
the bass. The tuning is at first a challenge to many beginning players, as the instrument
does not follow an expected arrangement of lowest to highest strings in succession (note
that from the 4th to the 5
th
string the pitch goes down a minor 6
th
). The arrangement
ingeniously facilitates the playing of octaves and keeps the string tension to a minimum
while providing a full range of pitch content possibilities so that an experienced musician
can easily play in virtually any key or harmonic progression. Although the guitarron part
is notated in written form as a single line, the part is actually most often realized in
octaves. Sonority of the instrument's acoustical construction (arched back) allows a good
quality instrument to carry easily the bass line for the entire ensemble with a full sound.
The playing technique demands a follow-
70
D1ustration 3.2 Gaitarron Front View
71
Dlustration 3.3 Guitarron Back View
72
through that is unique to the instrument in that the strings are plucked with the thumb and
first or second fingers of the right hand. The hand snaps back slightly at the wrist as the
arm from the elbow curves away from the instrument into the air.
Since the strings are physically very thick, S much thicker than guitar strings, the
technique requires continual anticipation so that the bass part remains on or slightly
ahead of the beat rather than behind. This is particularly important in passages where the
bass line is "walked" through more melodic gestures such as arpeggiations or scalar
patterns. These gestures usually ornament cadentialligatures, harmonic modulations, or
perhaps a meter or tempo change. The instrument's construction involves Mexican
cedarwood for the sides and back, and tacote (a light, strong wood) for the top. Machine
heads or wood pegs are used to manipulate the pitch of each string.
6
It is rare that more
than one guitarron is used in an ensemble.
7
The vihuela belongs to the same string family as the guitarron in that they are
both considered Jaliscan instruments closely associated with the development of
nineteenth century regional, mestizo popular musics (Fogelquist 1975). In terms of
overall shape (Illustrations 3.4 and 3.5), the vihuela also has an arched back and is made
of materials similar to that of the guitarron. The vihuela tuning, a-d l_gl_b-e
1
, also reflects
a tuning that goes down a minor 6
th
between the 3rd and 4th strings. In this case, the string
tension is minimized so that the rapid manicos, or strumming patterns in the right hand,
can be executed with some ease while still providing a wide range of pitch content.
The manico technique combines with the acoustical properties of the vihuela to
create an important rhythmic role. Unlike the strings of a classical or Western guitar,
these nylon strings have a rich resonance that is paired with a rapid sound decay. The
instrument's shape (arched back) and size contribute to a bright timbre. Thus, while the
vihuela does have a harmonic function in playing the chord progressions, its role
becomes strongly percussive in the overall sound. This is achieved primarily through
73
illustration 3.4 Vihuela Front View
74
DlustratioD 3.5 VihueIa Back View
75
the use of specific genre-related marricos or strumming patterns executed by the right
hand and their relationship to the rhythmic pattern established in the guitarron.
As has been previously discussed by Sheehy, the marricos, for example, in the son
jarocho8 tradition, are intricate patterns that hold the key to the repertoire's entire
rhythmic framework. As Sheehy also notes, the resulting rhythmic patterns are thought of
as extended patterns that repeat themselves and help identify specific song types
(1979:97-111). Within the mariachi repertoire, these marricos serve a similar function, as
the vihuela and guitar players are expected to have a technical command of a wide range
of patterns.
Each musical genre has a pattern of marucos that uses a combination of down and
up strokes. Basic down strokes use primarily the middle three fingers with the finger
nails, individual finger picks,
9
or backs of the fingernails striking the strings. Basic
upstrokes use mostly the thumb, again either the nail or the back of the nail striking the
strings. The focus is on maintaining a loose wrist where the forearm rotates with a
minimum of motion to facilitate the fingers moving across the strings. These rapid
strumming patterns combine with the instrument's acoustical properties to produce clear
rhythm patterns that penetrate through the whole of the rhythm section as well as the
larger ensemble. In this sense, the vihuela emerges as an important percussive element,
since the clarity of the strumming patterns, even the most intricate, remain "clean"
sounding because of the instrument's rapid sound decay and the comparatively bright
timbre.
The Spanish guitar is the final element of the rhythm section. It's role is primarily
harmonic, as the chords played on the instrument have a longer decay period than the
vihuela. Although the guitar follows the same manico strumming patterns as the vihuela,
the patterns are less sharply defined because of the guitar's resonance. Over rapid
strumming passages, there is a tendency for the articulations to become "blurred" as the
tones blend together. Some guitarists use a pick to counteract this effect. It is also
76
precisely this characteristic that makes the guitar ideal in its role of providing a strong
harmonic base. The sonorities achieved bolster the harmonic language in providing a
backdrop to the vihuela role, even though both instruments ostensibly play the same
instrumental part.
While the trumpet, violin, and Spanish guitar are usually acknowledged as
European instruments, their usage, as far as playing techniques and general sound quality,
is seen as unique to mariachi music. While r was in Austin, Texas, a colleague of mine
recounted that a small Mexican restaurant near his home had apparently recently added a
mariachi ensemble on the weekends. He noted that although he had not actually seen the
ensemble, he had heard over successive weekends that "mariachi trumpet sound." As he
elaborated further, he commented on a recognizable, distinct mariachi trumpet vibrato-
''wide'' effect achieved using the jaw, and articulation- often sharp, "pecked" notes
where the airstream is stopped by the tongue behind the upper teeth. In addition, each of
these instruments (violin, trumpet, and guitar) has a specific function with artistic
expectations for the whole of the ensemble. The violin does function as a melodic
instrument. Mariachi violinists generally use less vibrato than classical musicians and
have a delicate repertoire of sliding and fingering techniques that create specific sound
qualities. Their bowing techniques also include such things as caballito
lO
techniques. The
guitarist may have a slightly higher bridge than a classical player to aid in the desired
sound quality while doing rapid strumming patterns. Many guitarists new to mariachis at
fIrst find it somewhat challenging to adjust their strumming technique to where the wrist
and hand carry most of the motion, as opposed to the entire forearm moving from the
elbow.
Previous work on traditional Mexicano musics have focused on violin, trumpet,
and guitar as mainly European borrowings or cultural influences (Fogelquist 1975;
Mendoza 1953, 1969; Sheehy 1979; Stevenson 1952). It seems wise to consider that the
presence of European based instruments engender an historical presence that has
77
effectively remade those instruments into particular cultural icons. Icons, most notably,
that, by their very presence, point towards the contemporary evocation of a colonialist
experience. Few have looked at the ways in which the instruments are constructed under
a specific Mexicano musical aesthetic as the aural and visual symbols of mestizo cultural
expression.
Steven Pearlman presents an interesting case in arguing for an Indigenous based
musical aesthetic to explain the relationship that developed between instruments in
mestizo musical string ensembles emerging in nineteenth century Mexico. The argument
focuses on how Indigenous musical ensembles used ocarinas, mUltiple chamber flutes,
and other flautas as the melody instruments juxtaposed to tambor or drum instruments as
the percussive element (1988:46-54). Pearlman specifically argues:
What is most interesting is that as the [mestizo] musical ensembles
evolved, it appears that aboriginal instruments and ensembles were replaced,
post-contact, by others that filled structurally contiguous, cognitively
comparable, roles. For this reason the continuity from the hypothetical
ll
aboriginal ensembles to the modem mariachi is compelling (1988:47-8).
Pearlman is referring to the basic division within the mariachi ensemble that has been
previously explicated as the melody section (trumpet and violin) and the rhythm section
(guitar, vihuela, and guitarron). The role offlautas has been taken by the melody section
and the tambor role has been taken by the rhythm section.
The argument itself in this context is compelling not so much for its plausibility as
much as the illustrated need to reconcile an historical, Indigenous past with contemporary
musical expression. The cultural ruptures created at the time of conquest are well
documented as the collision of two autonomous worlds that violently engaged one
another in a dominant (Spanish)/subordinate (Indigenous) relationship (Todorov 1984).
The emergent, highly mediated mestizo Mexican culture takes on significant levels of
historicallayerings in its contemporary understanding within. U.S. based Mexican
descent communities.
78
The definition of mestizaje itself acknowledges Indigenous heritage, although in a
meditated process often marked by ambivalence and historical reinventions that seek to
build coherence where violent (colonial) disruptions dominate. It is not only a reclaiming
of an historical past but the recreation of spaces previously marked by silence and
erasure. The herbs mom made on her electric stove in Fresno for our stomach aches and
the shops on the Westside with statues never to be found in our Northside Catholic
church remain in my memory as those places where no one would (or could) quite
explain these things.
They became the things that "some people" believed in or the basis from which
curanderas could bring healing. "Some people" become this powerful group of
individuals who knew what all those powders and candles could do. "Some people"
occasionally peeked through in veiled references in our home through those teas and
especially through those stories about healings and how poultices incompletely
remembered could cure most anything. In a similar vein, a Chicana colleague raised in
the barrios of East Los Angeles speaks of how her family identified primarily as
Mexicano without acknowledging an Indigenous history and, at some levels, even
actively denied it-- various kinds of preparation of snake skins and meat, herbs, and
poultices notwithstanding. She cogently pointed out that this Europeanizing of their
culture at the expense of the indigenous roots was to her an attempt to ''whiten''
Mexicano culture.
The Indios active today on the Zocalo square in Mexico City also remind us of
these cultural gaps in mestizo cultural expression in response to contemporary needs.
Much as in the needs expressed by Pearlman in thinking about how the roles of
Indigenous musical practice are reflected in the instrumentation of the mariachi
ensemble, a certain leap of faith or logic is required. And all points in between must
also be filled in as best as possible from emergent bases of cultural knowledge.
While Indigenous based dance and music at the Zocalo may appear recreated or
79
reinvented for perhaps the local tourist trade, the Indigenous speakers address the
Mexicanos at large as the main reason why they come to this main center. The
Indigenous speakers say they want to remind people of their cultural roots and the
knowledge that remains buriedlforgotten- what foods, herbs, religious practices, and
exercise approaches promote health and well-being from an Indigenous perspective.
Leaflets documenting poultices, teas, and Indigenous history are distributed for a modest
fee. In perhaps one of the more pointed moments, the Indigenous speaker addressing
the gathering crowd notes what a "shame" it is that he must address them in Spanish
(the language of the conquerors) and not a native tongue such as Nahuatl.
In a stunning visual reminder, a more concrete excavation takes place at the
Aztec El Templo Mayor (The Main Temple) at the same Zocalo location. It perhaps
metaphorically represents what is more difficult to characterize about thought, method,
intent, and apparent cultural creativity. Within the open excavation, multiple historical
layers in relief show how structures were built upon the foundations of temple ruins.
Archeological excavations are still taking place today as the site serves as a "living"
dig connected to the major museum that houses many of the artifacts found. These
archeological structures reflect how materials were used to construct parts of the city
throughout different eras. Stones themselves were taken from the temple ruins to build
newer buildings under Spanish colonial rule. Some materials of these structures were
similarly used for the construction of yet other layers. This visual cacophony
represented in integrated structures testifies to time and spaces when they functioned as
a whole. 12
It is similarly out of expressive stresses/fractureS/omissions that the historical
threads of Indigenous, European (Spanish), and African cultures have been integrated
into contemporary mestizo practice, inclusive of music. In this way, both the guitarron
and the vihuela are discussed in contemporary mariachi circles as the "heart" or "root" of
the ensemble in defining a characteristic mariachi mestizo music sound aesthetic. They
80
visually and aurally represent a connected past to a musical history whose edges emerge
from colonialist relationships based upon an intercultural process of mestizaje.
For Mexican descent communities in the U.S., mariachi instrumentation has been
a particular point of contention among musicians. In looking at how mestizo music has
been characterized as adopting European instruments, some have felt that little attention
has been paid to how each instrument developed within the mariachi itself.
We use trumpet, violin, guitar ... and those you can say are really
European instruments. You can say that but also ... you have to
remember though that this isn't the kind of playing you would do in an
orchestra or classical ensemble. We get some of these guys who say
''well, this is only mariachi music" like a folk tradition and then they start
to play and then they realize it's not that easy. That's where I think the
respect comes in. Each one of these instruments has great history in the
mariachi ... they're really very different instruments [from the European
instruments] .
As this examples illustrates, the tensions in identifying the instruments for their
European background relate to the respect the mariachi tradition garners on its own
merits. In a related vein, the speaker went on to identify different periods in mariachi
history that included a number of different kinds of instrumentation.
The earliest released mariachi recordings through Arhoolie Records support the
idea that the developing ensemble often included ad-hoc instrumentation- using what
was at hand in forming a group. Finding flute or trombone players in a mariachi, as
evidenced by the early twentieth century recordings, would not have been unusual
(Clarke 1993a and 1993b). Manuel Peiia's clarification that close relationships existed
between mariachi and the orquesta tipica during this period (1999a) suggest how these
wind instruments became part of mariachi's history. Jon Clarke additionally notes the
ambivalence with which the introduction of the trumpet to the mariachi group was
initially met. Basing his observations on interviews with mariachis active during the early
part of the twentieth century, he found that the trumpet was initially only sporadically
introduced and that audience reaction was somewhat mixed (1 993b:5-8). Contrasting that
81
with contemporary expectations, audiences are likely to be offended or feel "cheated" if
the mariachi ensemble they have hired does not include at least one trumpet. Indeed,
exact instrumentation is often part of the negotiations in arranging a playing engagement
at private residences.
People expect guitar, violin, vihuela, guitarr6n and especially trumpet ...
if the trumpet is missing it's not really complete for those who know
mariachi.
The idea expressed by a Texas mariachi leader in this excerpt is that the trumpet is an
integral part of the contemporary ensemble. Additionally, note that he refers to ''those
who know mariachi" in strengthening his observation. Aficionados, those considered
most knowledgeable, can speak from their deep knowledge that that is the expected
norm.
The point is emphasized when we realize that professional mariachis remain
flexible in their instrumentation to reflect the demands and expectations of their clientele
and the performance context. Although a potential customer may come to a public
performance or group rehearsal to "audition" the ensemble, those potential customers
most knowledgeable are specific about not only what number of musicians they require
but also what instrumentation they expect. A relevant illustration is given by a mariachi
director in Austin, Texas who recounted how he had been contacted to provide ''three
mariachis" for a given event. He replied that he would need about a week or so to contact
all the musicians. When he returned the telephone call with a price quote, the individual
balked at the price, "Why so high?" The leader replied that hiring twenty or more
musicians was going to be expensive. The potential customer explained that what he
wanted was three musicians. The misunderstanding hinged on the idea that a full
mariachi is thought to include at least approximately six to eight musicians. The person
making the inquiry did not possess the knowledge to understand the impact of what he
82
was requesting. The mariachi director ended the conversation by noting that what the
person wanted was "not a mariachi but a trio!"
Repertoire Considerations
The mariachi repertoire is often spoken of as consisting of a core, traditional
repertoire that well-trained musicians should know. In terms of daily practice, the
repertoire is defined along the lines of individual songs. This is in no small part due to the
expectation that a well-trained group can respond to multiple audience requests. On
another level, musicians refer to specific broad song types or categories- rancher as,
po/cas, boleros, huapangos, sones, and va/ses- especially when referring to musical style
and technical execution-- as the primary components of the traditional repertoire. Each of
these broader song types is differentiated by a combination of meter, tempo, rhythmic,
and stylistic characteristics.
In discussing the significance of a traditional repertoire base, mariachis and their
audiences maintain that a good, professional ensemble can know literally thousands of
songs.
Our group knows probably around 800 songs really well ... and probably
another 100 or so pretty well. As long as we have someone who has
maybe heard it enough to sing it or know the chords, he can lead the rest
of the group along.
At some functions, especially those that include knowledgeable audiences
familiar with older songs or other wide-ranging Latino musical genres such as merengue,
salsa, Spanish language hip-hop, or Chicano rock, mariachis consult with one another
before responding to a request that may not be a regular part of their repertoire. The goal
is to meet audience expectations and render as well-executed a performance as possible.
As can be readily surmised, those groups working a/ talon are especially motivated to
learn emerging popular favorites. The more permanent groups also respond to audience
83
expectations in order to maintain long standing engagements and procure chambas
(specific playing engagements) as a favored group.
The ranchera "V olver, Volver" is perhaps one of the best known rancheras. A
host of musicians have noted that it is often used as the final encore in a given
performance. I have participated in several performances where the mariachi group was
not released by the audience, "Otra! Otra! Otra!" ("Another! Another! Another!), until
"Volver, Volver" was performed. Since the chorus consists of primarily one word
("volver"), it is also a song in which many non-Spanish speakers may comfortably join--
and they often do, especially at Southwest public venues. This particular piece also
provides an interesting example of how traditional musical/theoretical concepts employed
in Western musical analysis may only just begin to unravel the complexities of the
mariachi repertoire (see Illustrations 3.6 and 3.7).
The harmonic plan employs three chords-- I, IV, and V7. This strophic song
progresses through two verses, chorus, and an instrumental interlude which is then
followed by a return to the second verse and a repeat of the chorus. An 8+8 measure
phrasing maintains a regular flow for each verse and the chorus. The instrumental
interlude features instrumental solos (1 measure before black letter rehearsal number 5
through 5 measures after rehearsal 5), usually violin and/or trumpet, before the final
chorus is rounded out by a coda (last 2 measures). Although the solos may be notated,
often performance situations see individual soloists improvise on the melody. In a
ranchera, the instrumental solos in the hand of a skilled musician can take on some of the
vocal inflections that were expressed in the verses during the vocal solo. The degree to
which this is done intentionally is reflected in how some mariachi aficionados refer to an
especially well-played instrumental solo as having been "sung" very well.
The rhythmic organizing principle as forwarded by the rhythm section (guitar,
vihuela, and guitarron) often falls along a quadruple or triple meter with the stresses on
the 1
st
and 3
cd
or 1
st
beats respectively. On the face of this analysis, many instrumentalists
Volver, Volver
1. Este amor apasionado
Anda todo alborotado por volver,
voy camino a la locura
y aunque todo me tortura
yo se querer
2. Nos dejamos hace tiempo,
pero me llego el momento
de perder,
tu tenias mucha razon,
Ie hago caso al corazon,
y me muero por volver.
CHORUS:
Y volver, volver, volver,
a tus brazos otra vez,
llegare hasta donde estes,
yo se perder, yo se perder,
quiero volver, volver, volver.
INSTRUMENTAL INTERLUDE
84
To return, to return
1. This passionate love
still continues restlessly to return,
I'm going down the path of
madness
and although it completely
tortures me, I know what it is to
want.
2. Time has passed for us
But the moment of loss has
just arrived for me,
you were so right,
I'm paying attention to my heart
and I am dying to return.
And to return, to return, to return
to your arms once again,
I will come to where you are,
I know loss, I know loss,
I want to return, to return, to
return. 13
********************
Return to the second verse and finish with the chorus.
D1ustration 3.6 Lyrics for "Volver, Volver"
85
Conductor Score
Volver, Volver
Rancheraltrans. LG. Sobrino
1\ II 1"1
-
r:m
-
- -
-
Viollnl

-
A. 1"1
-
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-
Viollnl
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VioUn3

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r: .
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BbTnunpetl
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Bb Trumpet 1

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--
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I .
Voz
0
7
II
AnnoaCa
.
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p..

GuitamSn
1\ I
Via. 1
I
.A.I
VlD.l

1\ II
VID.l
III

r-..!....,
.11.1
Tpt.l
III

1\ II
r-I ....,
Tpt.l
III
ad lib.
---."
II
- -
-
Voz

G
Es-te/a-mer a-pa:s'io - na-do
G
an-da
-
.
p..
Gam.
Dlustration 3.7 Music Score for "Volver, Volver"
86
Volver, Volver/pg 2
'" II
VlD.l
III
'" II
VlD.2
III
'" 1&
Via. 3
.,
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>
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Tpt.l
III
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ta-do par vol -ver
0
7
laic -
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p. p.
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Voz
II
y/aun:Q'ue to:do me"tor
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..
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Gtm.
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87
Volver, Volver/pg 3
1\ Il

Via. 1
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-it
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II Il
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a
Nos de-ja -mos hHe tiem -po G pe-ro me lie -go'ier"mo-
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a.
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a
Voz

dare "'Iite-nris - z6n, ca-so/al co-ra -
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88
Volver, Volver/pg 4
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ft
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G
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89
Volver, Volver/pg 5
A II
VIa. I
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90
Volver, Volver/pg 6
ufm
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91
and singers new to the tradition (although sometimes already competent musicians in
other musical genres) find the harmonic form and structure deceptively easy to learn;
however, they find the ranchera stylistic and expressive qualities some of the most
difficult to produce.
The explanation behind this musical conundrum lies in the chief difficulty of
reproducing the affective sentiments and qualities so strongly associated with ranchera
music. Aspiring Spanish language popular singers in Mexicano traditional musics are
expected to have command over the vocal inflections, vibrato, and extreme timbre shifts
associated with a good ranchera singing style. Indeed, in some circles the measure of a
good singer ofMexicano traditional musics is how well a singer can sing a ranchera. In
this sense, it becomes the litmus test against which all other abilities are measured. It
seems only the most skilled are able to provide that affective presence without
overstatement- a fine line that is easily crossed. As an example of this process, the
Mexicano popular musics singer Lola Beltran is skilled in a number of Latino popular
music genres; however, it is in ranchera music that she is thought to excel and indeed her
name has become synonymous with the genre. This has in no small part contributed to
her popularity and international presence in Spanish language venues.
The ranchera "Volver, Volver" is a widely know piece and often used as the final
encore to signal the end of musical presentations- i.e. mariachi shows or staged concerts.
In a quadruple meter, the ranchera beat pattern is established early in the instrumental
introduction (measures 2-4). The guitarron plays on beats one and three with the rest of
the rhythm section responding in quarter notes on beats two and four. The moderate
tempo allows for a pronounced emphasis on beats two and four. Although a back beat
pattern is thus established, the overall aesthetic calls for a more balanced approach in the
strength of each line. The fourth beat pickup to measure 4 in the bass begins a more
active line that ornaments the V7-1 cadence. This closure of the introduction gives the
setting for the vocal entrance (m.S).
92
For this the mariachi transcriber has chosen "ad lib" to describe the
vocal entrance. A common feature of the ranchera vocal aesthetic is the musical
expression of time out of time. The songs "stops" as the vocalist gradually enters the
song, eventually arriving at the tempo and meter previously established. A sense that the
singer is about to tell a story of extreme emotion pervades as the syllables come slowly
and are laid bare without musical accompaniment. In the hands of a skilled interpreter, it
is perhaps one of the most tender moments to be found in the repertoire.
An additional example of this vocal technique comes in the chorus (1 measure
before rehearsal 4). "Yvolver, volver, volver," holds the song's key emotional concept
in its utterance as the strong desire to return in time once again to the arms of a lover. In
contrast to the earlier example, this chorus is the invitation for all participants to share in
the evocation of this emotion. The texture has a minimalist accompaniment (resembling
in overall sound an a capella texture) as only the guitarron and rhythm section providing
skeletal harmonic support. The effect is further emphasized by the chorus vocal part
remaining in the uppermost vocal range of the whole piece. In addition, the rhythmic
pulse is suspended in elongated values for the second syllable of vol-ver.
In addition to these aspects, a poetic Spanish language competence is demanded
to fully understand the multiple levels of the language being used. Not only does the
declamatory style need to be sensitive to syllabic stresses and articulations, but double
entendre or abstract meanings must be made concrete in their delivery. Coming in a close
second to the chorus as the piece's emotional climax is the return to the second verse
after the first chorus and the instrumental interlude.
In a strophic song construction, the return to the second verse (beginning one
measure before the coda) emerges as an unusual feature. By examining the text more
closely, we can see that a return to the second verse focuses on the moment of extreme
regret-- when the speaker just arrives at his sense of loss. In returning to this
extreme despair is established in that the repetition foreshadows a cycle of regret from
93
which there seems to be no exit. Not inconsequentially, the vocal solo part (fourth
measure after rehearsal 3) begins in the upper vocal range and also incorporates an "ad
lib." approach to the phrase" ... le hago caso al coraz6n."
Even with this technical expertise under control, the expectation is that the
technical efforts coalesce into a specific kind of general ranchera expressive quality that
must be invoked for a singer to successfully perform the piece. £t is the sentimiento or
active evocation 14 of a particular kind of historical past that gives life and meaning to the
performance. Ranchera music itself is most often defined on the basis of the themes and
subjects it addresses in its romanticized evocation of 10 ranchero. As Manuel Pena notes:
Romantic nationalism in Mexico has exerted a unifying influence by
appealing to the glory of the nation's ''unique'' heritage. As components of
this nationalism, the concept of 10 ranchero and the symbols that cluster
around it- of which mzisica ranchera is one- have contributed to the
ideology by ennobling the existence of hacienda and rural life in general,
portraying this existence as idyllic. Since the 1930s the principal vehicles
for this portrayal have been film and music, often used in combination
(I 985: 10-11).
His comments refer to this process and its symbolic meaning for Texas Mexican
communities. The concept is taken to be operative on both sides of the border, though
with distinct contextual meanings. In sum, the qualities then that Peiia most closely
associates with the 10 ranchero concept, and ranchera music by extension, are those
which Mexicanos ascribe to themselves as " ... embodied in the twin symbols of the
charro and the campesino ... manliness, self-sufficiency, candor, simplicity, sincerity,
and patriotism, or mexicanismo" (1988:11).
In referring to the charro and the campesino, Peiia is invoking cultural stereotypes
that deal with the landed gentry/owners of the haciendas and the poor, rural workers. It is
a reference that is particularly important, as will be discussed later, in the adoption of the
charro traje (suit) by the mariachi ensemble. It is this complexity then that is to be
commanded and expressed in a good ranchera performance. Although the lexical
94
meaning of the words of some rancheras do deal explicitly with these themes (Le.
"Mexico Lindo" [Beautiful Mexico], "EI Rancho Grande" [The Big Ranch], ''La Ley del
Monte" [Law of the Mountain]), others appear more subtle in their references. The
ranchera under current discussion, "V olver, Volver," is just such an example. It also
brings to the fore a series of gender issues that Peiia alludes to when speaking of the
"manliness" invoked.
In the world of the idealized rural life and its nationalization as a symbolic core to
Mexican culture, love relationships adopt a tenor that is equally provocative in their
abstract appeal to idealized circumstances. This is not to say that these idealized
conditions reflect love relationships that meet with unmitigated success; on the contrary,
many rancheras that deal with love relationships focus on the difficulties involved such as
betrayal, misunderstanding, a competing relationship, or unfulfilled desire. The concept
of heartfelt emotion remains the commonality, though perhaps from a different
perspective than one might readily imagine.
At this point, some careful discussion about this apparent emotionality must be
included. As people recently introduced to the tradition have often observed:
Does everything about this music have to do with love?
Aren't these pretty "macho" lyrics?
This stuffis really "over the top."
I'm always impressed with how beautiful and romantic this music is.
Why do they [the singers] always sound like they're in such pain?
Far from being able to provide satisfactory responses to these questions/observations and
many more like them, I believe they illustrate how cultural stereotypes can inform
intellectual curiosity. A brief review ofa number of popular press notes illustrates how
notions of sexualization (some would say over-sexualization) invoke interpretive
language to describe these Latino popular musics- i.e. "Hot to Trot" (Fernandez 1993),
"Shake Your Body " (Walsh 1988), "Soul Sauce" (Tolleson 1990), and "The Spicy Bite
of Latin Music" (Hernandez 1987). These chracterizations, combined with the twin
95
specter of the Latin lover, "Handsome, heavily cologned men in open-neck shirts keep
the ladies under close observation ... " (Walsh 1988:50), and the overly erotic Latina,
"Attractive young women teeter across the dance floor on their vertiginous high heels,
their hourglass figures accentuated by off-the-shoulder Lycra tops and tight leather
microminiskirts" (ibid.), shape our expectations of how emotions and love relationships
are deployed within the context of a Latino popular musics frame. Mariachi music with
its idealized love relationships does appeal on a certain level to these observations in the
kind of characters invoked and the import of their actions. As scholars focusing on
women's listening practices in Latino popular musics have noted, women create lyrical
meanings while engaged as active listeners (Aparicio 1997; Jaquez, forthcoming). Other
scholars maintain that the lyrics themselves are of secondary importance in relation to the
kinds of evocations inspired (Le. 10 ranchero)- that many of the lyrics have very little to
do with the actual contemporary lives of the participants. IS
The point that emerges out of these two observations is then how do people make
their interpretations of lyrical meaning relevant to their socio-cultural position? At least
part of that question can be answered by looking at what common threads exist in the
overall relationship between these pieces and their musical expression. While the lyrics
themselves take on a set of diverse characters and regional identities, their general
approach remains relatively consistent. What remains constant and idealized are at least
two characteristics that define this approach. The first is that the song texts remain male-
centered in their genesis (dominant composers associated with this genre include Jose
Alfredo Jimenez, Jose Angel Espinoza "Ferrusquilla," Manuel Ezquivel, Felipe Valdes
Leal, and Tomas Mendez) and execution- a male centered voice dominates the narrative.
The second is that the gender relationships are idealized and normalized into a dynamic
between male and female lovers where the male figure frequently becomes the pursuer or
wooer and the female figure assumes a passive role as the object of desire.
96
The following text is from a ranchera entitled "Ay Jalisco! Of interest in this
nationalist evocation of 10 ranchero is that the land itself(see illustrations 3.8 and 3.9)
(stanza one) becomes the female body. The state of Jalisco has a rare, young, beautiful
girlfriend in the city of Guadalajara. The comparison or symbolism is neither accidental
nor unusual in appealing to a constructed femininity for the ultimate portrayal of
nationalist sentiments. This exuberance is musically achieved within the framework of a
polea- a rapid, duple metered piece rhythmically organized around each beat divided
into an even down and upbeat. The pattern is established early (m. 12) between the
guitarron (downbeat) and the rest of the rhythm section (upbeat). The introduction
(mm.l-ll) is marked by a strong melodic motion with unison doublings between the
trumpets and violins. The rhythmic crispness of the dotted eighth notes and sparse
harmonic accompaniment in the rhythm section highlight the effect. A rapid, repeated
flurry of sixteenth notes in the violin 1 part (mm. 9-11) carries this rhythmic energy into
the vocal entrance in the pick-ups to measure 12.
The musical exuberance is also carried by the fact the this polca resonates as
dance music. The mariachi repertoire itself has a number of Mexican regional dances
associated with specific pieces. They consist of a prescribed set of steps and movements
employing zapateado (foot stamping) patterns usually done by individuals trained in
what is generally referred to as/olklDrieo dancing. It is usually understood that the
zapateado form of dancing is associated with older, more traditional parts of the
repertoire.
A second part of the repertoire concerns Latino popular music dance genres in
general. Inclusion of these genres is seen as a more modem addition. Examples of this
repertoire would be boleros, cumbias, merengues, and salsa music. A third kind of
reference to dance concerns a part of the repertoire most pertinent to our current
discussion ot: "Ay Jalisco!" "Ay Jalisco!" itself is considered a ranchera. However,
97
jAy Jalisco No Te Rajes[
(M. Esperon and E. Cortazar)
1. Ay Jalisco, Jalisco, Jalisco
Tu tienes tu novia que es Guadalajara
Muchachita bonita la perla mas rara
De todo Jalisco es mi Guadalajara
2.Me gusta escuchar los mariachis
Cantar con el alma sus lindas canciones
Oir como suenan esos guitarrones
Y echarme un tequila con los valentones.
CHORUS:
Ay-ay-ay-ay
Jalisco no te rajes
Me sale del alma
Gritar con calor, abrir todo el pecho
Pal echar este grito
Que lin do es Jalisco, palabra de honor.
3. Pal mujeres, Jalisco primero
Lo mismo en Los Altos
Que alIa en La Caiiada
Mujeres muy lindas rechulas de cara
Asi son las hembras de Guadalajara.
4. En J alisco se quiere a la buena
Porque es peligroso querer a la mala
Por una morena echar mucha bala
Y bajo la luna cantar en Chapala.
Oh Jalisco[ Don't Give Up
Oh Jalisco, Jalisco, Jalisco
You have your girlfriend it's
Guadalajara
Young, beautiful woman the most rare
pearl
Of all Jalisco is my Guadalajara
I like to listen to the mariachis
To sing with soul their beautiful songs
To hear the sound of those guitars
And throw me a tequila with the
braggarts.
Ay-ay-ay-ay
Jalisco don't give up
It comes from my soul
To shout with passion from my open
chest
To throw out this shout
How beautiful is Jalisco[ word of
honor.
For women, Jalisco is first
The same in Los Altos as in
Over there in La Caiiada
Women very beautiful, with very cute
faces
That's how the females of
Guadalajara are.
In Jalisco they want the good one
Because it's dangerous to want the
bad one.
For a brown-skinned woman fire a lot
of bullets
And sing under the moon in Chapala.
Return to the chorus with the text from" ... abrir todo el pecho" repeated.
Dlustration 3.8 Lyrics for "Ay, Jalisco!"
98
Conductor Score
Ay, Jalisco No Te Rajes
Rancheraltrans. L.G. Sobrino
1/,
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Vlollnl
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III
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Ay, Ta - I I S - ~ Ja-Irs - coJa-/is- ~ ttl
:-==i :
DlustratioD 3.9 Music Score for" Ay, Jalisco!"
99
Ay, Jalisco No Te Rajes/pg 2
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tie - nes tu no- vIa queles Gua
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100
Ay, JaIisco No Te Rajes/pg 3
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Ay, JaIisco No Te RajesJpg 7


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105
since the rhythmic patterns are those of a polea, it has a musical resonance that can
overlap with other Mexican descent dance forms. Mariachi ensembles relate to their
audiences and often adjust repertoire to cater to their tastes and desires.
Because of this complex, Mexicano/Chicano popular musics can act reflectively
upon one another in social practice. In many parts of the Southwest, mariachis playing
"Ay JaHscot" at public gatherings or festivals can inspire people to take to the dance
floor in a modified two-step. This modified two-step, particularly in the Southwest and
most specifically in Texas, is strongly associated with conjunto music. Scholar Manuel
Peiia describes con junto music as a "highly popular type of accordion music. .. among
Texas-Mexicans (tejanos) beginning around 1930" (1985:ix). Indeed many pieces from
this con junto repertoire have found their way into the repertoire of Tejano mariachi
groups. In light of the fact that Tejano music has become an internationally recognized
popular music form particularly in the latter half of the twentieth century, it is no
wonder that its influence should be felt in the mariachi arena.
16
Among what is considered the most traditional part of the repertoire are pieces
that often have a strong Mexican regional identity. Although the sonjalisciense
(region ofJalisco) dominates the contemporary repertoire as far as regional pieces,
there are other types closely associated with mariachi performance. These pieces
simultaneously engender a specific Mexican regional identity and also how Mexican
descent communities in the U.S. create multi-layered ethnic identities during social
practice.
The huapango, associated with the Huasteco region, is usually based in a triple
meter with a manica extended over six beats. In addition to the characteristic
strumming pattern below, the huapango is also easily identified by the use of falsetto.
A beginning guitar or vihuela musician might start with the following pattern (see
illustration 3.10):
K
ey
17:..v downstrum
l' upstrum (thumb)
106
downstrum using the fingers in a fan
motion
golpel downstrum where sound is
..v stopped by the hand
D1ustration 3.10 Huapango Strumming Pattern
As evidenced in this example, the manico uses an ornamentation sometimes referred to as
a redoble- the sixteenth notes on the first upbeat of the second measure. In effect, the
sixteenth notes have "doubled" a space where an eighth note might have been executed.
In early stages, instrumentalists may learn the strum without the redoble.
One of the better known huapangos is "La Malagueiia" (The Woman from
Malaga). Again, La Malageuiia is constructed as a female body engendering nationalist,
regional identities (see Illustrations 3.11 and 3.12). The woman from Malaga, Spain, as
an object of desire embodies those ideals conceived as the height offemininity. The
complexity in evoking a Spanish model for Mexican beauty and refinement dredges up
the specter of promoting European based forms as culturally superior. By definition,
this comes at the expense of Indigenous or mestizo based forms. This dynamic is
further highlighted when realizing that the musical form dictates that a Mexican male
voices these desires.
This interplay is perhaps in no small way part of the conversations that surround
how people engage a Spanish ancestry. In referring to Americo Paredes, Manuel
107
Peiia mentions the non-adherence to "inferiority complexes born of the rape of
ancestral mothers by Spanish conquistadors" as the explanation for the "folklore of
machismo" as a symbolic alibi for "frustration rooted in other spheres" (1991:40). In a
sense, his comments are appropriate to the discussion at hand in illuminating the
politics invoked in creating and expressing a Spanish history by Mexican descent
people in the U.S. More pointedly, it highlights the struggles for cultural validation and
how those struggles engage forms seen as partially or primarily European based both
in form and content.
Transcription
Although the ethnomusicological debates over context sensitive analysis and
transcription are far from over (Herndon 1974, 1976; Kolinski 1976, 1977; Seeger
1958), for mariachi the fact remains that Western style notation and considerations of
pitch, timbre, and tuning are relevant to the mariachi experiences for both musicians and
listeners; however, they are relevant over a specific mariachi aesthetic that may use these
concepts for different purposes and end results. Several classically-trained university
musicians have over the years expressed to me astonishment over the technical and
interpretive skills exhibited by some of the best U.S. based mariachi musicians and
ensembles. As one University of Michigan undergraduate music performance trumpet
major recalled of his visit with Mariachi Cobre in Orlando, Florida, 18 "They did some
really incredible stuff. All kinds of stuff" The idea is that divisions between folk or
popular musics and Western classical musics remain more operative than perhaps one
might expect. The difficulty lies not in noting differences but in positing these
differences in value-laden judgments as the basis of musical inferiority/superiority.
The tenets of pitch, tuning, harmonic progression, vocal quality, sound production, and
instrumental technique can sometimes be invoked by classically trained
108
La Malageuiia
l.Que bonitos ojos tienes debajo esas
cejas, debajo esas cejas, que
bonitos ojos tienes.
Ellos me quieren mirar pero si tu no los
dejas, pero si tu no los dejas ni siquiera
parpadear.
Refrain:
The Woman from Malaga
1. What beautiful eyes you have
below those
eyebrows, below those two
eyebrows,
what beautiful eyes you have.
r want to look at them but if you
don't allow them, but if you don't
allow
them not even to blink-
Malagueiia salerosa, besar tus labios quisiera, Graceful woman from Malaga, I
want to
besar tus labios quisiera, malegueiia salerosa kiss your lips, I want to kiss your
lips,
y decirte nina hermosa, que eres linda y and to tell you lovely, young
woman that
hechicera como el candor de una rosa. you are beautiful and charming
like the purity of a rose.
2. Si por pobre me desprecias, yo te
concedo razen, yo te concedo razen,
si por pobre me desprecias.
Yo no te ofresco riquezas, te ofrezco
mi corazen, te ofresco mi corazen a cambio
de mis pobrezas.
(optional other second verse:
Con tus ojos me anunciabs que me amabas
tiernamente, que me amabas tiernamente.
2. If for poverty you scorn me, I
admit
you are right, I admit you are
right,
if for poverty you scorn me.
I don't offer you riches, r offer
you
my heart instead of my poverty.
(optional other second verse:
With your eyes you told me that
you
love me tenderly, that you loved
me tenderly.
Ingrata me traiciones cuando de ti estaba Ungrateful, you betrayed me
when
ausente, cuando de ti estaba ausente, r was away from you, when r
cuando de ti estaba ausente, de mi pasion was away from you, you
te burlabas. Refrain ridiculed my passion. Refrain
DIustration 3.11 Lyrics for "La Malagueiia"
109
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118
musiciansllisteners as the standard against which all other musics are evaluated.
In some instances, arguments can be made against such judgments by noting
that cultural conceptions of music and music making prevail that may have absolutely
nothing to do with the Western classical system. In the case of mariachi, we are faced
with a particularly interesting challenge. In its very definition as a mestizo musical
tradition, the tenets of a Western European musical system (by way of Spanish
influence) remain relevant in discussing the ways people learn, teach, and listen to this
music. Additionally, these considerations in terms of musical form and structure, as we
will see, are in themselves only the starting points for how one may "enter" a mariachi
song. The difficulty in approaching this topic is readily apparent in reflecting upon the
various interviews given and experiences those interviews highlighted. Mariachi
musicians and audience participants engender musical experiences that vary from
conservatory training (both U.S. and Mexico), traditional apprenticeships with well-
known performers or groups, community classes, to self-taught individuals or some
combination of these. Issues of musical notation have also in recent years highlighted a
sense of professionalism among the most respected U.S. groups in that young musicians
aspiring to membership in these elite groups are expected to be skilled in both written
notation and aural transmission- meaning that they can equally learn new music by
listening to recordings or hearing the ensemble play through the piece a few times. In
addition, musicians are aware of their own training as it relates to these elite groups and
have varying opinions as to the importance of music notation.
Perhaps the most extreme ends of a continuum of opinions expressed are
exemplified by the following two speakers:
Music [reading] lets you learn things very quickly- a certain arrangement
or a song you don't have time to learn [by ear] with someone. I think all
the best [mariachi] musicians have to know how to read because that
makes you a complete musician. If you don't read well, like I tell the
kids, you're really limiting yourself. I see it as an important part of getting
119
a good musical education and being a professional musician (California
mariachi school program director).
Well- sometimes you hear these groups who use only music and they just
don't have that sound- together. They get so busy trying to read the notes
on the page they forget what they are supposed to sound like. The ear is
the final judge and listening to good groups perform and good singers is
the key. Reading music is OK if you're not dependent on it but learning
how to listen is far better because that's what makes a good musician-
not reading notes. Yes, I think reading music for mariachis is less
important because listening is so key (professional mariachi from
California).
Both speakers work with young students. Interestingly, both reflected upon their musical
training experiences in general to further illustrate their points. The tenor of musical
development and personal relationship to the tradition emerge as salient factors.
In the case of the first speaker, a Chicano born and raised in California, his early
training included elementary school and high school orchestra programs as well as
classical violin training in high school and college. The second speaker also began in an
elementary school program (trumpet in band) and lost interest in school programs in high
school, choosing to play in a number of neighborhood rock bands. Both speakers came to
mariachi music as musicians in their late twenties. While both referenced a strong
listening background to mariachi music and traditional Mexicano musics in general,
neither had played the music before becoming involved with local mariachi groups. In
some respects, both musicians are speaking from their overall association with
institutionalized musical experiences. There remains a tendency to associate musical
notation as a tool primarily of Western classical music training. Historical knowledge
interprets mariachi as primarily an aural tradition- "the ear is the final judge."
It is under these kind of aesthetic arguments that issues of mariachi
instrumentation, repertoire, musical interpretation, and contemporary use of musical
transcriptions enliven the debate as to the importance of this tradition. In the end, and
perhaps most notably, it is only by understanding mariachi as a culturally constructed
120
icon that we begin to see the socio-cultural positioning of individual speakers emerge
as ideologically based expressions. The communal ownership and sense of place and
time in people relating to that tradition and actively creating the points along which
the tradition is defined; moreover, lyrics, musical elements, and practices emerge as the
central theses for those debates. And if a trap drum set enters along the way, it perhaps
only indicates how much the richer ongoing discussion can be. It is a discussion that
will endure as part of the social fabric as long as Mexican descent people engage in
cultural retrenchment to validate, historicize, and produce knowledge from an unequal
plane of socio-cultural empowerment.
121
Notes to Chapter ill
1 Mariachi suit or outfit
2 A University of California at Los Angeles student of Japanese descent was intrigued by
the taped recording of Los Camperos performing this piece one evening as part of a
dinner show for a number of Japanese tourists. She said that "Sakura" ("Cherry
Blossom") was a traditional song recognized by most Japanese as it had often been taught
as part of a school education.
3 In an interesting and relevant aside, international tensions illustrate how mariachi has
become a symbol heavily invested in through musical ownership. Nydia Rojas, an
emergent mariachi prodigy, (by age 16 she made numerous international and national
appearances and recorded her first professional album, Nydia Rojas BMG ARCD 8823,
1996, to critical acclaim), sung at the 1996 Mariachi Espectacular in San Antonio,
Texas. So well was her performance received that some audience members were
overheard to say that she must be a Mexicana (a Mexican national) to sing like that.
The speakers were of course Mexican nationals themselves. Nydia Rojas was born in
California.
4 Helmholtz system where middle C equals c
1
and the C two octaves below middle C
equals C.
S The first three strings are made of a thick nylon while the last three are usually made out
of a thick metal alloy. Although open strings are freely used, the left hand must be fairly
strong and agile in using sufficient finger arch and pressure to produce a "clean" sound.
Some of the fingering positions use the 3rd and 4th fingers (where the index finger is 1)
together to finger one note. Also, the lowest string may sometimes be fingered by the
thumb. A delicate balancing act must be maintained between the fingers being used to
equally distribute strength.
6 Several guitarron players have commented that while they may have a personal
preference between machine and wood peg tuning systems, both serve equally well on a
good quality instrument. Some of the poorer quality instruments have wood pegs that are
ill-fitted and slip too easily.
7 A notable exception is university, high s c h o o ~ or junior high/middle school mariachi
programs where directors encourage more than one student to learn the instrument. It
assists in assuring that at least one guitarron player is available for engagements and that
a more experienced player helps train an upcoming, younger player.
8 The son jarocho is defined by Sheehy as a "musical-choreographic genre native to the
southern coastal plain of Veracruz" (1979:1). Although a distinct form of Mexican
regional, mestizo music, son jarochos such as "La Bamba" have become a part of the
mariachi repertoire.
122
9 The finger picks used are usually made of plastic and worn on the index and middle
fmgers of the right hand. The pick attaches as a plastic band circling part of the finger as
a rounded piece of plastic curves over the top of the finger. This piece extends well
beyond the fingertip so that it appears as a long fingernail. Players using both natural
fingernails and plastic tips note that each has a slightly different sound quality and that
the plastic picks perhaps more easily produce a louder sound. Most musicians agree that
the decision to use picks or fingernails comes from individual experience. An interesting
example is a young mother who used finger picks after she had a baby as she wanted to
minimize the possibility of hurting her child while bathing her and changing diapers. She
liked the finger picks so much that she continued to use them long after the child was out
of diapers.
10 Caballito is a derivative form of the word caballo which means horse. The caballito
designation is sometimes marked where notated eighth notes are played in a rhythm
pattern perhaps most closely described as a dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth
note. The idea is that there is a "tripping" rhythm created evocative of a galloping horse's
hooves. The bow is moved quite rapidly with little or no vibrato and creates a hard edged
sound by digging into the strings with great pressure.
11 Pearlman uses the tern "hypothetical" in deference to the fact that pre-Columbian
musical studies must rely primarily on limited sources of archeological artifacts and
representative iconography, instrument reconstructions, and descriptions from Spanish
chroniclers at the time of contact as well as indigenous religious codices.
12 It was during excavation for the subway lines that many of the initial archeological
finds were made which gave rise to this site as a site of inquiry and a major museum.
13 Unless otherwise noted, all English translations are done by the author.
14 The initial idea of an evocation of a particular historical past came from a conversation
with Manuel Peiia in Fresno, California 9/97.
IS Ibid.
16 It is on these kinds of observations that many people associated with mariachi
performance define it primarily as a music group with a particular musical style- and
not dependent upon a well-defined repertoire exclusive to its traditions.
17 I have tried to use a notation system that best approximates the systems used in
various instruction materials in contemporary teaching.
18 Mariachi Cobre is among the most respected U.S. based ensembles. In addition to
touring internationally, they regularly participate as instructors and performers at national
mariachi conferences and workshops.
CHAPTER IV
CANTANDO DE A YER (SINGING OF THE PAST) FOR THE FUTURE
There is indeed something almost palpable about the excitement generated when
hundreds of young mariachi musicians come together with recognized mariachi
professionals as a part of a mariachi conference and workshops. Within the last five
years, there has been a relative mushrooming of annual conferences throughout parts
of the Southwest. These events have enjoyed increasing popularity and garnered the
attentions of the general public and educators as potential sources of positive
reinforcement and development of latent cultural pride among young students.l Some
of the largest conferences and workshops held in Tucson, Alburquerque, and Southern
California, have emerged with a pronounced public profile as surrounding communities
become familiar with the event through increased media exposure- i.e. newspaper
articles, features in local radio and television broadcast programs. Often beginning as
smaller, more regionally defined events, these larger programs have evolved into
international phenomena as their participants come from throughout the U.S. and
Mexico. In many respects, the kinds of grass roots organization integral to the
formation of mariachi conferences and workshops and their continued success draws
upon existing school programs and the emerging field of mariachi professionals. It is
within these conferences that issues concerning performance practice, training, public
presentation, and history are undergoing critical discussion of the tradition's
contemporary practice and its future. Directors, students, professionals of all levels, and
community members engage in an intensive event that frequently provides the impetus
for improving existing programs as well as developing new ones.
123
124
A roomful of guitarron players with instruments (that look bigger than many
of the young musicians themselves) can be an inspiring sight.
2
When I see these kids ... and all that they have accomplished to even
be here [at the mariachi conference and workshops], I get really
excited. Some of these [mariachi school] groups work hard all year to
raise the funds to be able to come here. With my group, we hold fund-
raisers, all kinds of fund-raisers-- car washes, bake sales, concerts
where we ask for a donation and the majority of the funds go
towards making this trip. The community really fets behind us. For
example, we have a dinner dance that the V.F.W. hosts ... Since this
[mariachi] group is considered an extra-curricular activity, they
[students] have to keep their grades up in order to participate. I use
this trip as an incentive to get them to improve and be dedicated to
practicing. I say, "Hey, look- you are going to be around some of the
best mariachi musicians in the world. Do your best and take pride in
what you can accomplish." (high school mariachi director)
The costs of bringing even a small mariachi school group (eight or nine members
but often at least a dozen or more) are not inconsiderable, especially taking into
account registration fees, lodging, and travel expenses. In addition, even some of the
better known school groups exist on the fringes of school budgeting priorities and
must contend with minimal funds on a yearly basis for such things as instrument
purchases and repairs
4
, music, trajes, sombreros,s registration fees, and food and travel
expenses.
6
Although school based mariachi programs provide a large number of
participants at these conferences and workshops, participants may also be from
amateur, professional or semi-professional
7
groups or interested individuals who
represent a wide range of ages and experiences.
Briefly, the importance of these events on national and intemationallevels
8
reveal nuanced discussions of how mariachi educators and musicians are seeking to
shape the performative character and quality of mariachi as a living tradition. In this
sense, these events highlight a unique microcosm for understanding how a Mexican
performative tradition continues as a vibrant part of urban life. Namely, how people of
Mexican descent are engaging mariachi as a way to reinforce and explore positive
125
images of Mexicanismo through creative artistic expression. Far from presenting a
picture of uniformity and communal agreement, these events exist as active sites
through which intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic ideological conceptions embedded in issues
of language, class, age, and gender reveal the contradictions that mark social
interaction as a highly mediated complex of experiences. In this sense, the structure of
these events becomes the organizing principle through which social meaning is produced.
Mariachi Conference and Workshops Format
Typical mariachi conference and workshops follow structures that alternate
between smaller class contexts (instrumental and voice workshops usually divided
according to ability and experience), group meetings (full group rehearsals, lectures,
panel discussions), and performances. These events take place over the course of
several days. The following gives an example of what the first day might look like:
Registration 8-8:50 a.m.
Orientation/lntroductions 9a.m.
Break Out into InstrumentaINoice Workshops 1O-11:30a.m.
LUNCH
Showmanship Workshop 1-2p.m.
Break Out into InstrumentallVoice Workshops 2:15-3:15p.m.
Full Group Rehearsal3:30-4:30p.m.
The break outs into instrumental workshops are usually divided by instrument
(trumpet, violin, guitar, guitarron, and vihuela) and playing ability (Le. beginning
violin, intermediate violin, advanced violin). The melody instruments (violin and
trumpet) are usually further differentiated into 1
st
, 2
nd
, and even 3rd parts.
9
Each session
126
is directed by one or more professional individuals who act as directors in teaching a
specific set of pre-determined repertoire. Depending on early registration procedures,
some students receive a folder of music well in advance of the actual conference and
workshops. Music directors and teachers then have an opportunity to prepare students
to take full advantage of the workshops. The suggestion is that such basic elements as
fingering, pitch, and rhythmic values can be learned beforehand so that issues of style,
ensemble, and specific mariachi playing techniques can be focused on for the duration
of the workshops. It also inspires confidence in musicians who have less experience
and/or feel insecure about the level of their skills. As one participant illuminated:
When we come here, we already have learned the music as far as notes
and most of the rhythms. But it's when you get here and you are
surrounded by all these professional mariachis that you really get a sense
of how to play this music. You can listen to recordings for things like
style but it really can't replace the experience of working with
someone who you know who plays with Mariachi Vargas or Mariachi
Cobre as a professional. They are the best! I like having the time to
prepare myself when we can get folders of music beforehand. Then you
don't have to struggle so much and I have this friend who is a good
violinist but she is really shy so for her having music beforehand lets
her get prepared so that we all can enjoy [the conference] as much as
possible. (15 year-old female conference participant)
The issues of public presentation as expressed by this young participant involve a
complex web of concerns generated by a sense of confidence and the meanings
invoked when an ethnically defined tradition becomes the site for cultural
intimacy/exchange and knowledge. Adequate preparation isn't simply a question of
presenting a musical competency for the purposes of forwarding a professional or
personal presence. This is not to say that competitive issues based on musical
performance aren't part of this context.
lO
Not insignificantly, the concerns of how well
individuals perform within a nurturing but also discerning context speaks volumes
about how participants approach these events. A great deal is invested by a young
person exploring new skills in a supportive environment where they literally walk
127
among their idols who function as role models in everything from music to dress,
language, and general deportment.
I can't get over being here [conference and workshops] because these
are the people I listen to and hear play all the time at home on
recordings and everything. They're so good and me with my little
guitar that came from one of the pawn shops. .. I know I can improve
and get better so there isn't really a better place for this. My family is
very proud whenever we [the school mariachi group with whom the
speaker plays] perform so this is another way to see ourselves improve. It
means a lot to me as a Mexicano to be able to play this music well.
Some people think that because it's Mexican music that it's simple or
really easy to play. I tell them that they don't know the long history or
very much about the great musicians-- real professionals- who play this
music. (17 year old male student from a California school mariachi
program)
These statements read collectively illuminate the seriousness with which the
event is approached from the perspective of youthful participants. Musical
competency and public presentation of those skills are marked by an intense
evocation of historical meanings which engage cultural conceptions of time, place, and
honor as central to the music making process. In this sense, it is not enough to perform
well for the sake of musical execution. What is invested in this execution by these
speakers are their abilities to confirm and explore concrete images ofMexicanismo as
positive aspects of social life. The cultural arts become not just the symbolic
representations of those issues but the very materials from which those social realities
are created. This is perhaps no better realized than in the musical repertoire forwarded
at these events.
The predetermined repertoire is reflective of the organizers' perspectives on
what pieces address a wide range of skill levels and what a final show concert can
realistically include within the given time constraints. The 1991 Tucson International
Mariachi Conference included in its folder of music: ''£1 Zopilote Mojado"ll; ''EI Son
del Gavihin,,12; ''El Viajero,,13; "La Jota Tapatia',14; "Serenata Tapatia" IS; and "Las
Trompeterias.,,16 In addition, ''El Son de la Negra" 17 was added as a piece which all
128
participants already knew and for which there was no urgent need for a notated
version. All of these pieces, with the exception of "Las Trompeterias," are well-known
mariachi standards that provide exposure to core repertoire over a variety of song types.
They would be considered songs at the heart of the repertoire of any able mariachi
ensemble. In addition, "Las Trompeterias" served as a potent reminder that newly
composed songs remain an important part of mariachi as an evolving tradition. Of all
the pieces included in the folder, only a small number were performed by participants
in the final concert program. The culmination of the conference and workshops is
usually a final public concert in which conference participants take the stage with
the professional groups and teachers. It is often a highlight for young students to stand
alongside their mentors and play in a large public venue for an enthusiastic
audience. l8 After their participation, they enjoy the rest of the performance as audience
members while paying careful attention to all stylistic and interpretive elements
illustrated by the professional groups.
Other elements included in conferences and workshops may be showcase
events where individual ensembles give a public performance. In the case of the San
Antonio conference and workshops, groups are judged by a panel and only the
winners within particular categories are invited to take the stage at the final concert
(see Illustration 4.1). Informal exchanges in and around officially scheduled events
often promote small groups of participants playing music for the sheer pleasure of it in
whatever space may be available. Some conferences make rehearsal rooms available
for this purpose as well as to encourage impromptu lessons between participants and
instructors. It is not uncommon to find, outside a building or in the hallways, groups of
participants banded together intent on playing/singing a well-known standard. The
opening strains of music produced in this fashion by just a handful of musicians can
quickly lead to numerous individuals joining the "call" to playa certain song. As one
observer wryly noted, there is sometimes "more playing going on outside the
129
Illustration 4.1 University of TeDs at Pan American Mariachi Ensemble
1999 San Antonio Mariachi Conference and Workshops
130
workshops than in them!" The instructors and professional musicians themselves are
also prone to forming such impromptu ensembles, though more often with their peers
as opposed to younger conference participants. The total effect is one of immersion in
mariachi performance and interaction whereby participants meet a wide range of
musicians while discussing such topics as playing techniques, instrument makers and
qualities, the best places to purchase mariachi trajes, sombreros, decorations, etc., and
of course the chisme of who is doing what as far as tours, recording, and
teaching.
19
The overall effect is perhaps best registered in the faces of young, first-time
participants who may initially be intimidated by the talents of more experienced players
and sheer number of musicians. By the end of the conference, these first-time
participants are among the most enthusiastic and confident in their newly bolstered
self-confidence and command of repertoire. 20
This immersion concept is a conscious part of the organizers' agenda and often
taken as a hallmark of the event's success. In another respect, the concept reveals an
enormously potent event characterized by its duality as a publicly acknowledged event
with a somewhat private, highly controlled environment. When a local television news
crew came to a Southwestern mariachi conference and workshops, they were allowed to
tape the large group rehearsals and interview specific instructors; however, when they
asked permission to enter the individual teaching classrooms, permission was granted for
only a very limited time and place (approximately 10 minutes in the violin sectional
rehearsal). The concern was that the classes be exposed to undue disruption and that
the camera equipment might prove a distraction or threat to participants. Further
supporting these observations is that some conferences use participant buttons or tags
that allow only registered participants to enter workshop rooms and rehearsal halls.
On the face of these observations, it may appear that controlling the environment
is primarily a matter of these more practical issues. It is indeed not uncommon for
conferences and workshops in general to distinguish participants and control access to
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certain events; however, the incident with the local news crew was later recounted by
organizers as a potential concern in how the event was represented to the public at large.
Although most organizers are enthusiastic about the public presence the event can gain,
they are also equally wary of mis-representations of the tradition and the purposes of the
workshops. One instructor went on to relate that a previous year's coverage had
depicted the event as a Mexicano social gathering filled with "happy music." In other
words, they felt the coverage had misrepresented the seriousness and dedication
required on the part of participants and instructors. A few felt that it had been carried as
a "local color piece" that did little to communicate what the event represented.
Some of the smaller conferences and workshops may exist on a less elaborate
level with a few workshop classes over the course of a day with a final concert given
only by professionals that same evening. The larger events have a tendency to last
anywhere from approximately two to four days. In addition to annual conference and
workshop structures that reflect an ongoing evolution from year to year, the
expectation is that there will be schedule adjustments made during the course of the
event itself. Commitments made by professional groups and the resultant instructors
vary from year to year in terms of the specific individuals; however, a certain group
of teachers, educators, and professionals may become closely associated with a particular
conference and workshops. Over the years, a handful of individuals may emerge as the
core directors, organizers, and teachers. Sometimes these commitments can take on
unexpected or unannounced participation by individuals and groups whose
professional obligations may not allow confirmed commitments until the actual event
itself. Schedules may be adjusted to take advantage of the presence of certain
individuals who may take on a previously unannounced workshop or event. Instructors
and teachers also carefully monitor participants' progress and the addition of extra
rehearsals is not uncommon. In the end, the structure of the event is meant to remain as
132
flexible as possible in order to respond well to the unforeseen vagaries that inevitably
arise with the number of participants and professionals involved.
The structure of these events can be seen as an interesting interpretation of
how modes of artistic cultural expression are prioritized for the purposes of enhancing
the learning experience under specific aesthetic expectations. Note for example the
difference of opinions over the inevitable shifts in schedule:
I don't really understand why they do this [change the schedule]. You
would think that they would have things a little better organized ...
The registration is also a little chaotic because everyone tries to do it at
the same time and inevitably things go wrong with people's registration
so that it takes time to figure things out (speaker 1).
It's great to see everyone[ Registration is really the first time you see
who and who is here in one big group so there is lots going on as far as
people offering un abrazo [giving a hug] to their friends. Last year,
members of Mariachi showed up as a surprise and they
gave this presentation on showmanship that they fit in the schedule. It
was really good and everyone was so excited that they came (speaker
2).
Speaker 1 is a relative newcomer to mariachi conferences and workshops. She
admitted some impatience with changes that occur with relatively short notice and, in
her opinion, in a haphazard fashion where word of mouth is often the initial mode of
notification to conference participants. It was not until participants were gathered in a
general meeting a few hours later when changes in the schedule were officially
announced and confirmed. She went on further to elaborate that her experiences were
still relatively new as far as mariachi conferences and workshops and that most of her
expectations were formed according to other kinds of professional workshops and
conferences. Speaker 2 is, comparatively speaking, a veteran of mariachi conferences
and workshops- having attended eight events in two states over four years.
Many readers of this thesis will be familiar with the phrases ''Latino (central)
time" or "Chicano (central) time,,21 as used to describe a flow of time that is seen as
markedly different than that held strictly accountable by such things as wrist watches or
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clock faces. In a joking manner, it also acknowledges those time pieces by noting
that things within Latino communities, particularly social functions, can sometimes
rarely begin at the time listed/announced. For example, would-be participants at a
Latino popular music dance who come at the designated start time of 8p.m. would likely
find themselves with organizers and band members doing sound checks and
adjustments. Por diOS
22
_ don't come until at least 9p.m. and even then you'll be early.
Some critics may see this as an indication of poor organizational skills or even
"sloppiness." On the contrary, the significance of such time conceptions often have
more to do with an attention to detail that is predicated upon thorough preparation and
the maximizing of opportunities. The primary focus on the mariachi conference and
workshops for its ability to be mounted as well as possible means a flexible
association with a given time frame. The multi-day frame invites change within an
overarching concept of time where particular goals may be reached and enhanced by
this flexibility, even if hourly/daily timetables are "compromised." What should perhaps
be patently clear is that mariachi conferences and workshops are conceived of having
such significance that every opportunity is maximized for the good of the conference
participants and overall success. The primary underpinnings of such attitudes are
remarkably consistent among conference instructors. The following is representative
of those sentiments:
We may only get one shot at some of these students. Maybe they won't
make it back again. Even for the ones who do return, we only get
them for a few years. You have to take advantage of instilling the pride
and knowledge. If they can take away from this something that will be
with them their whole lives- that's powerful. (instructor and community
leader)
Even though these events are highly celebrated for what they may accomplish, the
subtext is equally informed by the apparent limitations they involve. Most notably. as
evidenced above, the focus is on what needs exist and how they can be best met in this
context. The strength of those convictions also explain how a perceived "weakness" or
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"sloppiness" is actually an integral part of an aesthetic priority that recognizes the
limitations of time and resources as part of an effort to maximize these opportunities.
This becomes somewhat clearer in reconsidering the earlier remarks made by speakers
1 and 2.
Both Speaker 1 and Speaker 2 are of Mexican descent. One might have
assumed, and not entirely without merit,23 that the speaker registering frustration
over the apparent fluctuations in scheduling changes and the flow of events was perhaps
of non-Mexican descent. The assumption would be that Speaker 1 apparently showed
unfamiliarity with this over-arching concept of time that allows for great flexibility in
response to the significance of the event, the event's capacity for education, and
acknowledgment of opportunities that may be extremely limited. In another kind of
analysis, an interpretive explanation that focused on an ethnic identity as the key to
understanding how cultural conceptions of time inform this context might follow. The
connection is far from appearing quite that seamless both in its complexity and depth
for cultural expression. Although the concept of Chicano or Latino Central Time can
be said to be within the knowledge of most Mexican descent U.S. individuals, the
various ascriptions and applications of that concept varies widely (as well as its
appropriateness). 24
As Speaker 1 further related, the expectation of the time schedule was based
on what she considered a professional conference and workshops. Those observations
depended upon concepts of time that were founded on notions of efficiency as
measured quantitatively and qualitatively by, among other things, how closely a
specific time schedule was followed. They came from another set of expectations about
what a conference and workshops should achieve and how it should be organized.
Notably, these expectations came from those ideals that Speaker 1 had internalized
from her experiences in first academic settings (conferences attended as a university
student) and later professional contexts in her role as a research analyst in a major U.S
135
corporation. Her standards for evaluation, as she reflected later, might not necessarily
be compatible with the overarching goals of a specifically mariachi conference and
workshops. She also expressed extreme satisfaction with the quality of instruction and
number of playing opportunities.
Speaker 2 also had previous, non-mariachi experiences with the format of
conferences and workshops as a middle school teacher- inservice days,25 educational
conferences, etc. The difference between the two in their assessments hinged on how
familiar each was with specific mariachi conference and workshop goals that shaped
the progression of these events and what constituted success within this particular
social framework. Adding yet another dimension, organizers themselves critically reflect
on concepts of time as related to general expectations of a conference and workshop
format:
Yes, the conference/workshop format gives us a kind of organizational
legitimacy. When we present ourselves as a professional event, it helps
people-- like potential sponsors-- understand that we are organized ... I
hate to say it but sometimes people think a bunch of Mexicans don't
know how to run something like this very welL We've been doing that
now for years and you can't argue with our success. Still, sometimes
people have a difficult time understanding. (conference organizer)
These considerations, in turn, inform how the format itself evolves to fit needs defined
by social relationships within mariachi as a performative practice. Richard Bauman has
suggested that folklore performance is:
the key to the real integration between people and lore on the empirical
leveL This is to conceptualize the social base of folklore in terms of the
actual place of lore in social relationships and its use in
communicative interaction.
Now, once we have shifted our focus from the abstract association of a
corpus of folklore with an aggregation of people to the integration of
folklore with people at its very source, in performance, we may
reexamine the empirical utility or conceptual validity of viewing folk
groups in terms of shared identity (1972:33).
136
This challenge in how we define ethnic groups in relation to a musical cultural
expression is especially relevant in the current context as the mariachi conference and
workshops become a public space through which notions of tradition, history, and
ethnic identity become focal points. The legitimacy of these concerns then become part
of the ambivalent attitudes expressed through critical commentary by organizers and
participants as to the structure and timing of these events. In other words, the event itself
becomes a marker of cultural competency and ethnic pride as it must respond to both
internal and external modes of criticism that may employ very different criteria. These
modes are neither wholly imposed nor fully adopted without critical reflection. The
fragmentation of these considerations may be seen as stemming from the diverse
population that a mariachi conference and workshops seeks to address.
Participants
The majority of participants must contend with financial considerations
that go well beyond registration fees. Travel fees and lodging fees make up the
bulk of the expense for participants who must travel from long distances.
26
As has
already been noted, this is a particular hardship for school based ensembles where
school funding may be minimal and the students' socio-economic status may prove
prohibitive to funding such trips from family resources. Students having access to
mariachi conferences and workshops are required to have a basic musical knowledge
as well as their own musical instruments. Both of these requirements assume a certain
level of socio-economic access that can address these requirements. It is not
necessarily a requirement that students have private musical instruction. Public
institutions make available musical instruction as part of their curriculum, although
mariachi instruction may be considered an extra-curricular event (outside of regular
instructional time) or, even as part of regular school curriculum, accessible only to
137
those who maintain a certain level of academic success and who can provide their
own instruments.
27
Several of the largest mariachi conferences and workshops (Le.
Tucson and Alburquerque) make a concentrated effort to attract local students as well
as students in outlying areas where a school bus commute each day is possible.
Strategies such as "carpooling" bus rides (thereby splitting the costs over several
schools), ensuring students pack a lunch, and community fund raising activities all
figure into the equation of broadening access to these events. Given the requirements
for a certain level of musical competency, participants tend to be primarily of high
school and junior high or middle school ages.
In addition to student participants, adults of varying experiences and
knowledge also form a considerable part of the total participants. The adult ages and
abilities vary widely. Some may come from semi-professional or professional groups
while others may come as individuals not specifically affiliated with a specific group
but interested in further developing skills. These gatherings have also become popular
destinations for individuals who have in effect retired from mariachi as a profession
but who still have a great desire to play with others.
For me, the time has really gone for being a professional and that's
alright. My love for this music hasn't diminished over the years. There
are still some men my age or older who still do this work professionally.
It's difficult work and even if you are retired from another job, you still
miss that time with your family or grand kids. I've got two grand kids and
1'd rather spend the time with them than be gone most evenings and
weekends. .. I come here to play this music with people who
appreciate its history and great beauty.
(62 year old retired gardener who also worked as a professional mariachi
for over 40 years)
The desire to play with others who come to the tradition with a sense of respeto
(respect) is often what motivates many of the professional or semi-professional
individuals in general. There are a few retired individuals who have become
recognizable fixtures at a number of conferences and workshops throughout the
138
Southwest. Indeed. it is not uncommon to find particular groups or individual
participants (students and adults alike) who regularly attend a given event or events on
a consistent basis. The development of lasting relationships comes to include
particularities of past events and the details that unfolded in shared experiences. These
inevitable comparisons lead to inter-group and individual exchanges that may extend
well beyond the confines of the conference itself Professional fraternal relationships
also inform these exchanges as these events draw a number of people together who
otherwise may have sporadic contact with one another. It is a place to "catch-up" on
old and new business. For example, one musician, during a rehearsal break. shares
recent photographs offamily members while others recount stories relating to touring
and performances or how their friends in other places are doing.
Because of work and personal commitments, many adult participants may
choose to attend only on the weekend days, especially if they are from the local area.
They can schedule participation around work and personal commitments as well as
defray participation costs by not having to contend with hotel or travel expenses. The
general adult participation is also marked by different senses of how the conference
best serves varying interests.
I come nearly every year. It's right here so why not take advantage of
it? I don't play in the final concert because I can only come maybe
two of the days and that's not enough rehearsal time. I'm not a great
musician though I really enjoy playing this music. My father taught
me how to play when I was little and we learned then by ear so the
music isn't very easy for me to read. If I can hear it a few times then I
can join in. I also don't do the final concert because that's really for
the kids and I'm happy to sit in the audience and listen. There are some
very talented kids here (63 year old man from Arizona, retired
construction worker).
The speaker clearly shows how the differences in ages can effect a participant's view
of hislher role in the overall structure of the conference. Although it is theoretically
possible that adult participants could end up in any of the given workshops as far as
139
the different levels, most tend to bring experience and skills that allow them to
participate in at least the intermediate or advanced levels. The youngest participants,
with some notable exceptions, tend to gravitate towards the beginner levels. As with
many other musical traditions, mariachi also has its share of child prodigies and
extremely gifted musicians whose young ages belie their high degree of skill and
competency. A recent example of this is the career or Nydia Rojas who at the young
age of seventeen recorded her first solo CD with Sony Discos. She had already been
impressing audiences with her mature singing style as a member of Mariachi Reyna, a
Southern California-based all women's group.
Ostensibly, participation is open to anyone who has the desire to participate and
who can manage to attend conference events. While it is clear that these events are
marked as a Mexicano space, some participants of non-Mexican descent can be found.
A family of participants from the California coastal region has become quite weIl-
known for their skills and attendance at several conferences and workshops. They are
sometimes referred to as the "hueritos from California.,,28 Their presence and the
presence of other non-Mexican descent people do cause commentary and discussion
among Mexicano participants who express a wide range of opinions. Like other
participants, non-Mexican descent participants form relationships based on friendships
and mutual respect; however, the questions and "novelty" of their presence persists in
this Mexicano space as an inclusive agenda remains highly mediated by racial issues.
From this perspective, the attitudes of non-Mexicano participants become critical as
Mexicano participants formulate perspectives about their presence:
To me, mariachi has an ambiente
29
that's marked byamistad'° where you
gain conjianztl
l
working with other musicians. That's what I think we
try to do here. We teach people that in how we approach the music
with the respect it deserves. As long as a person gives that respect,
than I think it's great if they want to play. It is a beautiful tradition and
I can understand how someone who is not Mexican can be very
attracted to it. One of my best friends is an African American school
140
teacher who plays vihuela. He has a great love for this music and I don't
mind sharing that with him. Again, he has a tremendous respect for the
tradition. I don't think anyone who is really interested in playing is
going to be here [at the conference and workshops] with a bad attitude.
(mariachi violin instructor)
Though this speaker as a bi-lingual individual is equally at ease in either Spanish or
English, he tellingly uses concepts in Spanish in code-switching to explain his
meaning. In his mind, as he confided later, these words more accurately explain the
character and general spirit of mariachi than their English translations could. In effect,
only those terms and conceptions in Mexican culture could adequately express those
feelings. It may seem an insignificant point but it actually gives much relevancy to the
idea that though non-Mexican descent participants may be welcomed under concepts
of friendship and sharing, their presence invokes a space of critical commentary that
reveals the nuances of inter-cultural tensions as expressed in the following:
I do think it's important that this event remain mostly for Mexicanos. It's
so important for us to have a place where we know, and they [the
students] know, our culture is respected and made public for our own
benefit. There aren't a lot of white participants here and the ones that
are do have that respect I think. There is a kind of amistad in mariachi
that makes it very open. I personally feel fine about that as long as the
event is rooted in the Mexican community and for primarily Mexican
participants. (father of high school mariachi trumpet player)
I don't think they [non Mexican descent people] have to be thrown out
of the conference. But I do sometimes think like, "Hey! Don't you have
enough places for you already? What are you doing crowding in here?"
(15 year old female vihuela player)
Learning to respect others is the key. The kids get exposed to the idea
that Mexican culture has something valuable to offer them but also
can be something others [non Mexican descent people] see as good. But
I think one of the great things about the conference is that we are in a
place with so many other Mexicanos where you can really enjoy
yourself and feel confident about your culture and heritage. I think if
we had too many of them [non-Mexican descent participants] that it
wouldn't be the same. (39 year old male guitarron player)
I'm sorry to say that some of them [non-Mexican descent] participants
just don't have the feel for this music. They don't know the culture or
141
the background very well. Seeing them learn more isn't what this is
about. Sure, if they want to learn something I'm not going to say ''No,
go away." There are other places they can go to learn this music--
maybe they can learn from someone in the area where they live or a
university or college gives classes. Here [at the conference], I think this
is more for us [Mexicanos]. They [non-Mexican descent participants]
can always go to the concert or any of the other performances. (48 year
old guitar player)
I know some of the students see the white people here and kind of look
at them a little funny because of trying to figure out why they are here.
I don't think we've ever really had any major problems or anything like
that. Some kids do get not exactly upset but thinking more like, ''Why
are they here?" you know, like questioning. I've talked to a few [kids]
and like I always tell them- they have to learn how to handle all kinds
of different situations in life where because they are Mexican
American they have to deal with people who might not like or respect
them or their culture or understand very much about them. Those
attitudes and tensions are unfortunately things they have to learn to deal
with in order to survive. (middle school mariachi director)
These remarks show how issues of inclusivity in mariachi within the conference and
workshops context exist as part of a larger conversation in which racial attitudes,
cultural stereotypes, and ethnic identity prevail in how participants view themselves
and interpret the participation of non-Mexican descent participants. In this way, issues
of cultural competency and respect become salient factors in evaluating the premise of
the conference and its responsibilities to Mexican descent people.
From the other side of this issue of non-Mexican descent participants, at least
one white student of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor El Mariachi Michicano
ensemble spoke to me about what he might expect at his first mariachi conference and
workshops in San Antonio, Texas. He expressed concern over the fact that he would
be a ''white guy" playing the guitarron. Although this individual did not end up
attending the conference because of other work commitments, his concerns reveal
that even potential non-Mexican descent musicians are aware of the racial tensions
from a perspective that examines personal comfort level and the difficulties that may
accompany a white or non-Mexican descent presence in a Mexicano context. Ifwhite
142
participants as yet are not cognizant about these issues prior to the event, they soon
become so through the process of establishing their participation. As a non-Mexican
descent participant confessed:
I wouldn't stay if someone told me to get out. As I look at it, I'm a
guest here and I'll come as long as I think I'm made welcome. I love
playing this music and probably don't do it very well- but what a
wonderful place to come and learn from people who are professionals
(27 year old male guitar player).
As another non-Mexican descent participant further illuminated, the tensions are felt
even in the friendship that may be extended under the agenda of inclusivity:
I've been coming to these events for three years now. I get a little tired
of people looking at me like what am I doing here? I can understand
that to a point- I mean look at how Mexicans are treated in general. On
the other hand, I think people should look at me as an individual and
then decide what they think of me being here. Most of them do that (50
year old guitar player).
These last comments focus discussion on the very issues surrounding the presence of
non-Mexican descent individuals in this Mexicano context. For many in this context,
the speaker symbolizes white culture and the politics of socio-cultural dominance. In
many ways, he is forced to confront (albeit in a very limited space) dynamics related
to those which Mexican descent people are subjected to in everyday life. His value and
worth within a given context are called into question based on a perceived ethnicity and
the assumptions about how that ethnicity is defined and what potential (non)
contributions it may involve. The cultural politics of this situation are not lost on the
Mexicano participants as many of them see this space and its inter-racial exchanges as
having enormous potential for inverting those power dynamics. Interestingly, the non-
Mexican descent participant's comments focus on individual identity as the locus
through which the limitations placed upon him can be redeemed. This is in direct
contrast to the prevailing social aesthetics of the event which focus on group and
community interaction through musical expression. The emphasis is on shared
143
histories and bases of knowledge that function as the key points in drawing together an
intra-ethnically diverse population. In thinking about these collective dynamics, what is
it about the event itself that forms the premises upon which notions of community are
actually formed?
Amistadl Ambiente/Cariiio/Confianza
In the course of research as a participant, group leader of a university
ensemble, and observer at numerous mariachi conferences and workshops, I have been
struck by the clarity of purpose expressed by the many individuals who give so freely
of their energies to help produce and maintain these events. It is often a difficult
position requiring numerous hours that must be invested throughout most of the year
until the next event. In addition to making arrangements for facilities, teachers,
promotional materials, music, publicity, accommodations, registration materials, and
general scheduling, organizers must contend with considerable financial challenges in
mounting these events. An emergent debate about the role of corporate sponsorship is
part of an ongoing discussion of how these events can be kept accessible yet garner the
financial resources needed to sustain them. Concerns about the "commercialization" of
the event take on a particular character marked by caution when critics consider, for
example, the number of Latino musical events sponsored by beer or alcohol
companies.
32
It's difficult to think about letting them [beer company] come in and
have their name splashed all over the place. I think it gives the wrong
message about what we're trying to do here. With as many students as
we have here, it would be totally the wrong thing to do even though
having a big sponsorship like that would make our job easier. We
wouldn't have to struggle so much every year. .. I like the idea that in
order to get this thing through every year, everyone has to go out and
get the local businesses and communities involved. That sense of
ownership of the event is what I think makes our conference special. We
may not be the biggest one [mariachi conference and workshops] but
144
you leave here with a sense that people here really care about it enough
to really invest in it.
In addition, the fervor over popular culture representations of Mexican culture
remains a central theme in thinking about the relationship between Mexicano culture,
issues of representation, and corporate America. The figures of Speedy Gonzales,
Frito Bandito, and, more recently, the Taco Bell icon of a small Chihuahua dog all
inform current memory. Public denouncements, debates, and calls for boycotts against
these companies employing racially loaded iconography remain an active topic at
ChicanolLatino community meetings, professional organizations, and of course on-line
discussion (web-site and email spaces). Forms such as the sleeping campesino with a
large sombrero pulled down over his face with his back against a cactus plant
contemporarily persist in everything from animated cartoons to ceramic cookie jars.
33
Control of these images is what is very much at issue. Within the confines of
a mariachi conference and workshops, a range of contributions are incorporated not
so much in presenting a unified view of what Mexicano/Chicano culture is as much as
sometimes focusing on what it is not. Most organizers realize that the often thorny
issues involved in finalizing a conference schedule require strong diplomatic skills in
assessing the boundaries and minimum requirements of participants, educators, and
professionals. Points of consensus, in this format, are more easily reached by consciously
working towards eliminating what is perceived as the ''worst effects" of negative
cultural stereotypes and their resultant imagery. These concerns, it should be noted,
also include internal criticisms and misconceptions about mariachi musicians as
drunkards, womanizers, lazy, dirty, undisciplined, lower class, and uneducated.
For these reasons, the financial support of these mariachi conferences and
workshops remain a highly contested topic. Financial concerns in launching these
events on a yearly basis remain consistent even for those events marked by an
excellent record and the best of relationships with the local business communities and
145
city or educational facilities such as public auditoriums. At the largest events, the
conference organizers are often focused on the monies that can be generated from the
final concert. Some critics have stated that this level of commercialism can actually
detract from the purposes of the conference workshops. In those cases, a major source of
concern springs from what kinds of images and presentations of Mexican culture are
being projected in this public event. The qualitative aspects of such a gathering
emerge as the cornerstones in both the perceptions and goals of conference organizers,
participants, and professional instructors. The concept of investiture, as mentioned in
the previous remarks, is also an important indicator of how approaches reflect those
underlying philosophies and interpretations of what Mexican culture is and what it
should represent.
Many of the smaller events are indeed strongly challenged by simply "breaking
even." The financial concerns, in effect, extend to the event's ability to endure,
improve, and gather the finest instructors possible in a consistent and professional
manner. These key factors depend upon creating a kind of atmosphere that promotes
respect, learning, and friendship. Issues of accessibility, as already outlined, also exist as
an important indicator of how conference organizers see the importance of the event in
the local community. The idea is to bring in as many participants as possible and to
give public notice that Mexican cultural arts merit respect and honor. It is also a basis
for education in teaching participants and the public in general about a tradition and
history not often included in mainstream educational materials.
Several participants cited a lack of opportunities to learn more about Mexican
cultural history in general and that the knowledge was an important part of a young
person's development as a critical thinker.
We were taught to be ashamed of being Mexican. In s c h o o ~ if you spoke
Spanish, you would be sent to the principal's office for punishment. In
those days, they didn't care if they hit you. Now, things are a little
different. I tell my children they have a lot to be proud of. Some people
146
are still going to treat you like they are better than you because you are
Mexican- that's their ignorance-- but now you have choices that we
didn't have. It's still a struggle because of [other] people's ignorance
and our own ignorance of our history makes it easier for them to say
things about us that are not true. You have to know who you are,
otherwise you don't know any better. (mother of 2 mariachi high school
participants)
The idea is that the knowledge gained becomes grounds for actively resisting
impositions of cultural stereotypes that continue as a part of daily social life. The
ability to show competency through a well-executed musical phrase or the rendition of
a particular song becomes a way to present alternative realities than those experienced
through imposed ethnicities. It is not insignificant that mariachi musical expression
takes on a multifaceted complexity that serves to strengthen images of self-worth and
cultural value.
Mariachi, as an internationally recognized symbol of Mexican ethnicity,
permeates U.S. urban popular culture through such venues as Mexican restaurants,
public festivals, and political events. In addition, images of mariachi ensembles remain
prevalent as re-contexualized incursions or insertions in U.S. popular culture-- Le. the
films Mars Attacks! (1997), Two Much (1995), Naked Gun 2 ~ (1992), Chasers (1994),
Johnny Be Good (1988), and Jerry McGuire (1996).34 In each case, the ensemble
makes a "cameo" appearance in which a Mexican national identity is invoked primarily
for comic relief. Scholars have concentrated on the long history of stereotypical
representations ofChicanolMexicano life and expression in U.S. and international
popular films (Fregoso 1993; Keller 1985; and Trevino 1982). Caricatures writ large in
broad strokes can certainly include musical representations. In terms of the specific
mariachi examples cited above, that level simultaneously appeals to the worst and best
aspects of folkloric expression in having some "grain" of truth in the depiction. The
music accompanying scenes in the films above are produced by a mariachi group3S;
however, the music most assuredly remains secondary to the visual image the ensemble
147
represents in giving a definite presence to Mexican descent people. With the notable
exception of Mars Attacks!, the music played is inspired by the traditional repertoire.
36
In
addition, the musicians onscreen do wear their traditional charro traje, complete most
times with a sombrero.
The end effect is a reference or visual allusion that contains just enough
information to have some apparent basis; however, the basis is to provide comic relief
through chiefly showing the awkwardness or ill-fit of such a targeted group in relation
to an ethnic identity. The joke or humor depends upon the reader making connections
with latent racist observations about Mexican descent communities and their roles in
mainstream society- musical buffoons painfully awkward in their depiction and often
not conscious of their contributions to comedic relief. They fade into the background as
victims of their own innocence and apparent incapacity to fathom the true import of
their presence. Heavily accented English, overly wrought visual contexts notable for the
abundance of bright colors and items such as zarapes or over-sized sombreros all
contribute to the audio/visual cacophony in creating a Mexicano symbolic identity. The
genuine complexity of it all belies the simplicity of cultural interpretation that guides
each of these contexts in their shape in content. For that reason, these musical references
and the use of mariachi as a nationally identified music are reduced to cariacatures of
themselves.
In combating such processes, great care is taken by conference educators and
organizers to ensure that mariachi conferences and workshops remain spaces where
young people in particular can access alternative realities for Mexican culture. In sum,
educators are hoping to provide the building blocks for future thought and activities that
come from students gaining confidence and trust (confianza) in a given experience that
highlights Mexican culture and knowledge in a positive light.
I don't expect all of these students to become professional mariachi
musicians ... far from it. Getting them while they're young is important.
148
As they get a little older and get involved in things like gangs or drugs,
they do that because they have no pride in who they are. If they know
they're worth something then they'll find other ways to pursue their
dreams ... things that don't take away from them or hurt them. That they
even have dreams for some is a big step. You have to give them hope.
They have to have something they can work towards, otherwise what they
see is a pretty bleak future and why should they bother? Some are harder
to convince than others. For the most part, I think it is also because there
is so much negativity with being Mexican in this country. (prefers to
remain totally anonymous)
Participants in general also speak of a carino Oove) for a musical process that can
transcend or at least mediate these restrictions and ideologies representing the worst of
stereotypcial interpretations ofMexicano/Chicano life. They are well aware that positive
aspects ofMexicano culture often remain hidden from public view, particularly in
regards to the poorest sectors of this population.
We've got a lot of problems in our communities. The violence is the worst
part. I know that's a part of life in our barrio but that's not all we are. I
pick up the ---[newspaper] and all I mostly see are Mexicanos
getting into some kind of trouble. You look and see. Most of our pictures
look like they came off of the post office!37 Very rarely do I find anything
positive written about the barrio and the good things that happen there.
People just want to go on thinking that we're all the same or something
that we're not. Being poor is not a crime-- unless you happen to be
Mexican ... it's with mucho carino [much love] that I come to these
events to be with my gente [people].
The stakes are then indeed high for these events in what educators, organizers,
and participants hope to achieve. In seeking to create a space dominated by an
ambiente of amistad, cariiio, and confianza, the citizenry involved in these conferences
and workshops become part of a consciousness that addresses issues of cultural
representation and people's future as a community. As their strength and numbers
continue to grow, mariachi conferences and workshops are indeed cultural indicators of
how a contemporary, urban ethnic minority group seeks to transform negative imagery
and belief systems into positive avenues of cultural expression. The conferences are also
indicators of how people interpret their historical location and what that means in
sustaining as active presence. The complexity of the conference's structure and multiple
149
agendas are reflective of community needs and the diverse participants who are drawn
to these venues. The total effect is indeed one of celebration but a celebration that is
marked by the hard-won knowledge that:
You have to breathe life into a community, especially one that has had
and continues to have so many battles to fight. Something's got to sustain
it. If there isn't anyone left who cares, then that community to me is dead
or lost. Music is life. (anonymous mariachi commentator)
150
Notes to Chapter IV
1 Most of my mariachi research has been in the Southwest. Urban areas throughout
the U.S. with significant populations of Mexican decent often include mariachis. To
the best of my knowledge, Midwest venues or other regional areas have not created
the kind of mariachi conference and workshop infrastructure currently seen in the
Southwest. There are some indications that major professional mariachi productions,
such as mariachi performance festivals held in Chicago and New York, may lead to the
emergence of annual conferences and workshops on a large scale.
2 Many directors of school mariachi programs have commented on the challenges in
"finding the right kid" to play the guitarron. In addition to an excellent sense of
rhythm, the student must be interested in taking on a primarily harmonic role rather
than a melodic one. Since the ensemble is very dependent on the guitarron player,
most directors try to have more than one student learn the instrument in case of illness
or scheduling conflicts for performances.
3 As this director elaborated upon further, this particular Veterans of F oreign Wars is
comprised mostly of Mexican descent people. Several years ago, when the
dinner/dance was inaugurated, the grand daughter of one of the V.F.W.'s officers was
a mariachi member.
4 The instruments that are most often purchased are the guitarron and the vihuela.
Students usually provide their own trumpets, violins, and guitars. Since the guitarron
and vihuela are regional instruments specific to the mariachi tradition, they are often
much more difficult to locate for purchase. Some financially challenged student groups
routinely find violins, trumpets, and guitars at local pawn or thrift shops. It would be
extremely unusual to find a guitarron or vihuela in those contexts. Some schools located
near the U.S.lMexico border will sponsor trips to Mexico to purchase instruments at
reduced rates. Once these instruments are imported into the U.S., the purchase price rises
considerably.
S The sombrero or charro hat can be made of a variety of materials including the finest
felts that include ornate decorations and designs. Since the hats are quite large and
difficult to transport easily, most groups also invest in hard or soft-sided hat carriers
that protect the hat.
6 In numerous instances, mariachi school programs were begun as volunteer projects
on the part of the music instructors who, only after some measure of success and
parental pressure, gained some institutional support/recognition. This support was
illustrated, for example, by having the ensemble included in the school curriculum as a
class for which students could receive credit. Even in these circumstances, there
remains the need full acceptance. For example, the mariachi course offered at one
school for credit follows a distant fourth in the priority list of musical ensembles
151
after band, orchestra, and choir. Comparatively limited funding for the mariachi and
comparatively poor access to rehearsal facilities are but a few indications.
7 The terms "amateur," "professional," and "semi-professional" are loosely based on
the primary focus and aims of a given ensemble. Some groups aspire to
professionalism in that they seek to earn a wage for services rendered on a consistent
basis. Other groups are groups formed primarily for personal enjoyment. As with any
kind of musical ensemble, the abilities and skills of individuals members varies. In
general, the professional or semi-professional groups are selective in their membership
and maintain an often demanding practice schedule. The general result is that the
semi-professional and professional groups may, but not always, produce a better
quality sound.
s Several of the workshops regularly include instructors and performers from Mexico.
Among the most well-known is Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan. In addition,
participants themselves may come from Mexico, especially for those workshops taking
place in venues close to the U.S.-Mexico border.
9 The trumpet parts are usually divided into 1
st
and 2nd parts with occasionally a 3rd
part. Arrangers are also known to write as many as four violin parts when dealing
with larger ensembles and/or complex harmonies.
10 Some conferences and workshops actually do hold competitions in various
categories and feature the winners in a special concert. In addition, participants
acknowledge exceptionally fine players and during workshops they are listened to
with great care. There is also the inevitable sense of measuring one's self against other
conference participants. Mostly, those attentions are towards ensuring that the
individual can musically achieve a level of proficiency that allows for participation at
a comfortable level. For example, one of the key issues of concern for the younger
players is memorizing the required pieces in time for the final concert.
11 The Wet-Turkey Buzzard
12 The Rooster's Song
13 The Traveler
14 Jalisciense Dance
IS Jalisciense Serenade
16 The Trumpet Players
17 Song of the Dark One
152
18 Since many of these events take place in the Southwest, it is often a predominantly
Chicano/Mexicano audience with at least a familiarity if not deep knowledge of the
tradition.
19 Chisme (gossip) covers a whole range of topics.
20 It should also be mentioned that there are also less successful results with some
younger, first-time participants who may tire easily or find that they lack a basic
technical competency (Le. fingering, tone production) that mitigates their enjoyment.
21 There exist several variants of these phrases though they remain remarkably consistent
in their meanings as far as the passage of time and its relationship to a given event or
series of events.
22 For heaven's sake!lFor God's sake!
23 An excellent example of how this might be said to be true has come from the
interactions with television crews who come to film the events for local evening news
segments. Although most seem content to find the "action" in whatever event happens
to be taking place at the time, some crews have expressed dismay that the precise time
schedule they had was being followed only in its general contours. "What's going
on? Don't you know when the big group rehearsal will take place?"
24 Conference organizers and participants in general are not immune to the frustrations
that can follow schedules that depart from announced timetables. Indeed, some
organizers pride themselves on the ability of the conference to remain "on schedule";
however, this does not negate the focus on these events as something that can remain
flexible to maximize emergent opportunities.
2S Special days that are devoted to teacher training and exposure to such things as
emergent technologies and upcoming school district curriculum policies that need to be
implemented. These days are usually structured around a series of workshops and
general meetings.
26 Participants are known to come from even parts of Mexico for some of the larger
conferences and workshops. During a Tucson conference, a collection was taken up to
help a family who had traveled from Mexico when their van was broken into and
many of their possessions (including musical instruments) had been stolen. The parents
had brought their two young girls to participate.
27 Although some public institutions provide a limited number of school owned
instruments for student use, this by no means covers the full need. In an
environment of decreasing funding for the arts in general in public education, the
effect is even more pronounced at schools in socio-economically deprived
communities. A mariachi school program director in East Los Angeles recounted
153
how he was "even lucky to get a few music stands each year, let alone any
instruments." Instruments that are difficult to come by, the vihuela and guitarron,
present a special problem in that the institution must find a way to purchase these
instruments as they are unlikely to have beginning students who have access to them
any other way. Given the fact that there are comparatively limited and expensive
resources for purchasing these instruments within the U.S., special arrangements are
often sought to work with instrument importers or fortuitous travel by individuals able
to bring back instruments from Mexico.
28 "Hueritos" refers to this family as being white.
29 atmosphere, over-all feeling, general environment.
30 friendship
31 trust
32 Many Mexican community celebrations are also filled with the logos and names
of beer companies for example. The venues where people purchase foods from booths
or alcoholic beverage are popular targets for banners and other decorations that
prominently feature these logos. Especially popular are also the Mexican brand beers
that are imported into the U.S.
33 While traveling in parts of the South, a colleague recounted astonishment at finding
black mammy cookie jars and golliwog figurines being prominently displayed for sale
in gift shops. The cookie jar of the sleeping campesino was prominently displayed in a
department store housewares department- near their Southwestern collection of dishes
with jalepenos and a chips and salsa dip set.
34 This are but a few examples of a potentially much longer list.
3S As far as I have been able to discern, the music sound is produced by the musicians
seen onscreen.
36 The Mars Attacks! musical selection is the "Star Spangled Banner" in that they are
the only musical group seemingly at hand (having survived near planetary
destruction) to officiate musically a makeshift congressional medal of honor ceremony
for the film's young hero.
37 The speaker is referring to posters depicting criminals wanted for various crimes.
CHAPTER V
HACIENDO COSAS (OTRA VEZ [ONCE AGAIN])
Very few people from outside the mariachi tradition would know that Austin,
Texas has enjoyed a modem professional mariachi community for at least the past
thirty-years.
1
By comparison, San Antonio, Texas enjoys a more prominent association
with mariachi performance. In particular, the mercado (market) area
2
where mariachis
can be found nearly every evening of the year. The San Antonio Riverwalk
3
area as
well as the marketplace with restaurants (see illustrations 5.1 and 5.2) and Mexican
imported goods are an international destination for tourists and local and state
residents. Mariachis maintain a well-noted presence as part of a wider array of
Mexicano traditional ensembles such as conjunto,jarocho,4 and trios groups. Austin
musicians noted that local groups were quite busy with their schedules but, in their
opinion, still sometimes fell victim to arrangements where groups from San Antonio
were "imported" from outside the area.
6
They specifically related various public
functions in which mariachi groups had been featured hosted by then Governor Anne
Richards.
It is not uncommon in urban contexts in the Southwest and parts of the
Midwest
7
to find mariachi groups performing at local restaurants or other public
celebrations. It is in these venues that the general public is most familiar with
mariachi. In the less visible contexts, mariachis can perform at a wide range of
social events in predominantly Mexicano/Chicano contexts. Birthdays, funerals,
baptisms, baseball games, store openings, anniversaries, weddings, and family
154
155
nlustration 5.1 Musicians at the San Antonio Mercado (market)
156
Illustration S.2 Mariachis Inside Mi Tierra Restaurant
At the San Antonio Mercado (market)
157
reunions are but a few examples. In some sense, it seems that there exists hardly any
occasion that Mexican descent people may not mark as a special occasion with mariachi
music. One musician related a story about an ensemble hired by a Mexicana to play in
her lawyer's offices on the occasion of her final divorce decree. The event was indeed
memorable. When later asked why she had chosen to hire a mariachi group, the woman
replied that she thought it would be the best way for her to celebrate the beginning of her
new life and the extreme joy she felt at that moment. Given the life cycle underpinning
her answer, the event was totally appropriate as a life marker of great importance even if
the account brings more than a few smiles.
Over the intermittent course of approximately five years (1991-1995), five
professional groups8 and audience members in Austin, Texas generously gave of their
time in participating in interviews and allowing me the opportunity to visit their
workplaces. About a year-and-a-halfwas also spent as a member of the University
of Texas at Austin mariachi ensemble as a violinist. It was in the summer of 1995 that
many changes were evident in the Austin mariachi community as compared to earlier
research experiences during 1991-93. These changes included issues of public
presentation, increased visibility, and women's entry into the professional ranks.
These three issues, as they unfolded within this mariachi community, speak well to
some of the larger currents in mariachi expression and its practice as a living
tradition drawing upon an historical past as well as looking towards the future. In other
words, these changes represent creative goals and the cultural imagination of what was
and what could possibly be.
Professional Community
The professional mariachi community in Austin, Texas involves four well-
established groups and one informal "pick-up" group9. Of the four well-established
158
groups,10 one is generally considered musically superior and enjoys the longest
historical presence. It is also known for incorporating more Mexican nationals within
its membership as well as its infamous refusal to allow women to become regular
members. 11 A second group is a family based group where a father, two daughters,
and one son make up the core of the ensemble. The third group is a relatively new
group that was formed within the last five years. Its emergence has been marked by a
particularly entrepreneurial character due to its recent and somewhat complicated
history. Younger musicians who had played with other groups and were dissatisfied
with the conditions decided to form their own group. The fourth group is also a
relatively new addition. Its emergence is indicative of the emerging role of women
mariachis (as will be further discussed). The fifth "pick-up" group plays regularly at
a local restaurant primarily for tips and some food. Because their membership is
comparatively fluid, they do not enjoy a strong identity as an ensemble.
While it is true that there remains a good sense of patricl
2
among musicians,
it is threaded with a competitive and engaging stance based on personal pride and
achievement, both at the individual and group levels. This assessment bears strong
resemblance to mariachi relationships in other regional areas. As Steven Pearlman
notes in his summation of the Los Angeles mariachi community:
What both the organized and non-organized [pick-up] groups have in
common is the structure and composition of the performing group,
although there is some variation in size, and of course the repertory ,
although there is variation in that as well, depending on performance
context. What binds them together and allows a certain fluency in
interaction, despite differences in organization, musical performance
and proficiency, despite competition for work, is the sense of
community shared by mariachis in Los Angeles (1988:99).
Pearlman elaborates numerous social networks that take into account things such as
family organization, leisure time, immigration patterns, and personal celebrations that
further unite this community and illustrate how musicians relate to one another.
159
Interestingly, Pearlman is able to highlight elements of intraethnic diversity among the
Los Angeles Mexican descent population by noting how this sub group is distinguished
from the population as a whole.
Also of interest is that the pattern of work helps distinguish the mariachi
community from the rest of the Mexican community. Mariachis work
primarily in the evening and night time hours, and have daytime hours
open; this is the opposite of the majority of the general Mexican
community. One of the consequences of the typical work schedule is that
during off time, or recreation hours, mariachis primarily have other
mariachis to associate with. further cementing the separateness of the
mariachi community from the rest of the Mexican population in Los
Angeles (1988:82-83).
In an illustrative example, Pearlman recounts how mariachi musicians participate in
such sports as soccer where even entire teams in specific league play are composed solely
of mariachis. League playas well as pick-up games function as a social event for
mariachis and their families as a whole. Games and practices have a tendency to occur in
the daytimes hours as opposed to evenings and weekends, when musicians would most
likely be working (1988:141-3). It is this kind of socialization that also marks the
formation of an Austin mariachi community and its relationship to a broader Mexican
descent population. By looking at the mariachi community's fluidity and motivations, we
can gain a deeper understanding how these socio-cultural relationships exist within
contemporary practice as expressed by goals and the cultural imagination of what was
and could be in musical expression.
Fluidity
The mariachi community in its organizational structure enjoys a fluidity marked
by a complex network of socio-musical relationships. Perhaps one of the most telling
visual cues to the nature of this fluidity is that in all cases, the predominant color for the
mariachi traje or suit is black.l3 Musicians explain that black allows members to perform
with other groups on relatively short notice as this color easily "blends" in with other
160
black trajes. It also allows for a greater range of mobility in that musicians can
theoretically join any given group for a single performance or an extended period of time.
How these intergroup relations develop depends upon instrumentation, leadership,
confianza, [4 and the prevailing larger sense of which direction mariachi expression is
moving. Interestingly, financial concerns remain somewhat muted. Musicians tend to
separate financial gains as related more to an individual's capacity to play and sing within
a group than to the group's financial comparison with other groups. To be sure financial
comparisons are made on a group level but most musicians expressed that all the groups
remain relatively financially successfuL In addition, the sentiment prevailed that an
excellent musician and performer would be well-paid wherever the individual chose to
be. Some of the best musicians admitted to having been the objects of "bidding wars" for
their services. The other financial consideration on this individual level is that highly
sought musicians have their choice of working conditions and can earn significant sums
of money by "moonlighting" with a number of groups during special holiday seasons.
The role of instrumentation to a great extent primarily defines this range of
fluidity. The expectation is that there must be at least one guitarron player, a guitar or
vihuela player and one particularly good singer and a trumpet player. Ideally two trumpet
players are sought because of the second harmony part, especially if the rest of the
ensemble is balanced out by at least 2-3 violinists and a few guitar players.
Approximately 7-8 members are considered to be a good balance-- 2 trumpets, 3
violinists, 1 guitarron player, a vihuela player, and then 1-2 guitar players. As in most
mariachi communities, an emphasis is placed on having a group leader capable of
directing the group. Although a well-seasoned group can manage without its key director,
it is only possible because a more experienced person in the ensemble steps forward to
fill that role. Musicians are also expected to play more than one instrument and, in the
best possible case, all are expected to sing. The flexibility allowed by these professional
standards also contributes to the fluidity in intergroup relations.
161
Given these variabilities, it is not difficult to imagine that the untimely absence of
one or more individuals can create an imbalance that needs to be addressed by bringing in
a substitute player. Within this particular community, this is especially apparent in that all
of the musicians involved in mariachi performance have other jobs. The majority worked
at full-time jobs during the weekdays. The occupations represented included city
maintenance worker, school teacher, warehouse manager, insurance salesperson,
hardware store worker, self-employed business person, and a range of other positions,
with the majority clearly falling under the blue collar designation. Some worked rotating
shifts and still others would not have a confirmed work schedule with more than a week's
advance notice. One of the major challenges to advance scheduling was the demands of
the work week, especially as related to the timing of weekday rehearsals and any daytime
performance opportunities. In perhaps one of the most extreme example of these
dynamics was a performance at an early afternoon reception in the capitol building. The
group that was assembled represented not less than three different mariachi groups and
was, in some ways, only identifiable as a particular group by virtue of who was acting as
the ensemble leader. In addition, musicians cited family concerns, needed rest periods,
and illness as mitigating factors in actually "making" professional engagements. And, of
course, there was always the proverbial flat tire.
In addition to managing the actual performance dynamics of a given engagement,
group leaders are responsible for creating musical agendas and, in essence, developing a
group identity. Their vision as individuals becomes enormously important regarding the
kinds of musical philosophies adhered to in the course of performance. For example,
some groups maintain a rigorous practice schedule while others meet for fewer hours of
group practice in favor of intense individual study. The repertoire itself can vary slightly
from group to group in not only the specific arrangements used, but also in what pieces
are most often performed. Since some parts of the repertoire (sones, huapangos, boleros,
polcas, and valses) are considered more traditional than others; the make-up of the
162
group's repertoire depends on how the director defines the group's primary musical
goals. Some groups pride themselves on being more ''traditional'' and tend to play
primarily those pieces which are well-known standards. They also use arrangements
based on the historical recordings of such venerable groups as Mariachi Vargas de
Tecalithin. The models for musical study can also vary widely in that issues such as
vocal timbre, trumpet vibrato, strumming techniques, and overall presentation help define
an individual group personality for each ensemble. The case of vocal technique is also
very illustrative of this point. All five groups emphasize a loud volume as a desired
quality in solo and choral singing. While all five groups also employ what Peiia has
referred to as a modified version of the bel canto technique, IS the qualities of vocal
production vary greatly in relation to volume control. While one group leader urges his
singers to produce the loudest volume possible at whatever level they may be capable,
another chooses a comparatively softer volume level in favor of "smooth" timbral
qualities and greater attention to pitch control.
The personal musical philosophies of individual musicians may in some cases be
discovered over time to be more compatible with another ensemble's general
directorship. It was not unheard of that a musician, after playing with another group,
might decide to relocate for reasons relating to these issues of performance. Conversely,
the community would long feel the repercussions when a musician and group leader
seemed at odds with one another and the musician relocated rather than continue to
experience friction. While conducting interviews for this project, I was often asked by
one individual what another individual had said concerning certain people or a particular
group. Not being privy to the sometimes long histories surrounding such inquiries, I
noted these questions only as they illustrated the complex relationships within this
community and refrained from answering directly. These relationships are further
nuanced by mariachi considerations in which family members often teach other family
members or take on the training of younger individuals in a way that reflects filial modes.
163
These filial modes depended on the formation of confianza that could only develop over
time through many shared experiences. The sense of loyalty and trust developed often
formed the cornerstone for understanding how these musicians related to one another not
only as musicians but as lifelong friends engaged in partnerships. For instance, one
vihuela player in his early 20s recalled how a senior musician in another group had really
taught him some of the finer aspects of vihuela strumming patterns. A debt to the senior
musician was acknowledged and the younger musician undertook assisting a less
experienced player who was directed to him by this senior musician. This less
experienced player in turn felt a responsibility to not only the younger musician but also
the senior musician as well. One evening, both the senior and younger musician ventured
to a restaurant to hear the less experienced player. The most junior of the trio greeted
both individuals and introduced them to the rest of the ensemble members. It should be
noted that the introductions were unnecessary, especially for the senior musician, since he
was already well-acquainted with everyone. Far from simply being a formality, the
process signaled a clear connection between these individuals and provided a show of
respect. And, as the less experienced player expressed to me as he sat in a chair after they
departed, he "hoped to hell" that he had done a good enough job in performing that
evening.
Let us take a closer look at one group in particular that is based almost
exclusively on filial relations. This one ensemble was developed as a family enterprise
under the direction of a father who had actually been a conjunto musician in his youth.
He had played with a family group and learned that repertoire under the tutelage of his
older brothers. Mr. Z16 grew up in a migrant farmworker family that worked in the fields
primarily in Texas. The family had very limited means and the conjunto group was often
their only source of income between growing seasons or work shortages. The family
ensemble played for a variety of public dances and private functions. Their audiences
were primarily the lower class migrant farmworkers and other working class Mexicanos.
164
As itinerant musicians, they often traveled long distances in order to find work. He
explained that in better years the con junto group was able to supplement a family income
where not only family necessities (Le. food, medicine, shelter, clothing, transportation)
were provided but additional means such as improved housing or an extra pair of shoes
were possible. Even in the worst economic years, the family was "a little better off" than
other families because "as long as you could play you could eat." Mr. Z has never
forgotten those aspects and even today states that he taught his children to play for two
reasons: that ''they would always have something" from which the could earn a living;
and "that they knew about their heritage."
This family-based mariachi ensemble began as a Catholic church group. The
priest, knowing of Mr. Z's musical background and performing experience, asked him if
he could lead a mariachi to play for the church. At first Mr. Z had been reticent as he was
more familiar with con junto musicianship. His musical skills were oriented towards
accordion playing, the guitar, and some knowledge of the bajo sexto.
17
Nonetheless, with
a few volunteers from the congregation at large, and his own children eventually
included, a new mariachi ensemble developed. In addition to its church duties, the group
began receiving chamba (individual, arranged performances) requests. They became
known for their extreme dependability and fine musical practice in following a
performance agenda that prioritized audience participation. Mr. Z recalled in detail his
usual mode in creating a rapport with the audience. Among the techniques he cited were:
telling jokes at the expense of ensemble members; finding an audience member willing to
participate through singing or dancing; verbally accessing and calling for gritos1
8
by
making musical choices that referenced a particular regional identity; purposely
launching musical jokes
19
; and having musicians remain mobile throughout the playing
venue so that they were always engaging the audience at close range.
20
The group also
gained greater exposure through community church sponsored events such as
volunteering to perform in retirement and convalescent homes. They became local
165
favorites and soon had more requests than they could manage. During the group's
development, Mr. Z continued to work in his blue collar service position for the City of
Austin.21 As his children grew older and were able to assume roles with greater
responsibilities, one daughter went on to earn a music degree and become the group's
arranger and musical director. At the time of the interview, Mr. Z was turning more and
more of the professional scheduling duties to his son. His son worked full-time in a well-
known industrial hardware site and pursued mariachi as a part-time profession.
From the beginning, this professional ensemble was a family endeavor. In
addition to the children participating as developing musicians, Mrs. Z coordinated all out-
of-town trips and became the designated driver during travel. She also assisted by altering
mariachi suits or trajes that had been ordered from Mexico so that they would fit
individuals in every aspect. These dynamics of a filial based ensemble proved extremely
helpful when one of the daughters made it known that she wanted to be a mariachi
trumpet player. As will be discussed further when highlighting another ensemble, women
in mariachi in this area are seen primarily as singers or violinists. A professional female
mariachi trumpet player is considered unusual. This, combined with the other daughter
eventually assuming the musical directorship of the group-- an equally unusual role for a
woman, was (one could safely speculate) only possible because of the filial support
afforded them at an early age. Their father, the director, maintained that they were well-
capable of fulfilling such roles and encouraged them to ignore comments or criticisms
that stated otherwise. Although the ensemble does continue in this way to be a family
endeavor, they have always welcomed additional members to meet the minimal
instrument requirements. Speaking with the non-family members of the ensemble, I
found they expressed an attraction to the family oriented agenda of the ensemble. They
cited comparatively stable organizational traits, general community reputation, and
longevity as the primary factors in influencing their decisions to seek membership in the
ensemble. Also of no little importance was the fact that this ensemble tended to reflect
166
the director's philosophy that a major role of mariachi performance is educating the
general public about the tradition's cultural significance and its history as a mestizo
musical tradition.
For those reasons, this is one of the few mariachi ensembles in the area that
actively refrains from performing in Mexican restaurants. Although Mr. Z acknowledged
that the restaurant context was one of the best ways through which to generate additional
performance opportunities, he related that he did not care for that venue because the
music became too much a part of the background as people concentrated more on their
food or speaking with one another. He also noted that this context did not allow him
ample opportunity to communicate the joy of the tradition in that no sustainable, direct
relationship was ever quite established between musicians and audience members.22 As
many educators in the area know, this is also one of the ensembles that is most likely to
perform for children at a reduced or even volunteer rate, depending upon the event and
reason for their inclusion. The logic is that doing these things "for the kids" teaches them
"about their culture and history" so that they gain a better understanding of ''who they
are." The prioritizing of educational goals also means the ensemble takes seriously its
religious roots in its genesis as a Catholic church ensemble. Family members especially
continue in their roles as musicians at the same church venue where the group was
founded, playing for special church related events and fiestas. Not insignificantly, this
ensemble has been known to place a picture of La Virgen de Guadalupe on their concert
stages in publicly acknowledging those cultural and spiritual connections. This, according
to Mr. Z, is done to highlight the cultural importance and impact that mariachi can have
in all spheres of life. Because of these religious implications and its strong filial identity,
the ensemble continues to enjoy a "squeaky clean"n image among the Austin mariachi
community.
In further examining the interactions of this broader mariachi professional
community, it became immediately apparent that, with rare exception, musicians in all of
167
these groups had at one time or another performed with most of the other musicians in
town. The exceptions were individuals who had just begun performing in the area or were
still considered relative beginners. It was also not uncommon that the most experienced
individuals had ''traveled'' through most if not all the groups. Despite all these
characteristics of fluidity, it was clear each ensemble enjoyed a core identity due to the
fact that each musician had a home ensemble with which he or she primarily identified.
It was out of these arrangements that certain levels of confianza developed among
individual musicians. Performing in an ensemble brings together those elements of trust
and respect that develop over time within a distinct musical expression. In the case of a
mariachi ensemble, the work often involves travel throughout the city and to outlying
areas. The ensemble at times becomes a "road band" in that sense. Because this is an
ethnically defined musical group and the musicians (for the most part) are of Mexican
descent, they also communally experience aspects ofracialization from a distinct
viewpoint.
One group member recounted how the ensemble had been included as "window
dressing" at a political fund raiser where a white candidate was attempting to court the
Mexican vote. Though the ensemble knew ahead of time that they would be background
music at best, they did not accept the fact that none of the organizers seemed particularly
knowledgeable about the mariachi tradition and the need to establish a close rapport with
the audience. The group was placed in one comer of the room and told to remain
stationary and "not be too loud" while people enjoyed the cocktail hour. Though the
content of this account is extremely relevant, what happened during its recitation was
perhaps even more indicative of the group dynamics the account illustrates. I had been
interviewing this one individual at a restaurant table with a cassette recorder. The other
group members gathered around the table when they heard him telling this story. They
intervened with their own gestures and additional information- ensuring that a detailed
168
account was recorded. It was clearly an important event for their group identity and how
they presented themselves in public forums.
Motivations
There are a variety of factors that can be said to influence how mariachis
undertake performance. It seems, however, that three primary factors inform the
relationships among musicians and various groups: a dedication to improvement and
musical excellence; economic success; and education as far as teaching people about
a Mexican musical tradition.
24
Given the differences discussed in how group leaders
develop different philosophies of mariachi practice, it is not difficult to imagine how
these variables can take on distinct characteristics within a given group. The manner in
which these issues are articulated within any given group also speaks to a certain level of
tolerance that develops. Where individual opinions may differ, there is a common ground
over which the musicians can assemble. As implicated in our earlier discussion of
ensemble leaders and their roles, these exchanges are shaped by the power relationships
in a hierarchical system within an ensemble. In considering the issue of fluidity in
relation to these processes, it would be rare indeed to find an ensemble with individuals
having equal experience and similar standing within the larger mariachi community. Each
ensemble's performative character depends in large part to how the different
"elementos,,2S function at the group leveL The largest question is how individual
contributions made up the overall character of the ensemble. One person may be an
excellent arranger, one an exceptional singer, one an incomparable guitarist, another a
gifted speaker, and still another may possess an exceptionally fine ear. Musicians speak
of combinations that "jell" and make for a musically satisfying experience.
In the areas of improvement and musical excellence, we have already alluded to
the filial and filial-like relations, as well as the interdependency of individual
169
contributions. It is important to understand that while there exist mariachi school
programs
26
and workshops and conferences (as discussed in Chapter IV), professional
mariachi training depends primarily on arrangements resembling musical
apprenticeships. There are a few community based programs in the Southwest that
provide mariachi instruction; however, their educational goals are not necessarily to
produce professional musicians. While a significant number of professional mariachis
cite family training as having been their major form of learning, the majority of the
professional population has had to depend on ad hoc arrangements. This state of
mariachi training in the U.S. gives rise to particularly sensitive observations about
competency and opportunities for professional development. They are sensitized by a
particular construction of ethnicity and cultural heritage. Recognizing mariachi as a
transnational phenomenon, musicians make a distinction between mariachi expression in
the U.S. and Mexico. The primary issue at stake for U.S. based musicians is one of
professional competency.
The one Austin group that has had the longest professional presence amply
illustrates the dynamics of these considerations in musical practice. This ensemble is
known for actively recruiting Mexican nationals
27
because of its director's belief(himself
a Mexican national) that they are often superior musicians. Whenever a particularly fine
Mexican national mariachi relocates to the area, the individual is immediately recruited
by this ensemble, which claims it is the "most authentic" of all the mariachis in Austin.
The director maintains that his ensemble "has a true Mexican style" that remains
uncompromised. By implication, the other groups in the area somehow musically suffer
by being "compromised" in not having the same capacity. When further specified, these
qualities run the gamut of technical facility, musical style, instrumental timbre, tuning
systems, and overall presence. These sentiments have not gone unchallenged, as some
musicians who received their mariachi training primarily in the U.S. argue that there are
many fine professional U.S. based groups well-noted for their musical abilities. Mexican
170
nationals sometimes do acknowledge that the U.S based and trained groups have fine
musical abilities; however, they argue those group are missing the sentimiento (feeling)
for the music that a ''true Mexican" national can bring in hislher interpretive expression.
It is important to note that these cleavages privileging Mexican national mariachis
as superior or as more culturally authentic do not always fall along Mexican national vs.
U.S. based and trained mariachi speakers. Some of the U.S. based and trained musicians
are equally convinced that it is only the Mexican national-based mariachi that can reach
the highest levels of musical brilliance. Conversely, some Mexican national mariachis
have only the highest levels of respect for U.S. based and trained groups. Neither are
these arguments confined to mariachi musicians. Audience members and mariachi
aficionados can be similarly at odds with one another. In a municipal auditorium in San
Antonio, Texas Nydia Rojas was featured as a guest singer in a mariachi festival. A
colleague recounted how an individual next to him said that she was a true Mexicana
singer. This individual's companion commented that Nydia was actually from Los
Angeles. The other speaker responded that no, she had to be a Mexicana (from Mexico)
in order to sing that well.
In many ways, the controversies so defined that surround mariachi musical
competency resemble debates concerning Chicano linguistic cultural competencies. In
her book Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza in a section entitled "Linguistic
Terrorism," Gloria Anzaldua relates:
If a person, Chicana or Latina, has a low estimation of my native tongue,
she also has a low estimation of me. Often with mericanas y /atinas we'll
speak English as a neutral language. Even among Chicanas we tend to
speak English at parties or conferences. Yet, at the same time, we're afraid
the other will think we're agringadas because we don't speak Chicano
Spanish. We oppress each other by trying to out-Chicano each other,
vying to be the "real" Chicanas, to speak like Chicanos ... A Chicana
from Michigan or Chicago or Detroit is just as much a Chicana as one
from the Southwest. Chicano Spanish is as diverse linguistically as it is
regionally (1987:58-9).
171
The clear implication is that Chicano Spanish, for its departure from "standard" Spanish
(however one chooses to define that), is somehow considered less "authentic" or
"competent" and therefore less culturally valid. An internal debate among Chicano
practitioners is part of this "linguistic terrorism," in addition to the Latino/Chicano
division. These are the kinds of tensions then that surround U.S. based mariachi in
relation to improvement and musical excellence and, in sum, cultural competency and
validity.
U.S. based groups must negotiate their performance context in a way that engages
these issues, whether or not they believe Mexican national based mariachi (in their final
analysis) to be unequivocally superior. U.S. based groups routinely seek cross-national
relationships with Mexican national groups and musicians. The relationship is
reciprocated by Mexican national based ensembles. A Mexican national ensemble or
individual musicians may take up residence in the U.S. looking for better economic
opportunities. While some do choose to remain, others pursue only sporadic sojourns in
the U.S. and return to Mexico. The U.S. based groups are less motivated by financial
concerns as far as traveling to Mexico. Given the competency question, gaining exposure
to Mexican national training and experience is usually the higher priority. In addition,
there is a healthy importation of such things as mariachi instruments, music scores,
supplies, trajes, boots, etc., brought back by musicians traveling from Mexico into the
U.S. Is should also be clearly noted that these transnational aspects are not solely
confined to a U.S./Mexico transnational context. Mariachis can be found in places as far
away as Japan, Guatemala, Columbia, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain (Rivas 1979), and
Peru.
28
Economic success also plays a large role in how mariachis in the Austin
community pursue their profession. Almost without exception, musicians gain the
majority of their income from other work-related sources apart from mariachi. The
observation is that it would be extremely difficult to earn one's entire living from
172
mariachi performance. This is indeed one of the tensions experienced by Mexican
national musicians who relocate to the U.S. Many of them have been accustomed to
pursuing mariachi as their primary work or at least deriving the majority of their income
from such work. It is sometimes difficult for them to accept the need to find other kinds
of employment. As had been mentioned earlier, the general perception in the Austin
community is that four groups remain the most stable. As has been mentioned earlier in
this chapter, the perception is that these four well-established groups enjoy comparatively
equal or similar levels of economic success. Three of these groups have a main
restaurant engagement where they have been hired by the establishment to perform for
patrons. These weekly arrangements typically occur over the busiest times and days of
the week, when the restaurants do a high volume of business. This usually means
evening performances over the weekends (Thursday-Saturday) with Sunday morning
brunch and sometimes Sunday evenings as well. The exposure from the restaurant
context is significant for its ability to generate charnba arrangements outside the
restaurant. It is not unusual to find families "auditioning" an ensemble over dinner in
preparation to hiring a group for such things as a wedding or birthday celebration.
Because of the large financial investment to hire a full mariachi ensemble (approximately
$200-400 for the first hour with sometimes a two hour minimum), potential patrons are
often very careful about screening groups. Business cards, beepers, and cell phones are
all considered good investments for generating work opportunities. At the time of this
research, at least two groups were considering mounting a web page- mariachi gone
''wired.''
The fifth group is a "pick-up" ensemble with a much looser membership. The
social standing of the fifth "pick-up" group is comparatively low in that musicians see
that ensemble as the most poorly trained ensemble. This group is based in a taqueria
29
on
the East side of Austin- or the "Mexican side." The other groups are not only critical of
their musicianship but also their appearance. Their trajes are sometimes in poor
173
condition.
30
Even though they wear black trajes, the group rarely has coordinated neckties
as the other more well-established groups do. Their instruments also tend to be a of a
lower quality. One of their trumpeters uses a comet that is quite o l ~ in need of
refinishing, and dented in places.
The overall perception is that this fifth "pick-up" group is financially less
successful than the other more well-established groups. This seems to be borne out by the
fact that this ensemble charged approximately 25%-35% less than the other ensembles for
individual chambas. This ensemble is also the most poorly compensated by the restaurant
establishment when compared with the other groups in more up-scale restaurants. This
perception of comparatively poor financial success remains to be adequately investigated.
It was discovered during the course of this research that the "pick-up" ensemble seemed
to have a significantly greater number of chambas. Members explained that they played
for mostly the lower-class or working class Mexicanos who had difficulty managing the
higher fees of the more well-established groups. Also, this pick-up group worked al
tal6n
31
in the restaurant context so that they received payment for each song performed.
The other groups were given some compensation by the restaurant supplemented by such
things as food and beverage. They did not, however, receive payment from patrons for
songs performed. Of the two kinds of restaurant contexts, it would seem reasonable to
assume that the pick-up group, playing for almost an exclusively Mexicano audience,
would have a larger clientele base. This would in turn translate into a greater number of
chamba opportunities. In the greater balance of things, it would appear that this pick-up
group enjoys a much more comparative level of financial success than would initially
appear; however, it was repeatedly stressed throughout interviews that this group
occupied the lowest rungs of the mariachi ladder of both economic success and social
standing.
The discussion of this fifth pick-up group in intriguing in discerning how their
socio-cultural status is constructed by class, financial success, social status, and, finally,
174
cultural competency as part of Mexicano musical practice. Peiia has noted intraethnic
cleavages surrounding con junto and orquesta traditions in relation to social status in the
following way:
In fact, a basic assumption that guided initial research was my early
impression (since my early days as an orquesta musician, actually) that, at
one level at least, the musical preferences espoused by con junto and
orquesta musicians- orquesta or orquesta tejana, being con junto music's
rival style among tejanos- betrayed a certain esthetic cleavage attributable
to the social status of their respective clientele. To put it in the simple
words of Narciso Martinez, an early and famous exponent of conjunto
music, "con junto era pa' la gente pobre, la gente de rancho; la orquesta era
pa' high society" ("Con junto was for poor people, rural people; orquesta
was for high society") (1985:4).
In this mariachi context, however, the social class issues relate not to intraethnic
cleavages drawn along particular musical genres but to distinct musical practices within a
given genre. During the course of interviews, not insignificantly, the existence of this
pick-up group came to light only after several months' work. Professional mariachi
players in Austin chose to omit discussion of this pick-up group. It was brought up in
passing, when a speaker first mentioned this group while defining the total Austin
mariachi performance context that I learned of it. The speaker made distinctions between
various kinds of mariachi practices and referred to this ensemble as "muy low-class.,,32
The perception that the ensemble is poorly trained comes primarily from criticism
concerning its overall sound. Indeed, it is apparent that there exist some "rougher"
sounding musical phrases and articulations that a discerning listener might find. As far as
engaging their audience, they are among the best as even a short stay any evening at the
taqueria will illustrate. Because they are dependent on direct engagement of the audience
for their wage, they have developed a high skill level in maintaining rapport with patrons
and being able to "read" an audience as far as musical preferences. Their financial
success depends on these skills. There are also a different set of musical skills that must
be developed in this pick-up ensemble that are either far less important issues or even
175
non-issues in the other ensembles. Musicians in this group must have a particularly fine
ear in adjusting to one another during performance. Because they do not have the luxury
of practicing together over many hours, their expression depends upon how well
musicians can adjust through aural and visual cues. There are slight variations in musical
arrangements so that the ability to adjust quickly to, for example, unexpected key
changes becomes crucial. Unlike the other groups, where musicians learn one specific
arrangement, musicians in this ensemble must be familiar with a whole range of
arrangements and able to adapt quickly when it becomes aurally apparent that most
musicians are following a specific arrangement. In the area of vocal performance,
listening abilities emerge as part of anticipating what a singer might do or adjusting
ensemble balance. Again, the familiarity with an individual singer is left to performance
contexts, and not many hours are spent in formal rehearsals. On one level, it is
conceivable that an excellent argument could be launched in favor of seeing this pick-up
group as being exceptionally skilled musicians, given their unique performance contexts
and its demands.
In sum, their denigration and low social standing depends on how their location,
modes of expression, financial success, and musical execution are interpreted by other
groups in relation to social class. It is also well-known among the mariachi community
that members of this pick-up ensemble have a tendency to live and work among
Mexicanos in East Austin- the "bad" side of the tracks.
33
In some ways, it is only by
their close association that they are they able to maintain their musical practice as a part
of this community. AI talon work demands a highly sophisticated understanding of the
target audience. It should be noted that this ensemble pursues al talon arrangements not
by default, as popularly ascribed, but by choice. They feel it is their best option in
pursuing successful mariachi expression in this part of town. They fully realize the
economic constraints and therefore the possibilities for success. This is strengthened by
their belief and investiture in the area as a worthy host to such endeavors:
176
People think of this place [East Austin] as the bad side of town. We have
problems with crime and theft. But that's not all we are. I look at mariachi
as a way to say something good about the Mexican people- you know our
heritage, like that. No one's going to tell me that mariachi doesn't belong
here. It's part of the cultura and everything. You see people think that if
we're not a part of the other side [of the city] that we don't have
something to contribute. I could go play over there but no because this is
home (vihuela player often found in the pick-up ensemble).
Not only do assessments of their musical expression suffer by their close association with
a primarily working-class audience, but their own social connections as members of this
community are equally reflected in those assessments.
Mariachi practice in this East Austin context then is interpreted as less socially
significant and therefore less culturally valid because of social class issues. The strength
of those observations is further heightened when it is realized that, with the exception of
the well-established group previously mentioned as seeking Mexican nationals, this pick-
up ensemble has the most Mexican national members. In effect, any prestige that may be
accorded Mexican national musicians is effectively erased by overarching social class
considerations. In some sense, East Austin mariachi practice is a subculture of the Austin
mariachi community. It actually becomes a subculture of a subculture on multiple trans-
formative levels. While mariachi (recall in particular the specific discussion on
racialization) can be interpreted as a subculture of Austin area majority culture, it also has
the capacity to be equally self-serving in its own internal dialectic. The import of this
dialectic where subcultures are concerned and the meaning of style or, in this case,
musical style/expression is well documented by Dick Hebdige who writes:
Style in subculture is, then, pregnant with significance. Its transformations
go 'against nature', interrupting the process of 'normalization' . As such,
they are gestures, movements towards a speech which offends the 'silent
majority', which challenges the principle of unity and cohesion, which
contradicts the myth of consensus. Our task becomes, like Barthes', to
discern the hidden messages inscribed in code on the glossy surfaces of
style, to trace them as 'maps of meaning' which obscurely re-present the
very contradictions they are designed to resolve or conceal (1988:18).
177
In regards to the Austin mariachi community, there is far from consensus over how
mariachi occupies a public space in its sound and presentation in actual practice. The
appearance is that there is a unity concerning this music as an ethnically defined
expression- that mariachis essentially follow a shared practice within a given region or,
in this case, a specific city. As will become clearer in the following discussion, mariachi
itself is seeking to address unequal power relations between Mexican descent
communities and dominant, majority culture; however, in doing so, it contradicts itself by
reproducing (in part) the alienation of socially subordinating a particular group. In this
example, the sharp divisions occur over internal contradictions of social class, status, and
ultimately cultural validity. The "muy low-class" mariachi is socially defined as an
undesireable mariachi and a lesser version of this musical practice. The implications of
seeing mariachi as a public practice representing a specific ethnic identity leads
discussion to the final motivation issue-- education in teaching people about a Mexican
musical tradition.
When musicians and audience members spoke of mariachi and its larger purposes,
education of the audience was one of the primary concerns.
My kids hate this music [mariachi]. When I or their mother puts on a
record they roll their eyes and leave the room. They're into their own
music- jazz, hip-hop, rock and roll ... not "old fogey" music. To me it's
sad and I think I didn't teach them well enough about their own culture so
that they would appreciate it. They'll listen to it [mariachi] when it's live
and it keeps their interest because it's way different than just listening to it
on a record. So I bring them in here [Mexican restaurant] as a fun family
outing. Maybe with time they'll look back on this and think they learned
something about their family (father of a 12, 14, and 17 year-old).
Clearly, the sentiments expressed here reflect a belief in mariachi's capacity to educate
audiences. Moreover, these beliefs are not confined solely to the education of Mexican
descent people.
They [non Mexican descent people] get very surprised by what we do.
Sometimes you can just tell when it is the first time they have seen a
mariachi- up close. There is something very appealing and exciting about
178
mariachis that people are drawn to. It can be very exciting music. It has a
long history- deep roots, which is something else people don't necessarily
understand very well. I think just by playing these pieces we expose
people to so much. If they can hear the music as it was intended to be
played and see us showing our skills then I think that's good for how they
see us [Mexican descent people] (mariachi group leader).
This speaker went on further to elaborate that he thought some of the stereotypical
interpretations of Mexican people (Le. lazy, dumb, dirty, poor, etc.) by majority
Americans were detrimental to the aspirations of Mexican people as a whole. Mariachi
was a way to address those ''wrong ways ofthinking.,,34 Scholars Anzaldua, Limon,
Paredes, and Peiia, have long documented the import of these ''wrongs ways of thinking"
in cultural expression for this specific Tejano context. The contemporary and historical
pictures of this dialectic as competing ideologies in the social construction of Mexican
descent people and their cultural value concern their contributions as a U.S. group. One
of the critical places where these dynamics unfold was in the area of public presentation
and in the overall sense of increased visibility.
Public Presentation and Increased Visibility
The most prominent event that occurred during the periods of research and that
highlighted attitudes and expectations of the public presentation of mariachi was the
initiation of a mariachi festival. The first annual Austin Mariachi Espectacular was held
during the summer of 1995 in the venerable downtown Paramount Theater (see
Illustrations 5.3 and 5.4). As the local mariachi academic researcher, I had become very
familiar with the two Austin mariachi groups involved with this venture. The two
mariachi musicians who had formed their own management company for Mexican based
cultural expression, took the lead in mounting the festival. Since they were both
individuals who were particularly interested in my work, they immediately saw me as a
potential resource in helping realize this event. For the most part, my direct participation
179
Illustration 5.3 Downtown Austin with Paramount Theater
on the Right-hand Side
180
Illustration 5.4 Paramount Theater in Downtown Austin, Texas
181
was limited to assisting backstage and photographing the event during the performance.
Indirectly, one of the principal organizers informally consulted with me for opinions
concerning presentation and choice of speakers.
To realize the import of this organization in the planning stages, two things need
to be understood:
1. A Mexicano/Chicano owned and directed management business in its
infancy that focuses on Mexicano/Chicano cultural arts has little
economic, social, or political influence among art management
organizations, business, and the managers of public facilities.
2. No one believed that a mariachi festival based in Austin, Texas would
be a financial success.
These two major obstacles proved daunting to this arts management company in what
had been several years of planning. Members of the company admitted that they had
almost given up many times trying to gain the necessary support from the business
community and various public institutions. One of the business owners admitted to
contemplating a much smaller event as a trial to prove the feasibility of the proposed
larger event and therefore answer the project's most severe critics. He concluded,
however, that to do so would have compromised certain professional standards (venue,
quality of lights and sound equipment, quality of advance publicity, musicianship of
groups contracted, etc.), and it would have, in his opinion, made it hardly worth the
effort. Part of his motivation for launching a major festival was his discontent with what
he felt had been substandard public presentations of the mariachi tradition.
The whole launching of a festival and the motivations behind that were not
unrelated to some of the observations made by scholars on the role of festivals in general
for contemporary urban life:
Whether the concept of "festival time" is placed in the first or second
societal model [social or urbanized], it implies the same event: a break
with everyday life, a time that is qualitatively different and perceived as
different and perceived as separate, a time pertaining to social actions that
would be inconceivable outside the boundaries offestival (for example,
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inversion of rules and roles, the negation of certain values, etc.).
Furthermore, it has a universal and cosmic aspect insofar as it allows a
"revitalization" expressed through the "birth-death-resurrection" theme
seen in the analyses by Bakhtin and Eliade. The reaffirmation can be of an
oppositional nature (folk culture in the Middle Ages, for example) or it
can reinforce the cohesion of the institutional system (as in the traditional
rural community) (MesniI1987:189).
This was indeed an event perceived by its progenitors as unique and having the history-
making potential to affrrm Mexicano cultural identity for its positive aspects against
negative cultural stereotypes. All aspects of the planning of the event reflected those
beliefs. Many of the musicians involved expressed that mariachi had for so long been a
part of the cultural arts in Austin that it was past time for its importance to be
acknowledged in a public setting. The event was proposed to communicate, among other
things, that mariachi "had arrived" in Austin in not only reaching a certain standard of
performance but also in having maintained that level over the course of many years. The
Paramount Theater was selected as the most appropriate venue. This historical theater is
located on Congress Street in downtown Austin. As you step out from the front doors, to
the right you will find the State Capitol building. The Paramount functions as one of the
culturally elite nerve centers for the area, having played host to a range of activities (Le.
Ray Charles, the Tibetan monks).
The choice of the main speaker and MC for the evening was especially critical.
Organizers were dedicated to choosing someone whom they felt represented a high level
of achievement and maturity not only in the mariachi tradition but for Mexicano/Chicano
musical arts in general. An invitation was extended and accepted by "Little Joe" of
"Little Joe y la Familia." His role in the Chicano movement and longevity as a successful
Chicano musician proved to be the key aspects of why he was chosen. The organizers felt
that his community standing and musical accomplishments would further mark this as an
auspicious occasion through his presence. For similar reasons, official invitations were
extended to various political figures and prominent citizens from throughout the greater
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Austin area. This orientation also clearly explains why the organizers made a somewhat
controversial decision in highlighting not only two local Austin mariachi groups but one
San Antonio group. The San Antonio group chosen is one of the approximately five U.S.
elite show groups that have been internationally recognized for their achievements. These
elite groups are the rare exceptions who pursue mariachi as a full-time profession. They
enjoy the finest complement of musicians, instruments, leadership, and routinely exhibit
the highest levels of musicianship. Many of the groups have performed for various
presidents, royalty, and been accorded national honors. The organizers made the decision
to "hedge their financial bets" in bringing in an ensemble that they knew could
unequivocally generate a large audience.
The decision was to prove extremely successful, especially given that the
ensemble (with its performance demands) had been increasingly out of residence and,
therefore, was doing comparatively little performing within Tejas. Their return to the
state marked an important event and the coverage for the festival benefited greatly
because of their participation, especially in Spanish language journals and periodicals as
well as promotionals through Spanish language radio and television. In addition, critics
conceded that their inclusion also signaled that Austin mariachi had indeed arrived if it
could hold the stage with such a world class ensemble. The festival was indeed a far
greater financial and cultural success than even the principal organizers had anticipated.
The performance was sold out within days of tickets becoming available. On the evening
of the performance, people who had not known tickets were not available were turned
away at the box office. It was difficult to ascertain an accurate number. However, while
standing outside of the venue
3S
about an hour and a halfbefore performance time, I noted
that approximately fifteen people were turned away within a half hour observation. The
reviews in the major English language newspapers were highly favorable and, at times (in
the opinions of some mariachi observers) bordered on the ridiculous for their enthusiasm.
184
As several musicians noted. the writers clearly showed their naivete about some finer
aspects of mariachi performance.
Women's Entry into the Professional Ranks
One of the most noticeable aspects regarding recent changes in professional,
contemporary mariachi expression in the U.S. has been the emergence of women. Current
trends in the United States reflect an emergent position for women as they become
increasingly represented not only as instrumentalists, but as composers and directors as
well. During the summer of 1994 at Plaza Garabaldi in Mexico City, I worked closely
with the permanent singer and only female member of the Mariachi de Marina. In
general, these musicians maintained that one of the primary differences between U.S. and
Mexican mariachi was that U.S. groups frequently included women instrumentalists on a
permanent basis. They expressed that performance opportunities for women held greater
potential in all aspects of mariachi performance, including even that of the woman's most
traditional role in mariachi, as the female singer or cantante.
It is difficult to speak of exact figures, but it seems that these perceptions for
professional U.S mariachi expression have some basis, though with some very important
qualifiers. From past work with Southwestern mariachi school programs, conferences and
workshops, I have found women and young girls well-represented among these amateur
or semi-professional musicians; however, among the largest, most financially successful
groups, sometimes referred to as show mariachis, male musicians dominate the ranks to
the almost total exclusion of women- the main exception being an all-women's group
based in Southern California- Mariachi Reyna (the queens) that was recently founded
and. despite excellent musicianship, is still regarded as a kind of novelty group. In
185
addition. the number of female participants decreases the farther one travels up the
comparative rankings of the semi-professional and professional groups. In addition. it
has been noted that specific sessions at some mariachi conferences and workshops have
been initiated by senior women mariachis in part as a mentorship process for younger
women professionals.
It is on the basis of these observations and views expressed to me by musicians
(both male and female) that I have begun to understand how women's presence in
mariachi is created, defined, maintained and changed on the grounds of conflicting
ideologies. It requires little effort to uncover the patriarchal strictures that these apparent
gender ideologies imbue. But what exactly can be done beyond constructing women's
patriarchal oppression as a kind of artificial binary opposition (Solie 1993: 1-20)?
Materials presented thus far might be interpreted as validating a binary
oppositional relationship between men and women as socially constructed beings. The
duality may exist on the level of lyrical content, but we have already seen how lyrical
content (Chapter ill) can provide the departure point for a mariachi performance practice
that is exceedingly context-sensitive in how people are relating to one another as they
produce mariachi's social meaning in actual lived practice. In this sense, the polarities
and dualities are never clear. The binaries do not function as mutually exclusive
relationships, but rather as two points along a continuum that can perhaps be partially
magnetized to pull social expression and practice to one side or another in a given
moment. This conception also centralizes how expressions can simultaneously engender
elements of seemingly contradictory polarities. This is particularly true in figuring out
how women's presence as musicians in mariachi is socially constructed.
186
Even among male musicians who are willing to accept women as instrumentalists,
the language portrays the nuances of these highly gendered spaces. For example: "Well,
of course a good violinist or singer is good- no matter man or woman"; "we have had
some good women musicians on the violin"; "she sings mostly though sometimes she'll
play guitar when we're short a player." While these statements are clearly meant to
validate women's presence in mariachi, they also simultaneously and contrarily illustrate
unequal acceptance of women in all spheres ofmusicianship?6 Their value-laden
expression reveals the contours over the expectations of what roles they may occupy.
Recall in the discussion of the filial base ensemble that the daughter trumpet player
needed special encouragement and support in order to be successful. The limited
opportunities a woman faces, for example, of only playing guitar when an ensemble is
"short a player" is also equally illuminating.
Within Austin, there have oflate been many changes in the mariachi community.
During the course offield research, as has been previously mentioned, it was not unusual
to learn that from week to week certain groups had re-formed or that particular musicians
had left one group for another. In addition, Austin mariachi groups frequently borrow
musicians from other groups to meet the personnel needs for a certain playing
opportunity. This general time of change was marked by younger musicians who wanted
to improve the state of mariachi performance, both as a practice and as a perceived art
form. A mariachi newsletter for the Southwest was founded and, of course, the first
Austin Mariachi Espectacular concert sold-out the venerable down-town Paramount
Theater.
Within the Austin mariachi community, one group in particular is important for
187
noting the changing role of women. Each mariachi has one main manager or leader and
may keep as many as ten players on call. One group, deemed by the others as the best and
certainly the longest in existence (as previously discussed), is resistant to accepting
women on a permanent basis. The leader clearly states that "it's traditional that only men
play." The other three groups have women instrumentalists and one ensemble has a
female music director and composer. This particular mariachi is unique in that it is the
only group under a woman's management leadership.
EIida
37
, this mariachi's director and manager, immigrated to the United States as a
young woman. Her daughter Carmen became interested in music and learned the violin
beginning in school orchestra programs. By the time Carmen reached high school age,
she had become interested in learning how to play some kind of Mexican music. Elida
stated that she felt the school orchestra program was not able to address her daughter's
musical needs. One of the important considerations for moving the family from one part
oftown to another was that Carmen would be able to participate in a local high school
mariachi program. Her director encouraged her to improve her violin skills and begin
expanding her singing capabilities.
Elida emphasized that she felt she had taught her children that they had a great
deal to be proud of as Mexican-descent people. For Elida, Carmen's participation in
mariachi symbolized this cultural pride through involvement with a long standing
tradition. The problems began when Carmen sought to continue mariachi performance
within the local professional ranks. Because Carmen was not openly accepted, she even
had difficulties assuming what should have been one of her most accepted roles, that of a
singer. This inconsistency was laid bare during the first taping session, when Carmen
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exhibited skill and poise as a particularly fine ranchera singer.
38
As Elida revealed, it
wasn't long before she decided to seize the earliest possible opportunity to begin their
own mariachi group. Acceptance for this mariachi within the broader mariachi
community has been strained at times. The competitive edge for a finite number of
engagements leaves little room for even-handed acceptance, even among the male
managed groups.
Elida's direction of the group is seen in local circles as somewhat unusual. She
does not really sing or play an instrument. Consequently, in the performance context, she
can often be found standing in the middle of a mariachi ensemble directing with her
body- hand motions to the rhythm and melody sections, a nod to the side and a
continual monitoring of the performance situation in making repertoire selections that
seem most appropriate. In a telling analysis of the assumptions connected with women's
roles in mariachi, many audience members wait expectantly for her to burst into song
sometime during the evening.
The position of this mariachi, indeed its very existence, points to the inequitable
power relationships that exist for women as they seek to control their own cultural
production as musicians. They negotiate tradition-bound strictures that are naturalized in
an appeal to an historical past that makes them appear timeless and enduring- "It's
traditional that only men play." We have viewed mariachi as a social practice in its
performative expression involving musicians and audience participants. By locating the
discussion within issues of professional community, motivations, public presentation,
increased visibility, women's entry into the professional mariachi ranks, I have tried to
show that intersecting issues of nationalism, traditionalism, race, ethnicity and gender are
189
mutually constitutive. The internal contradictions explored are not social puzzles in need
of solutions; rather, they highlight how as a whole they collective define a performative
plane that forms a coherency in the act of a performative statement in daily practice.
While the experiences of women who inhabit this performative plane within the
Austin mariachi community may be similar, their responses are unique. The question is
not whether women experience these strictures, but rather how they create within them
and become active agents. Maria, herself a product of the Austin mariachi high school
program (her father teaches the classes), has chosen to circumvent some of the difficulties
faced by female mariachi performers by inventing a different performative context. She
regularly performs as a solo singer while accompanying herself on guitar at a local
Mexican restaurant. As such, she is able to perform within the mariachi tradition with a
greater degree of control over her own musical expression. In addition to the traditional
boleros, huapangos, sones, etc., she regularly includes her own compositions as well as
drawing upon other musical sources.
She is particularly well-known for her renditions of Loretta Lynn (Le. "Honky
Tonk Girl," "You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man") and Patsy Cline songs. She
states that she enjoys performing those songs and identifies with these women solo
singers as strong performance figures. Mariachis frequently cite the genre's flexibility and
long-standing tradition of incorporating different musics. In recent commercial
productions, mariachis have included musical arrangements of every thing from musica
clasica (overture to Franz Von Suppe's [1819-1895] The Poet and the Peasant), to
renditions of Glenn Miller and Beach Boys standards (Mariachi Sol de Mexico).
Maria, having learned this general approach, takes no small delight in referencing
190
the fact that she enjoys drawing upon Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline to "poke" at mariachi
traditionalism that constructs it as a male dominated sphere. During an evening in a local
Mexican restaurant, she is the featured musician. Located in South Austin, another
predominantly Mexican neighborhood with only a slightly better reputation than East
Austin, this restaurant is of the kind where day workers will frequently take their meals
and where families on a restricted budget will dine. Good food in generous quantities,
reasonable prices, and a relaxed atmosphere predominate.
I cannot help but think that musical theoretical analysis that seeks to explain
multi-layered meanings in social practice has a bit of catching up to do with the Maria
Castros of the world-- her dress evokes the appearance of La Cantante in its bright colors,
Spanish flair and bits of lace. A flower draws up her hair and her bouncing steps click the
ends of two-inch heels as she sings it "will be over my dead body" that another woman
will take her man.
191
Notes to Chapter V
1 The individual mariachi musicians, group directors, and aficionados interviewed
defined modern, urban, professional mariachi as a fairly recent phenomenon. Some of the
distinguishing hallmarks cited were the formation of professional organizations and
social networks wherein the ensemble was approached as a business venture. They could
not agree upon the exact year when mariachi emerged in this form in Austin as a
strong, local force. However, there was agreement that the contemporary expression
of local, professional groups is well-known and respected in the state and the region
for its professionalism and musicianship. One of the ensembles was even awarded a
National Endowment for the Arts music heritage grant.
2 Lydia Mendoza recounts how in the early 1930's her family came into the San
Antonio area and immediately began performing as a musical group in the La Plaza de
Zacate (Haymarket Plaza) as the mercado was then known as an open air affair. The
narrative offers rich testimony to the musical life to be found (Strachwitz 1993).
3 The Riverwalk is the series of waterways that exist underneath the city streets and
are open to the sky through a network of bridges. The waterways are accessible by
entryways from the street with footpaths alongside most of the water edges. Access
can also be gained by buildings on the Riverwalk that can be entered and exited at
street or river level. The area remains a popular tourist attraction with its many
shops, restaurant, mall and even hotel connected to it. Boats cruise the waterways
with tours and evening dinner packages. The area is also host to many community
events and celebrations. In terms of mariachi, the evening Serenata (serenade) given by
groups participating in the annual mariachi conference and workshops in the San
Antonio municipal auditorium is a favorite event. Groups strategically placed all along
the Riverwalk play throughout the evening.
4 Mexican mestizo musical ensemble group associated with the Jarocho region. This
string group usually includes regional guitar-like instruments and harp. They are often
clearly distinguished by their regional dress of white shirt and pants with a woven hat.
S Mexican trios of the kind where there are usually 2-3 guitarists who sing in close
harmonies. The groups can be augmented by Cuban style percussion (Le. congas, gUiro,
clave). An example of these groups would be the trio Los Panchos, whose popularity
soared on both sides of the border among Mexican descent and Spanish speaking
populations during the 1940s and 50s. My mother recounts how the group traveled to the
Central California Valley playing for large dances and concerts where "everyone" would
go. She was referring primarily to the Mexican migrant farmworker population of that
time period.
6 Since Austin is the state capital, there are often opportunities for state sponsored
performance opportunities. It was these missed opportunities that seemed to draw the
192
harshest criticism in that the public exposure was especially notable- Le. press
coverage in Austin and state newspapers.
7 My research has focused on groups in the Southwest and the Midwest. It is
possible, and most probable, that there are mariachi ensembles active in parts of the
South, East Coast, and Northwest. VIrtually any urban area with Mexican decent
people and/or a Latino population would be a possible home to these groups. Walt
Disney World in Orlando, Florida, employs Mariachi Cobre as a permanent
component of their world cultures area.
8 Throughout this chapter, groups and individuals are not referred to by their real
names. Although all the individuals involved welcomed the opportunity to be
identified, I have preserved some confidentiality for ethical considerations- especially
for those instances where comments of a sensitive nature are communicated.
9 The local parlance calls this ensemble a "pick-up" group because its membership is
continually in flux. The group is led by two individuals who are the consistent
members. It has a regular standing arrangement for tips and food at a local taqueria
(taco) place. Implied in the "pick-up" phrase is some valuative judgment as to the
ensemble's musical ability and execution. Because the ensemble does not sustain a
fixed membership, they do not pursue a rigorous rehearsal schedule and depend
upon the ability of the given members to learn quickly and be very familiar with a
large repertoire.
10 From the descriptions that follow, anyone familiar with the mariachi community within
Austin can easily identify these groups. I've chosen to refer to them anonymously in the
interest of preserving some confidentiality.
11 In this context, Mexican national refers to an individual born and primarily raised
in Mexico. In particular, the majority of the person's mariachi training has been in
Mexico.
12 Olga Najera-Ramierez spoke extensively on the patria (social relations
acknowledging a common home country and heritage) at the 1996 Seventh
International Conference on Latino Cultures in the United States in Taxco, Mexico,
formed between people involved in charra (a Mexican tradition of roping, riding,
and other ranch skills). In much the same way, mariachis consider themselves a
community that, in many cases, traverses state and international boundaries. For
example, when a new musician comes to town or is perhaps thinking of visiting another
city, the first contacts most likely made to ease the transition will be other mariachis
in the area. Sometimes the individuals involved will only know one another through
an intermediary or even not at all.
13 Many musicians and audience members consider black to be the most traditional color
for the traje. Browns, greens, grays, and blues are for the most part also considered
193
somewhat common. There are a few colors, especially associated with some of the larger
show groups, that are considered unusual, like pink: or bright reds or oranges.
14 In this case, confianza is a sense of mutual trust developed in reciprocal relations
marked by a deep sense of loyalty and generosity.
IS Personal communication during a mariachi rehearsal in Fresno, CA, 1997. Pena later
elaborated that his comments recognized a long and prominent history of Western
classical music on Mexican culture. The adoption of such a vocal style for a traditional
music is related to that fact. In addition, it is worth noting that this styles incorporates
such technical stylistic expressions as vibrato and falsetto as part of that influence.
Indeed, in this context, the emphasis is on "beautiful singing."
16 Again, fictitious names are used for issues of privacy.
17 The bajo sexto was the bass instrument in his family's conjunto ensemble. It is a 12
string guitar-like instrument with six double courses.
18 A high-pitched cry that, in the mariachi performance context, signifies extreme delight,
encouragement, praise, or some other strong emotion relating to the dynamics of
performance. Besides this vocalization, a word or phrase may immediately precede or
follow further expressing sentiments behind this expression.
19 Mr. Z recounted a favorite technique he had for wedding receptions in particular. At
the traditional first dance for the bride and groom, he would have the ensemble play the
expected vals (waltz). At an opportune moment, he would have the ensemble break into a
version of some dance piece like ''EI Jarabe Tapatio" to catch the couple "off guard." He
laughed as he recalled that some of the young women who knew how to dance to that
kind of fast paced music would pick up their skirts and begin zapateado steps (intricate
stamping dance patterns).
20 Mr. Z further elaborated by recounting a time when they were performing in a
retirement home. He noticed that one of the women seemed particularly moved by a
bolero he was singing at the time and could see her "come to life" as she sung along. Mr.
Z, while playing the guitar, went to her on bended knee and remained there for the rest of
the song as he saw her tears begin to flow.
21 At the time of this interview, Mr. Z had recently retired from his job and had been
devoting more time to the development of the group in preparation to handing it over to
the leadership of his children.
22 It should be explained that in restaurant contexts of this kind, the mariachi ensemble is
required to move around the venue ensuring that all patrons are equally exposed to the
music. They pause only briefly in stopping, in a rotating fashion, at a series of tables.
194
23 A musician from another group used that phrase to characterize this group during an
interview. The speaker further elaborated that such behaviors as drinking or smoking
while working was especially not permitted in that group.
24 It is well worth noting that many musicians stressed this point in interviews as a
way to garner respect for Mexican culture and people of Mexican descent in
general. Several individuals specifically cited the ability of mariachi to work against
cultural stereotypes where Mexicans are portrayed as ill-educated, oflow
intelligence, and lazy.
2S In the language used to describe these relationships, the Spanish word elementos was
used to refer not only to individuals as musicians but also to their broader roles within the
ensemble.
26 Inclusive of university, college, high school, middle school, and even elementary
school programs.
27 For the purposes of this context, the term "Mexican national" refers to someone born
and primarily raised in Mexico.
28 While conducting research at Plaza Garabaldi in Mexico City, I interviewed a mariachi
leader whose group had recently returned from a two year stay in Peru. He also
communicated to me that a young man from Peru had come to Plaza Garabaldi to study
guitarron.
29 An informal restaurant whose main food is tacos made out of various kinds of meat.
The price of an average plate is comparatively inexpensive to most sit-down restaurants.
In the case of this specific establishment, patrons are primarily from working class or
lower-middle class backgrounds.
30 During an interview, a musician referred to what he had seen as far as more than one of
this ensemble's members were missing parts of the decorations worn on the pants.
31 The phrase literally means "on the heel." It is a mariachi term in common usage for
groups who wander from establishment to establishment and are paid by the piece.
Patrons make specific requests and pay an agreed upon price for each song performed.
32 "very low-class"
33 An illustrative point of how this predominantly Mexicano area of Austin is constructed
was the concern expressed by colleagues when they learned I was considering renting a
home in this area. I was told to avoid that area of the city at all costs.
34 Due to technical difficulties during this interview (ran out of tape), the speaker's final
assessments were lost. I do recall that one of his closing points was that these
195
stereotypical interpretations of Mexican people were by no means only a part of social
expression within primarily non-Mexican majority groups but also among some Mexican
descent people as welL In his estimation, the saddest part of these stereo-types was the
degree to which "our own people" had learned to believe them.
3S I had been sent across the street by the organizers to photograph the theater's outdoor
marquee that announced the event.
36 See Peiia 1999a for similar examples in orquesta and con junto musics.
37 Again, the names used do not reflect the true identity of these women.
38 Ranchera refers to a song type that invokes a particular singing style where the
meaning and emotion of the lyrics take precedence over allover musical considerations
in its declamatory approach. Singers speak of good ranchera singing as the hallmark of a
mature singer of traditional Mexicano musics (see Peiia 1999b for an in-depth discussion
of the ranchera).
CHAPTER VI
POR LO MENOS (AT THE VERY LEAST)
Far from presenting a picture of how mariachi is pursued as a unified social
practice, these chapters have sought to show the diversity reflected in musical expression
as a critical engagement of ethnic identity, traditionalism, and history within an urban
context. The thoughts and emotions shared with me throughout the course of this research
have not been limited to viewing mariachi as a fully welcomed source of knowledge. On
the contrary, there have been individuals equally concerned that mariachi makes a
statement (a negative statement) that illustrates how far removed Mexican descent
communities are from having the ability to leave behind seemingly anachronistic
expressions based on romantic ideals of an historical past. The narrator in the Jeremy
Marre film about the Southern Texas borderlands makes note of an annual parade in San
Antonio, Texas, where Mexican descent people show themselves in "safe" ways. Their
dress does include regional dresses for the women, charro trajes for the young men, and,
not unexpectedly, mariachi as the musical accompaniment. The observation is that by
relying on these "comfortable" folkloric images of Mexican descent people, society is not
forced to deal with the neo-colonial socioeconomic realities of contemporary life. These
may seem harsh critiques but they are as much part of mariachi practice as those views
that uphold it as a vital part of Mexican descent culture. These non-supportive sentiments
are indeed in the minority but they also provide a distinct perspective and collection of
ideas relevant to our current study. Their very existence support the issue of intra-ethnic
diversity and the subtext that potent, organic
l
folkloric expressions within an urban
context engender elements of both organic use and commodified forms- Le. commercial
196
197
recordings, large scale mariachi concert shows, etc. As such, they exist as highly
mediated folkloric expressions that are then subject to the ideologies competing with one
another to define their character and social meaning. The varied critical responses to
mariachi cover a wide spectrum that varies from total rejection to a modified engagement
where mariachi problemataics are addressed as an invitation to create solutions and adapt
it to a changing social aesthetic.
Criticisms of the Tradition
"Ridiculous-- that's what they are. They look ridiculous with those pants, with the
silver all down their [pant] legs." The speaker in an artisan's market in Puebla, Mexico,
looked incredulous as I revealed that my current trip to Mexico was to study mariachis.
He went on to recount how he thought mariachis were some of the worst representatives
of Mexican culture because they were "drunkards" and "chased women." His comments
were not unique in referring to some of the negative qualities associated with mariachis.
As already amply discussed in previous chapters, these are indeed some of the negative
stereotypes against which contemporary practitioners must work. What was perhaps
somewhat surprising about this speaker was that he was a shop owner specializing in
Puebla style ceramics-- talavera. One of his female shop workers rolled her eyes and
shrugged somewhat helplessly while the gentleman continued to outline the shortcomings
of mariachi as a profession. As a shopkeeper in the artisan market, he deals with all kinds
of tourists who come to the region specifically to see the talavera works and purchase
examples from many shops throughout the artisan market and other parts of the city. The
market in which he was located is wholly dedicated to what are considered Mexican folk
arts traditions.
2
As he was later to admit, many of his perceptions about mariachis had to
do with they ways in which musicians engage people who are primarily tourists. They
have lost his respect as a traditional cultural expression because they cater to foreign
198
ideas of Mexican culture so that they're mostly "for show." It is true that most tourists I
met readily identified mariachi music as a Mexican tradition while knowing very little
else about the arts in Mexico. The shopkeeper's objections had more to do with the fact
that he believed the images presented had less to do with what Mexicans defined as their
culture as what had been developed in relation to the tourist trade. It should also be
mentioned that within Mexico mariachi professionals are primarily working class. Even
the most financially successful can be seen as only aspiring to middle class.
3
The
shopkeeper (from other comments) clearly saw himself from a "better" social class than
mariachi musicians. Part of his animosity was based on a class interpretation of them
being ill mannered and somewhat undependable.
4
In a related manner, mariachi performance is sometimes rejected on the basis that
it gives too public an ethnic identity. This has everything to do with the context in which
it is displayed.
My parents hired this [mariachi] group. They came to my school and they
came up to serenade me as I was leaving school with my friends. It was
completely unexpected and I was pretty embarrassed. I went to a mostly
white high school and I was so embarrassed! Looking back at it now I
know it wasn't good to be ashamed of who I am but at the time I went
home and cried because it made me different in front of all my peers at a
time when being Mexican was something that I didn't want people to
know because in those days Mexicans weren't thought very much of. (52
year old beautician born and raised in Southern California and mother of
three children)
This speaker went on to relate how she felt at that time that the music was "old
fashioned" music that her parents listened to or that "Spanish stuff' they played around
the house. She had been more interested in Motown music and rock and roll music. She
has since then come to appreciate mariachi music but still feels it's not a part of her own
musical upbringing or history.s Other speakers recounted ambivalent relationships with
the tradition due to such things as linguistic considerations.
I like the music but because I don't understand Spanish very well I don't
really understand much of what they're saying. It's not as enjoyable to me.
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And sometimes when I hear it , it makes me a little sad. When I hear it, it
reminds me of my grandpa. He loved this music always listening to it and
singing at the top of his voice so that we heard him allover [the house].
Though linguistic considerations are the first mitigating circumstances the speaker cites,
it is not the sole reason for his ambivalence. It is equally a matter of personal associations
with difficult memories in how he was enculturated as a mariachi listener. Yet another
perspective offered is from someone who simply has limited knowledge.
We really didn't have much music around the house, much less Mexican
music. I would sometimes hear mariachi in restaurants or when a cousin of
mine was married. I know what it is but I really don't know much about it.
I really don't seek it out. (paralegal in Michigan)
This speaker went on to express some regret over how much he hadn't been exposed to as
far as his Mexican heritage. He grew up in a middle class neighborhood with primarily
white families. They majority of his relatives are still located in Texas. His parents had
come to Michigan looking for better working conditions.
In all cases, these speakers challenge how we incorporate broad experiences in
even anything that seems so narrowly defined as U.S. based urban mariachi. Presenting
negative responses and juxtaposing them against some of the more prevalent attitudes
contained in the whole of this work illustrates not a contradictory or spurious relationship
between ethnic identity, traditionalism, and history, but a shared cultural space enlivened
by cultural investments in mariachi musical expression. The U.S. based speakers also
delineate the politics of representation where traditionally underrepresented groups share
neocolonial positions of disenfranchisement. Whether it is issues of international identity,
social peer pressure, or the politics of language, racialized class distinctions depend upon
the maintenance of power, wealth, and full participation (or lack thereot) within a given
society. Even within populations that can be said to be supportive of mariachi, there still
remains active, diverse engagement that sees discrepancies between what is presented
and what is actually fully engaged. Perhaps one of the areas for which this is most critical
is machismo and its relationship to mariachi performance. Cultural issues concerning
200
machismo and Mexican descent culture are replete with popular images expressed
through a variety of ethnic stereotypes- i.e. the Latin lover and embodied hyper-
sexualities (Le. Antonio Banderas, Charro, and Ricky Martin) for both men and women.
One has also only to recall popular portrayals of Latin "hotness" or "spiciness" in things
like Latin music dance forms such as salsa or merengue. Within these gender ideologies,
mariachi contributes what can be referred to as silent or opaque narratives. Mariachi does
articulate "out loud" gendered ideologies through such things as lyrical content and dress.
In one sense, easy access to gender issues on this level can make for poor social analysis.
The difficulty is that these larger- than-life imageries easily mask underlying gendered
spaces that articulate what is critically at stake in mariachi as a social practice. Musicians
and aficionados are well acquainted with gendered spaces that shape musical expression.
Machismo in Performance
As was briefly explored in the previous chapter, the role of women mariachis has
its own contentions among mariachi professionals and women's general treatment in the
profession. There is yet another aspect to these dynamics in how gendered relationships
shape mariachi practice for both men and women.
I enjoy performing. Getting into that singing role of being almost like this
super male is kind ofan ego boost ... I'm very proud of what I do and for
a love song I'll pick a pretty girl in the audience and focus on her. I keep
respectful of who she is ... never do anything to embarrass her or touch
her inappropriately or anything like that, maybe hold her hand but that's it.
I'm careful to be respectful, especially if she is with her family or maybe a
boyfriend. We [mariachis] already have this reputation of getting around
with the ladies ... if my own girlfriend is in the audience then I make sure
I sing to her first! (19 year old male college student and mariachi
professional)
Interestingly, this young speaker specifically identifies key tensions that inform male
performance practices. While most male mariachis will openly identify a distinct
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empowerment in both the performing style and the lyrical content (which reinforce one
another), they equally point out how limiting those roles can be.
Sometimes I do feel like I go "over the top. " You can take that macho
stuff too far. I don't believe that a lot of those things you know where the
man's word is law or you drown your sorrows [in alcohol] because you've
lost the love of a good woman or this woman has betrayed you are really
as much a big part of mariachi as some compaiieros [companions/friends]
make it. We play with those images. You have to to get the style right.
You have to have that confidence. It's not like most of us believe those
ideas- our mujeres [wives, mothers, sisters, girlfriends] wouldn't let us
get away with it! (36 year old male hardware worker and mariachi
professional)
This speaker also related how during a rendition of "La Malagueiia" (The Woman from
Malaga, Spain), the "tables were turned" on him. Mariachis will frequently choose a
female audience member to sing this song to as the lyrics speak of various feminine
attributes. He recounted that he picked a woman in her early 50s who, as it turned out,
had been a former singer in the ranchera tradition. She had sung with mariachis in a
professional setting for many years. Though retired for over twenty years she, in his
words, "sang me under the table." He was then subject to continuous teasing from
ensemble members the rest of the evening and almost every time he would sing this piece
for some time afterwards. The meaning of the jokes centered on the fact that the roles in
the song had been "reversed." Of particular issue was that the woman had clearly out -
sung him in the matter of the falsetto notes held for extended lengths. ''La Malagueiia" is
typically sung by a man. The hallmark of the masculine rendition is both the strength and
quality in how the male voice executes the falsetto. When this speaker "lost" this musical
standoff, he lost some of his male prominence for the evening. The gendered expectation
had been "disturbed" and it was lost on the basis of his skills not meeting this test. In the
mariachi realm, this was something of an acute loss since musical skill is often a source
of great pride. Faithfully executing a performance depends upon proper musical style and
overall musical technique. The assumption is that unless a musician is somehow
202
indicated as fulfilling an apprenticeship role,
6
he/she must perform with a high degree of
skill. This is especially true for female musicians since they must prove they have the
musical talent to merit inclusion.
In addition to being not fully accepted as musicians or in roles of musical
leadership, women contend with a much different performance dynamic. It is one based
on the cultural rewriting oftexts,7 double entendre, and in/sub version of power relations.
No one is ready to dispute that mariachi is a male dominated realm (yet)8. Though these
particular elements can be understood to influence male performance, they are not the
major determinants of its basis. A telling example is that of a female mariachi director.
Typically, mariachi directors are instrumentalists and singers as well as music directors
who select repertoire and oversee rehearsals. This female director does not play an
instrument or participate consistently as a vocalist. Her musical participation is limited to
an occasional chorus, more an exception than the rule. She does, however, dress in a full
traje as she frequently appears alongside the ensemble. While conducting video research
with her ensemble at an Austin, Texas, restaurant, I initially focused the camera on her,
as she seemed poised to begin singing. Several people who have viewed this and other
tapes have had similar expectations. Instead of participating in a singing role, she
observes the audience and makes small body gestures to regulate such things as tempo,
repetition, and volume. She does take an active role in determining repertoire choice in
the performance context in reading the audience and determining what repertoire will be
most welcomed.
Her male counterparts in the local area have noted her non-participation as a
musician and sometimes use this as a criticism against her prominence as a mariachi
leader. The criticisms highlight her role within the performance context. The difficulty is
that she is creating a new performance role that is not generally accepted in contemporary
practice. Her presentation conflicts with a number of mariachi identified performance
concepts. One concept is that each musician standing with the ensemble in performance
203
be an active participant through at least one instrumental role and some singing. In what
musicians speak of in the most desirable terms, performance participants should have the
ability to handle a variety of instruments within the ensemble. Within a working
ensemble, this is critical to fulfilling basic instrumentation when a job becomes available
at a time not possible for everyone in the ensemble. This is especially critical in the
Austin, TX, community where members pursue other full-time work positions. Another
concept is that the directorship position is generally earned through seasoning in a variety
of ensembles and performance contexts. Although this female director has a long history
as a mariachi aficionada as a listener, she has no previous performance experience as a
musician. Under these concepts, her directorship position appears questionable. It has
also not escaped local review that she runs one of the most financially successful
ensembles. Her entrepreneurial skills are by far her strength in the directorship position.
Her ensemble is in direct competition with other ensembles in the area and is one of the
most consistently employed within the community. The stakes are indeed high where
Austin groups not only compete with one another but also with some of the many groups
based in San Antonio.
A third concept in direct conflict with her directorship is the general invocation of
compadrazo. These compa or "cousin" relationships can have blood relation implications
but, in this context, they have more to do with reciprocal relations built between male
directors. These relationships are complexly intertwined with professional relationships
that emerge during the practice of mariachi. These can also have certain social
implications as well for time spent outside professional venues, i.e. getting families
together for celebrations, barbecues, or holiday fiestas. Though this can similarly be said
for networks of women in other contexts for comadre relationships, comadre networks
are not part of mariachi contemporary practice in the same way.
9
The male directors
know one another and though they admit a certain level of competition between
themselves, they also stand together over such issues as working conditions,
204
professionalism, and an overall belief that mariachi is an important part of Mexican
culture. These professional networks among male directors also provide access to
information for everything from potential joint performances to the best vendors for
acquiring instruments and mariachi supplies. This female director has been excluded
from these networks by virtue of her gender and her dedication, as she states, "to
speaking her mind." She has been especially vocal about highlighting how the majority of
local groups employ primarily men when there are not insubstantial numbers of talented
young women capable of assuming professional roles. She is the only female mariachi
director in the area and sees her gender as the issue that raises the sharpest criticism. In
other words, her directorship style is objectionable for its departure from the norm but
also the success she has enjoyed as a female director. The rationale is that she cannot
possibly handle directorship duties without first proving her musical competency in the
tradition. Within these dynamics, she has recreated the position as one based primarily on
entrepreneurial acumen and familiarity with the tradition as a female listener. Her skills
as an active listener allow her to identify parts that aren't "quite right" and defer to her
music director to address the problem. In the current mariachi community, her ensemble
enjoys comparatively excellent financial success and is, though sometimes grudgingly,
regarded as one of the more dependable groups. She hopes that her continued success
will open more opportunities for women in mariachi performance and directorships.
In a related aspect, the gendered voices that do find their ways into mariachi
performance only occasionally acquiesce to the mode of centralized female
representation where women control both content and meaning. Even then, it is primarily
through the voices of legendary cantantes
lO
(Le. Lola Beltran, Lucha Villa, Lucha
Moreno) that echo through emergent vocalists like Tatiana Bolanos and Nydia Rojas
ll
where women's roles and participation are affirmed. Aficionados are constantly looking
for the next new, young, female singing sensation as the next prodigy. The expectation is
that a female taking a prominent role in professional mariachi will, almost by definition,
205
do so as a vocalist. At the fifth annual 1999 FordlLincoln Mercury Mariachi Vargas
Extravaganza conference and workshops held in San Antonio, Texas, a young woman
from Jalisco was presented as "Azucena"12 in the final concert. As the featured singer,
she was presented as having sung on national Mexican radio from age eleven and having
been the recipient of numerous awards. She was eventually discovered by Vicente and
Alejandro Fernandez and has remained under their collective mentorship, gaining a
record contract with Sony Discos at age seventeen. Audiences focus on these young
singers for their abilities to be musically wise beyond their years. Vocal quality (unique
but powerful) and expressiveness (ability to p r o m o t ~ lyrical content in nuanced ways)
form a central part of these evaluations; however, critics have noted that these young
women must negotiate powerful media corporations through which marketing. support,
contracts, publicity, and post-production remain a male centered industry. It's not
difficult to ascertain, especially at their relatively young ages, that they would indeed be
subject to a variety of social and professional pressures within the recording industry. Not
insignificantly, Nydia Rojas cites Jose Hernandez, director of Mariachi Sol de Mexico, as
her mentor for her first album released through Sony Discos. The dedication included in
the liner notes amply testifies to the critical role he played in her initial professional
recording debut.
The San Antonio conference and workshops context also illustrates some
inconsistencies in regards to female mariachi participation. As part of the conference, a
competition evaluates groups in a variety of categories based on age and experience.
Selected winners participate in the final concert given by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan.
A Best of Show was awarded to a female mariachi at the college or university level. Not
surprisingly, the award was given to a vocalist. The emphasis on females as vocalists is
striking when noting that participating groups at the elementary, middle/junior, college or
university levels consistently include significant numbers of talented female
instrumentalists. As has been previously discussed, females at the professional level
206
remain relatively few in numbers. This is borne out in the San Antonio context in that
Mariachi Vargas has only male musicians. An added irony is that this year the University
of Texas- Pan American mariachi ensemble removed itself from open competition. It had
won the college or university levels division so many times that their success had been
taken as a forgone conclusion. The ensemble is internationally recognized as the best
university or college level mariachi ensemble. They've performed in Mexico, Canada,
and Washington D.C. and have produced a professional level CD recording. Their
director and founder is Dr. Dahlia Guerra, department of music chairperson. Her
ensemble has become legendary for its musical execution, overall style, and caliber of
talent attracted to the program and its mariachi scholarships. She is reputed to be the
director's model for university or college ensembles and is consulted for her expertise as
well as experience. Her work is consistently honored as among the very best for any
mariachi educational endeavor. The continued success of her program means even higher
goals that are consistently met so that many individuals regard the UT Pan American
ensemble as a professional ensemble. Even though they had removed themselves from
open competition, they were included in the final concert and given the honor of
accompanying Azucena. Given that one of the major markers of an excellent professional
ensemble is its ability to accompany and highlight guest vocalists at their best, it is indeed
a compliment to the UT Pan Am ensemble that they were so included.
Female mariachi performance and participation are indeed marked by cultural
rewriting of texts, double entendre, and in! sub version of power relations. It focuses its
energies on how to rework these inequities so that they become partially diffused of their
power to mitigate female participation. Despite adverse circumstances, these examples
show the multiple levels on which female participants have been successful. The
blossoming and political dimensions of their successes give ample evidence to what the
future might hold. Though mariachi has yet to take full account and welcome into its
history women's participation, it seems unlikely that this part can continue to be totally
201
denied from its place of prominence. For the moment it seems, the continued increasing
participation of women and their professional abilities can only lead to a larger
professional presence. Supporting this view is the fact that women mariachi professionals
are increasingly turning towards mediums that lend themselves well to addressing
women's mariachi participation. One of the most prominent venues has been the internet.
In general, there can be found no small numbers of mariachi web sites. Mariachi groups
affiliated with educational institutions are strongly featured as well as a variety of
commercial sites dedicated to advertisement of professional ensembles. Among these
sites, the work done by women mariachi professionals is recognized as making
significant contributions to resources and general information. Their sites were used as
prototypes for sites created after their initial work. One of more recent developments has
been http://www.mariachimusic.com.Similartothesitesdonebyfemalemariachis.this
site features updates on ensembles with the added categories ofa chat room and CDs for
sale. The commercial aspects of this website are what separate it from the sites done by
female mariachi professionals, which highlight more general information and a rewriting
of mariachi history to include women's roles.
Women Mariachis and the Web
Laura Sobrino and Xochitl Perez are two female mariachi professionals. As
previously mentioned, Laura pursues a professional career as teacher, lecturer, educator,
businessperson, and musician. Xochitl is pursuing graduate studies in education at
D.C.L.A. They have combined their resources to create an on-line website
(http://www.mariachi-publishing.com/and)thatincludeswomen.shistory in mariachi and
highlights Laura's Mariachi Publication Company as well as her historical role as a
pioneering female mariachi professional. At the time of this writing, it is the only site
dedicated to women mariachis.
13
The site itself is known for highlighting not just singers
208
but many instrumentalists and all-women mariachi groups both in the U.S. and Mexico.
The site links to a section with more autobiographical information about Sobrino' s career
and professional life. The recounting of women's participation in, among other events,
the founding of the first mariachi and conference workshop in the U.S. in San Antonio,
Texas, is well documented. An historical retrospective of mariachi dress for women is
also included. It is not generally known that U.S. groups went through several dramatic
style shifts in traje de charro (charro suit) for women. Contemporarily, the vast majority
of women mariachis wear long skirts almost touching the ground with gala (silver
decorations) running the length of each skirt side. The site shows women also wearing
the regular traje pants with silver decorations. Several photos show how skirt lengths
changed and how there even developed modified mariachi "shorts" or hot pants worn by
one woman. Also of no little significance is Laura Sobrino' s choice of regional wear
during her pregnancy in lieu of a charro traje. She continued to perform well into her
pregnancy. The overall effect is a multi-dimensional look at mariachi women
professionals through the issue of dress. The names, faces, and groups become part of the
historical narrative The site also offers in memoriam a photo of the first known all
women's U.S. professional mariachi group founded in Topeka Kansas. The group died
when part of the hotel in which they were performing collapsed. The site emphasizes
women as full participants and part of a longer historical narrative than that which is
often told. This is one of the few times when photographs of all female Mexican mariachi
groups prior to the 1940s are featured. Young women in the U.S. in particular are
surprised to learn that their legacy goes much further back than the all female groups
founded in a U.S. context. The Mariachi Publishing section is an integral part of
Sobrino's work. From this site, one may custom order music scores and individual parts
from a not insignificant library. Sobrino typically determines range, level of difficulty,
and instrumentation from an informal interview with the person ordering the materials.
In this way, she uses the Finale musical transcription program to make the best possible
209
scores fitted to individual ensembles. The sections outlined so far are perhaps not
exceedingly remarkable. What makes Sobrino's site unique is the degree to which she
engages mariachi issues. In this sense, the site is something of a pulse for contemporary
practice and its major concerns. In addition to an on-line ordering system and on-line
catalog, there is a section dedicated to discussing the purposes behind mariachi
transcriptions and their uses and why it matters who prepares them. Similarly, there is a
section dedicated to mariachi education resources as well as an opportunity to register
your group and get on the internet. Besides this open invitation to the mariachi
community as a whole, the site also reaches specifically to "mujeres mariachis" by
linking to a chat room. A listing of mariachi classes and workshops and selected articles
round out the information provided.
Sylvia Rodriguez maintains the "Puro Mariachi" website
(http://www.mariachLorg) that is a clearinghouse for other on-line mariachi resources and
credible historical resources. She is a web "jefe,,14 and computer systems manager with
the Mattei corporation and has long been a dedicated mariachi aficionada and, more
recently, a trained instrumentalist (violin). She can be found regularly attending major
mariachi conferences and workshops. The website includes photographs of her with
respected mariachi professionals. Her site is known for its many links and attention to
detail in keeping information current. The sight is designed with education in mind,
especially for young people. The emphasis on conferences and workshops is clear and the
intimate photographic portraits of professional participants makes for an almost virtual
tour of what it might be like to attend an actual conference and workshop. This is critical
given that even if individuals do attend conferences and workshops, it's unlikely a person
would have the financial resources to attend more than a few events on a yearly basis (if
at all). IS Website visitors may access an international list of mariachi conferences and
workshops. Of particular interest are a list of carefully selected mariachi reading
resources, both academic and more general newspaper and magazine articles. In each
210
case, the material is thoroughly reviewed before it is offered as a reputable source of
information. There are also a number of links to prominent mariachi figures and various
mariachi ensembles with a U.S. emphasis. There are also music links and cultural links
sections. The music links focus on key figures and their recording activity and some
general Latin music sources. The cultural links section is more broadly defined. These
topics include everything from the website for the airlines Mexicana to a site concerning
the folkloric figure la chupacabra.
16
A final section entitled "Other Links" is just that.
Rodriguez has selected a set of eclectic links suited to her own interests-- Le. the Kayak
Store, California Lotto, and the BMW Compass Start automobile. The overall effect is a
site designed by a true aficionada who remains dedicated to mariachi's performance. The
eclectic mix gives her page a personal quality that provides a kind of intimacy not often
felt at such larger sites. In case someone should forget her role and dedication in this kind
of project, she closes the site by invoking a quote made famous by Mexican revolutionary
Emiliano Zapata, "It is better to die on your feet, than to live on your knees ... "
The website work by Sobrino and Rodriguez helps educate people about the
tradition but also provides strong female perspectives from positions of authority. The
fact that these kinds of web sites exist help explain the mitigating circumstances female
mariachi participants must address. How they respond to these situations in both
performative and historical planes says much about their talents and capacity to create
viable contexts for their own active participation. The community created on these
internet sources is a practical solution to minimal numbers offemale mariachi
professionals who might not otherwise be as informed about one another and each other's
activities. Networking potential is an asset that has only just begun to be explored. The
interaction created by these websites was chiefly responsible for creating a special panel
on women in mariachi at the Tucson, Arizona, mariachi conference and workshops. It
brought to the fore in an international forum some of the difficulties associated with
female participation. It also allowed more senior members of the profession to openly
211
address young women at a variety of levels and ages. This promoted frank dialogue and
practical advice for negotiating professional venues. Some of the more sensitive issues
such as how to handle sexual advances were openly discussed as well as more general
issues concerning the lack of mariachi retirement plans or unions. The panel also
encouraged women in their efforts and confirmed that, even though they might be
isolated in their own contexts on the individual level, they were not alone.
Anyone of the women involved in the creation of these web sites could be cited as
a professional, respected example from within the tradition. While each has distinct
strengths and varying perspectives to share, they know and support each other realizing
what they undertake may be seen as a threat by some while welcomed by others as a link
in a long history that has been excluded from the mariachi historical narrative. In creating
on-line resources, these women have connected with other women who have shared their
stories, memories, photos and observations about mariachi and its impact on daily life.
Some of the more intriguing aspects of the Sobrino website are updates detailing what
women previously involved in mariachi are now doing. It's a narrative edged both by a
sense of loss for those who have left the profession and hope for those who have
continued over several decades. The connection to a performative past gives a powerful
link for contemporary female practitioners as it provides a legacy between themselves
and those who came before them. It also reiterates their accomplishments and gives a
perspective that allows review of how women's roles have changed. These two key
elements are excluded from dominant mariachi narratives that trace musical dynasties
based on all male Mexican ensembles and musical lineages through male filial
relationships. Although these narratives form an integral part of how people indeed
identify the tradition, women still suffer from persistent exclusion and lack of exposure.
These narratives also, more pervasively, provide the cultural basis for arguments that see
women's participation as compromising or, from a less antagonistic perspective, altering
the tradition. Women's active participation and resources such as the web sites make clear
212
that the mantle of professional mariachi women's performance is being passed on to
younger generations in the strong belief that their pathways will be less narrow and more
open to what they may accomplish. Reconnecting them with their musical legacy is an
important step in affirming their presence and encouraging their talents.
The Tradition Revisited
These chapters have given but a brief glimpse of prominent venues where
mariachi is pursued as a contemporary tradition. Far from a comprehensive study, the
project presented several different contexts where mariachi plays significant roles in
daily, urban social life. The complexities in claiming a Mexican ethnicity through a
musical tradition in an urban context are highly mediated through such issues as gender,
race, and class. Though there may be more than few arguments between mariachi
aficionados, musicians, and its critics as to the definition of mariachi and its social
significance, there can be little doubt as to the tradition's role as a highly visible
performative expression in U.S. urban contexts. Many readers of this work will likely be
able to conjure images of mariachi performance based on experience. Its popularization
as a symbol of Mexican national identity within the U.S. means that it enjoys a high
degree of visibility that will only increase in the immediate future. Throughout the course
of research, it was not uncommon to learn of ensembles being founded or new
educational programs and conferences and workshops being developed. The majority of
mariachi activity is centered in the Southwest and larger urban Latino communities;
however, comparatively smaller communities in places like the Midwest support
ensembles in growing numbers. This is not surprising given that the thriving educational
models in place make strong cases from which to argue for funding, community support,
and institutional resources for newly founded projects. East Chicago in Northwest
Indiana and the University of Notre Dame both field respected ensembles in what people
213
sometimes consider as unusual contexts by virtue of their location in a non-Southwest
context. Mariachi's high degree ofvisibility coupled with strong cultural investment
make it a critical place for historical and cultural linkages not easily made elsewhere or,
in some respects, actively suppressed. Mariachi openly engages issues of Mexican
nationalism, ethnic identity, traditionalism, and history that may not be similarly well
addressed in mainstream sources of knowledge- books, films, newspapers, television,
etc. In creating alternative narratives and invoking other sources or bases of knowledge,
mariachi performance addresses concepts of home, nationalism, ethnic identity, and
cultural roots in creating a sense of community and validating cultural citizenship. It is a
cultural citizenship complicated by the fact the Mexican descent people in U.S., while not
welcomed as full participants, create a significant presence of which increasing account
must be taken. Control over representations of Mexican cultural identities becomes a
critical issue when faced with popular narratives that engage Mexican culture on the basis
of cultural stereotypes. The role of the chalupa
l7
chomping chihuahua of Taco Bell fame
("Drop the chalupa!") mayor may not be argued as detrimental to Mexican ethnicity
from a variety ofperspectives.
l8
What remains clear is that the pervasiveness of the
image means that it has a place in the popular imagination ofMexicaness and the creation
of a cultural narrative. The control of that narrative is the issue in considering how
mariachi makes its contributions in light of these popular culture influences. As
millennial conversations about the emergence of Latino populations in the U.S. focus on
increasing numbers, the subtexts can cultivate both fear and fascination in relation to
cultural production.
The increased immigration of Mexican nationals into places like Bloomington,
IN, gives a stronger presence to Latino identities and thus force issues into a more
prominent community role. It's a role that can be marked as a painful process. The
founding of the Bloomington Latino Network this year is but one example of emergent
community resources responding to perceived needs among this growing population. One
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of the current primary projects for this newly founded organization is focusing legal pro
bono work on the problem of Mexican nationals not receiving payment for their labor in
a Bloomington area restaurant. Immigration laws are at the heart of these difficulties. The
restaurant owner realizes that undocumented workers feel "trapped" by their lack of
resources to ensure payment and therefore takes advantage of this labor pool and its
vulnerabilities. The organization also focuses on gaining legal status for these individuals
as well. English language courses and cultural events for children also form the core of
their current activities. Ironically, the increased visibility of Latinos has been coupled
with the recent loss of jobs in a General Electric refrigerator manufacturing plant that will
relocate jobs to Mexico to take advantage of cheap labor. Approximately 1400 jobs of the
plant 3200 total are slated to be lost in relocation to Mexico by July 2001 (Werth 1999a).
This is the second such move on the part of a major manufacturing plant in the area.
Negotiations are in progress but GE's statement that over 65 million in savings is needed
to save these Bloomington jobs has even the most optimistic residents seeing the loss as
inevitable. A frequently sited statistic is that the gap is too large between the $2 an hour
labor cost in Mexico versus the $24 hour (including benefits) wage scale in Bloomington
to satisfy company savings requirements (Werth 1999b). The difficulties are apparent in
how Latinos pursue a presence in light of local economies and a pervasive sense of anger
and loss on the part of working class predominantly white communities. The results are
community tensions that make their way into such recent incidents as the Halloween
dress-up day at the General Electric factory. Employees are normally encouraged to
dress-up on the last day of work before Halloween. This year's plans were cancelled.
Management had learned a small number of employees had plans to come dressed as
Mexicans. Though few details were provided in the local Herald Times newspaper, it was
clear that the renderings were of course going to be less than flattering. Rather than face
the fall-out from such activities, GE elected to cancel the activity. GE took the
opportunity to restate their position of not tolerating, among other things, racist
215
conditions in the workplace and emphasizing that they're an equal opportunity employer
(Scheckler 1999). It does, however, bring to mind some questions about the overall
atmosphere that would foster such possibilities.
In a pertinent example, other civic issues (not unexpectedly) have become
inflected with this overarching racial narrative. One current hotly contested topic is the
proposed interstate 69 construction through Bloomington. Environmental issues, urban
sprawl, and congestion were all cited by opponents; however, it was the remarks
attributed to several city council members stating that the thoroughfare would only bring
Mexican drug trade into Bloomington that were highlighted in the local newspaper
(Stinson 1999). Regional papers also highlighted how some opponents argued that such a
thoroughfare would only hasten the loss of jobs to Mexico (editorial 1999). Complicating
matters were local elections that saw the re-election of Mayor John Fernandez who has
gone on record as favoring a veto of any resolution that falls in favor of interstate
construction. Although Fernandez openly acknowledges a Spanish European heritage, the
public perception of his role in these local, racialized politics is also telling. A recent
conversation overhead in a local Wal-Mart tellingly called Mayor Fernandez "that
Mexican" in expressing dissatisfaction with his efforts as mayor to preserve those jobs. 19
It also within these racializing contexts that cultural production plays a critical role in
redefining these images ofMexicaness.
The observation ofDia de Los Muertos (Day of the Deadio was celebrated in
Indianapolis as a recognized feature of Indiana culture. As is often the case in
celebrations with ethnic emphasis publicly highlighted in this metropolitan area, issues of
public access and multi-cultural education shape presentation dynamics. Organizers
discovered that a mariachi ensemble had recently relocated from Mexico to Indianapolis.
Priorto this, the nearest ensemble was Mariachi Acero, based in East Chicago, IN, in the
upper Northwest region of the state. Normally, Mariachi Acero does indeed travel
throughout most parts of the state and nearby states as well since they enjoy a fine
216
reputation and there remain relatively few ensembles in the broader region until such
places as Chicago. From several accounts, the event was dubbed a success and the
mariachis in particular contributed four hours of strolling music. Given the popularity of
mariachi and its high visibility, it seemed the logical choice for organizers to pursue in
seeking a musical expression to represent Mexican culture. What transpired outside of
public knowledge is, unfortunately, a common occurrence in urban professional mariachi
performance.
21
The spokesperson for the group had made an oral contract with organizers
for what he had understood to be $400 an hour?2 Event organizers maintained that the
agreement had been for four hours for $400. The leader had contracted nine players,
given the pay scale, and then was faced with the unenviable task of informing the rest of
the ensemble. Though there could be a considerable range of explanation for what
occurred, the end result was that the ensemble had no recourse and will recall this
experience as part of multicultural politics.
These general complexities in how mariachi urban performance is situated within
broader social life illustrate what is at stake for U.S. Mexican descent communities.
Given the complexities involved with the urban politics ofMexicaness, there is indeed a
great deal at stake in controlling images ofMexicaness and what that means in terms of
actual socia-economic status. Mariachi resonates with community needs to find
expression for active contributions to discussions of ethnicity, history, and traditionalism.
What has hopefully been most evident throughout these chapter is that mariachi is very
much a living tradition. The strength and creativity with which it is approached gives
strong proof that it will remain an integral part of U.S . urban, Mexican descent
communities for some time to come. It is then with some optimism that we can recall the
words on the November 20, 1999 San Antonio Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza concert
program cover that proclaimed- "que siga la tradicion."
217
218
Illustration 6.1 Austin, Texas Armadillo Institute Members
Where Adults Learn to Play Mariachi Music in
Community Classes for a Modest Fee
219
U1ustration 6.2 Austin, Texas Mariachi Women ProCessionals
220
Notes to Chapter VI
1 Manuel Pena focuses examines the organic and inorganic expressions for the Texas
Mexican orquesta (as Pena defines orquesta as a "multi-styled wind ensemble patterned
after the American swing band" [peiia 1999b:xi). Though this relates primarily to a use
value interpretation in the relationship to society's mode of production, his work reflects
well on the kinds of issues speakers identify as critical to mariachi's continued presence-
i.e. notions of authenticity and preserving a tradition in the face of mass media
productions.
2 These traditions include things associated with regional arts. These places frequently
include a variety of items associated with souvenir shops- zarapes, huaraches (sandals),
ponchos, leather belts, pinatas, cornflowers, etc.
3 The exception to this is of course Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan. Though I'm unaware
of their exact financial status, they receive much more than the normal compensation for
their services. In addition, they are perceived to be quite wealthy.
4 In some parts of Mexico, the word "mariachero" is used loosely to describe (usually
negatively) aspects of what is interpreted as a mariachi lifestyle.
S This speaker went on to explain although she didn't think mariachi was a part of her
own personal history she definitely considered it part of her heritage as a Mexicana.
6 A musician being trained and supported is usually provided particularly performance
opportunities, often at the discretion of the director. For example, a novice singer may
take a solo in a context where the audience is especially supportive or relatively small.
Once a musician becomes a "regular" performer, he or she is expected to main a high
level of skill at all time in the public setting.
7 In her Canciones de Mi Padre (Songs of My Father) release, Linda Ronstadt rewrote the
closing lines of the ranchera "Los Laureles" (The Laurels). Instead of recording the
closing lines as "Ia perdicion de los hombres son las malditas mujeres" (the perdition of
men are the wicked women), she sang "la perdicion de los hombres son las benditas
mujeres" (the perdition of men are the blessed women).
8 With what may be seen as remarkable consistency, there was no substantial urban
mariachi community in the u.S. that did not have women in active roles. These
individuals also tended to be some of the most vocal, organized professionals I met. In
addition, many of the all-male groups relied substantially on female support in marketing
strategies, bookings, and public relations.
9 This is partially explained by the fact that there is simply not a critical mass of women
directors. Many female singers and instrumentalists, however, do form networks where
221
they share similar type of information, particularly strategies for how to deal with a
predominantly male profession.
10 singers
11 Tatiana Bolanos is the ''wunderkind'' of the mariachi world having emerged as a
polished singer with formidable stage presence at the age of seven. Among her most
touted accomplishments is her recording of the song "Cucurucucu" (the sound ofa dove)
in one studio take. The song has been long considered one of the most difficult in the
repertoire. Nydia Rojas emerged at seventeen as one of the finest female mariachi talents
in recent memory with her own recording contract with Sony Discos. Raised in Los
Angeles, she is an outspoken advocate of Mexican American culture and known for her
spirited public addresses. At a recent mariachi conference and workshop final concert,
she refused to address the audience in anything in Spanish, remarking that it was just "too
bad" for those who didn't understand the language.
12 In both her stage introduction and the accompanying program, she was listed with this
professional name. It seems a similar presentation to that of presenting singers by a one
word name, Le. Madonna, etc. Verdi scholar Naomi Andre noted, through personal
communication, that Azucena is a main character in Verdi's II Trovatore (1853). She
describes Azucena as "a Spanish gypsy who wanders the countryside and sings." In this
case, Azucena is a common enough Spanish name to be accepted as a Mexican name
without a specific reference to this Verdi character.
13 There are an increasing number of both Mexican and U.S. based groups that are
turning to the internet. Mostly, their purposes are to advertise their group and something
about their history as an ensemble.
14 One of the popular linguistic idioms that have emerged among cyber-space Latinos is
the term web jefe (literal translation- web "boss").
IS As was previously mentioned, it is no small expense to bring an ensemble to participate
in mariachi conferences and workshops (transportation, food, lodging, etc.). Even if the
conference and workshops take place in an area that is local to an individual or group,
registration fees (over $100 in some cases) as well as time off from work or school take
their toll.
16 La Chupacabra is a figure that may be most recognized by many readers for its
inclusion in a recent X-Files episode. As in the episode, the figure of La Chuapacabra
appears with the death of several people. In the Mexican popular press, La Chupacabra is
portrayed as a death figure and is known as a goat-sucker.
17 Mexican food item
18 Several Mexicano/Chicano email lists launched into animated discussion over the
cultural relevance of the chihuahua figure. Though opinions were divided on how serious
222
these images figured in the popular imagination, there was agreement on how the
pervasive quality of this representation had a definite impact on social thought.
19 John Fernandez's background has also been interpreted as Mexican or Mexican
American in variety of other public contexts. The 4th of July town parade includes public
office holders who distribute political literature. Fernandez is a regular participant as
town mayor. In the July 1997 parade sidelines, several remarks were made that attributed
a Mexican American heritage to him.
20 The Day of the Dead marks the passing ofloved ones that return to be welcomed by
their families. Although most people not familiar with the tradition see the skull and
skeleton motifs as motifs of death it is more a celebration of life in remembering the
dead. The occasion was marked on the Bloomington ill campus by skull decorating and a
general gathering at the La Casa Latino cultural center. Unlike the Indianapolis
observance, it was not an event highly advertised and therefore remained almost
exclusive to the ill Latino population.
21 Because mariachi ensembles don't often have the power to demand payment in
advance of services rendered, they are vulnerable to whatever irregularities might occur.
They also similarly often work by oral contract as opposed to written contract.
Difficulties include method of payment (Le. cash requested but being given a check),
timing of payment (payment at the end of performance versus submitting a bill or
receiving a check by mail), and fringe benefits (meal considerations, rest breaks, use of
facilities for preparing or resting).
22 Given the relatively few professional ensembles in this area, it's difficult to comment
on the rate. Comparing the rate to those in the greater Los Angeles area, it is definitely in
the modest range for a full professional ensemble of comparable scale.
23 This is the typical musical tag ending for a son Jalisciense. Trumpets and/or violins
play it with the guitar and vihuela rhythm section playing at least a downbeat strum on
the first measure followed by two eighth-note strums on the downbeat of the second
measure. There is a slight elongation of the quarter note on the second beat of the first
measure.
223
APPENDICES
224
APPENDIX A
GLOSSARY OF SELECTED TERMS
al talon- literally meaning "on the heel"
anglo- person considered ''white''
chamba- mariachi performance or job that has bee arranged
golpe- a strum technique where the flat of the hand makes a percussive stop on the strings
of the vihuela or guitar
guitarron- the large, guitar-like, bass instrument of the mariachi ensemble
huapango- a song type that is organized around a six beat pattern
jalisciense- of or coming from the region of Jalisco, Mexico
minico- the generic term for the strumming pattern in mestizo, Mexican string musics
mestizo- referring in terms of race and ethnicity to the combination of indigenous,
European, and (often) African cultural influences
mestizaje- referring to the cultural hybrities inflected by the mestizo process
polca- polka
planta- mariachi job that is arranged for a consistent basis over an extended period of
time
son- song
tortilla- round, flat, bread-like Mexican food item usually made of com or flour
traje de charro- outfit worn by mariachi musicians that has decorative plata or silver
ornaments and is typified by close-fitting pants and a short waisted jacket
trompeta- trumpet
vals- waltz
vihuela- small, guitar-like instrument used in the mariachi ensemble
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225
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CANTANDO DE AVER (SINGING OF VESTERDAY): PERFORMING mSTORY, ETHNIC IDENTITY, AND TRADITIONALISM IN U.S. BASED URBAN MARIACHI

by

Candida Frances Jaquez

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Music: Musicology) in The University of Michigan 2000

Doctoral Committee: Professor Lester P. Monts, Co-chair Professor Manuel PeiIa, California State University Fresno, Co-chair Assistant Professor Naomi Andre Professor Frances Aparicio Professor Judith Becker

UMI Number: 9963818

UMf
UMI Microform9963818 Copyright 2000 by Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. This microform edition is protected against unauthorized copying under Trtle 17, United States Code.

Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company 300 North Zeeb Road P.O. Box 1346 Ann Arbor, M148106-1346

For my family. Frances the Salsa Queen. And all the mariachis and their Friends and families who made this Work possible. 11 . Sam.

TX. 111 . TX. Sam Cronk digitized many visual images for editing. A Committee for Institutional Cooperation fellowship provided support to pursue field research in Austin. The University of Michigan Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives provided grants for research in Mexico and Austin. Special thanks goes to Laura Sobrino who generously gave her permission to include several of her mariachi music transcriptions.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Many thanks to the committee for their support and encouragement.

serenatas (serenades).PREFACE The following work reveals finer contours of mariachi practices within a U. and baseball games are only a few of the contexts where mariachi may be found in daily life. Restaurant and bars are perhaps some of the most recognized venues. Catholic masses. birthday parties. Many mariachi aficionados. They strive to preserve its presence and evolving ways for its capacity to express ethnicity and heritage as a vibrant. educators. weddings. changing tradition. Only glimpses of this rich folkloric tradition may be seen at even the most public events. Its capacity to represent Mexicano/ChicanolMexican American culture and history is well-known among some of its strongest proponents. however.S. musicians. funerals. and Mexican descent people view mariachi as an important life marker for MexicanosiChicanoslMexican Americans. Mariachi is a cultural expression that can remain relatively unknown to a broader public. baptisms. IV . urban context. parades.

.......................................... 65 Instrumentation ................................................................................... 143 V..................................... 159 Motivations....................... CANTANDODE AYER(SINGING OF THE PAST) FOR THE FUTURE ..........••................................ ................ 19 IT.....•.........................................•.......... HACIENDO COSAS (OTRA VEZ [ONCE AGAIN]) .... iii PREFACE .................................. 9 Instructional Material Produced for Direct Application ............................nONS ..............................TABLE OF CONTENTS DEDICATION..................................... 154 Professional Community.... 157 Fluidity .............................. 35 Social Actors and Community....................................... .................... viii CHAPTER I.......... METHODOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES . 168 Public Presentation and Increased Visibility ....................... vii LIST OF ~LUSTRA..... 82 Transcription ........... 63 Transnational Relationships ........................................................... ii ACKN"OWLEDGMENTS ........................•................ 6 Academic Discourse Concerning Origins and Practice in Contemporary Mariachi ..........................................................................................•.............................................................................................................. 136 Amistad!AmbienteiCariiio/Confianza ...................................................................•..................................................................... HACIENDO COSAS (DOIN"G THINGS) ........................................ ............................................. 1 Ethnicity and Cultural Mestizaje ................ ..... 125 Participants ........................................................ 46 IlL MUSICAL REPERTOIRE AS SOCIOCULTURAL INVESTMENT .....................•...................................•..................................... '" .......................................... 107 IV......................................................................................................... 31 Detroit Mexican Town .................... 68 Repertoire Considerations ..........................................123 Mariachi Conference and Workshops Format ....45 Popular Media Portrayals .......................... 178 v .................................................................................................................................•................................ iv LIST OF APPENDICES .......................................................

................................................................PHY" .............................................................. 226 Vi ..........••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• 196 Criticims of the Tradition ............................. 208 The Tradition Revisited ................... 157 Machismo in Performance ......................... POR LO MENOS (AT THE VERY LEAST) ••••••••••••••••••............................................ 213 APPEND ICES ...Women's Entry into the Professional Ranks .................................. 201 Women Mariachis on the Web ....................................... 224 BffiLIOGRA............................................................................................................... 184 VI...........................

..................................... Glossary of Selected Terms ..................UST OF APPENDICES Appendix A.......... 224 Vii ......

.....................8 Lyrics for "Ay......................................... 71 3...................................................................................2 Guitarran Front View ................. ...............1 Mural at San Antonio Mercado (market) Las Margaritas Mexican Restaurant Depicting Members of Las Campanas de America .....3 Guitarran Back View ..6 Lyrics for "Volver.............................10 Huapango Strum Pattern ...................1 Musicians at the San Antonio Mercado (market) .......... Texas ............11 Lyrics for "La Malageuoa" .....5 Vihuela Back View ..................... 48 3.....7 Music Score for "Volver.. 108 4.................................... Volver" ............. Jaliscot" ............... 64 3...............................................1 University of Texas at Pan American Mariachi Ensemble 1999 San Antonio Mariachi Conference and Workshops ............UST OF ILLUSTRATIONS lllustration 1... 70 3.................................................................................................................................................3 Downtown Austin with Paramount Theater on Right-Hand Side ...1 Taco Cabana Restaurant in Austin.......2 Mariachis Inside Mi Tierra Restaurant at the San Antonio Mercado 5............................................................... 73 3............... Volver" ................................... 179 viii ............................ Jaliscot" ............. 156 5.................... 84 3.................. 97 3.......................................... 129 5..... 155 (market) ........................................ 96 3.9 Music Score for "Ay....4 Vihuela Front View ....................12 Music Score for "La Malagueoa" .... 74 3.......................1 Austin Mariachi Ensemble in Traje de Charro ...................................... 107 3.............................................................. .............................................. 2 2.......................... 106 3 ........................... 85 3......................................................

. Texas Armadillo Institute Members Where Adults Learn to Play Mariachi Music in Community Classes for a Modest Fee ...5..... Texas ........... 218 6......2 Austin.................. 180 6....... 219 IX ............ Texas Mariachi Women Professionals .....4 Paramount Theater in Downtown Austin...........................1 Austin.........

Yet to be located is the "thesis someone has" that was produced in recent memory. or style of dress.1) in Austin. ethnic identity. At last report. they remain secondary to traditionalism developed through historical understanding in explaining how mariachi continues and what it means. ownership. song repertoire. Written records and other recorded sources 3 combine with oral and performative traditions to highlight (among other things) cultural authorship. He asked what I knew about string instruments.S. mariachi is not primarily a specific musical style. or if it had been filed. On one occasion. His aim was to discern what I knew about the history of Mexican mestizo musics. As a performative practice. This research project views U. When I mentioned string instruments had been introduced to mesoamerica at the time of the Spanish conquest. mariachi musicians and aficionados 1 often expressed keen interest as to when this document would be completed. it reflects disparate sources of knowledge in contemporary mariachi practice. In large part.CHAPTER I METHODOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES Throughout this research. genre. he asked if I was sure. Although those elements help define a performative plane. People were uncertain if it had been a master's or doctoral thesis. this relates to the lack of published mariachi materials 2• In another aspect. a mariachi musician/school teacher gave me an impromptu quiz at a Taco Cabana4 (see Dlustration 1. urban mariachi as a daily social practice that revisits and proliferates those issues. It was more than a polite inquiry. where. history. there were only a few xeroxed pages of it with (someone thOUght) no authorship indicated. and representation. No one could say when. I vaguely recalled an obscure archeology article that had argued the contrary (only to be later discounted as based on 1 . Texas.

2 Illustration 1. Texas .1 Taco Cabana Restaurant in Austin.

He was well aware of this articles and agreed to speak with me only after 1'd passed this competency test. this circulation was far from limited to the university comrnunity.oral. and performative. these bases of knowledge conflicted. In thinking about methodological approaches. It was these cultural dynamics that led me to conclude that an appropriate theoretical framework for this work should embrace mariachi as grounded in several realms of knowledge. Nonetheless. Each focuses musical meaning through a complex where spoken words. Within social practice mariachi can be seen as emanating from three primary sources or bases of knowledge. these three examples collectively illustrate how knowledge is created and disseminated as a part of the mariachi tradition in daily life. 1993b). the academic sources that discount this narrative are also part of this community's consciousness. 7 .3 flawed icon analysis). The letter of 1852 predates French occupation (Clark 1993a.bases of knowledge. These two dynamics emerged as principal factors in how people spoke about this tradition and what seemed critically important in maintaining its presence. This was proven false by the discovery of an archival document from Nayarit wherein the priest San Cosme wrote complaining about the "mariachis" in a letter to his bishop. written. Interestingly. this historical narrative remains part of mariachi oral tradition. the precursor to this document (an ethnomusicology master degree project filed at the University of Texas at Austin) has enjoyed an unexpected high degree of circulation.6 Though it might be nice to suggest this had to do with the quality of the work. As I was to learn much later. At times. it more tellingly reflects the limited availability of mariachi resources and increasing interest in the subject area. they are marked contextually by hybrid qualities. For example. While each of these bases can be distinguished from one another. written materials and actual performances may coexist but where one aspect emerges as prioritized against the others in a given context. one of the popular notions of mariachi's history is that it came from the French word "mariage. In a related example." The "mariachis" were the Mexican musicians who played for French weddings during French occupation.

Texas. mariachi conferences and professionally staged performances. This dissertation defines the mariachi performative context as a living tradition. Consensus varied significantly over micro-details (Le. stylistic interpretation. funerals. . and use of musical transcriptions augmented tape-recorded interviews. baptisms. mariachi musicians and aficionados were rarely short of conclusive opinions and ideas about mariachi. the striking clarity in all of these apparent contradictions was mariachi's complexity as a vibrant part of community discussion. Videotapes. Many of the interviews conducted for this work were completed in the "field" of mariachi practice. however. Mexican restaurants. and birthday celebrations). timbre qualities. conceptualizations of mariachi as a cultural marker were comparatively (and remarkably) consistent over a variety of venues such as community celebrations. the performative context brings to light those popular discourses that help define mariachi as a Mexicano/Chican08 tradition. The vibrancy was perhaps no more clearly expressed than in its performative expression.4 The major point in discussing these frameworks was not to discern if and when comparative parts of mariachi discourse were in fact contradictory or ''wrong'' in their practical assumptions concerning history and tradition. Neither was the point to highlight some kind of overall confusion that would substitute for conclusive insights. Additional work was pursued during January 1995 through August 1995. A revisit to the area in November 1996 rounds out these Austin studies. the important feature was acknowledging an historical relationship between music and its capacity to express a contemporary ethnicity.e. and life markers (i. On the contrary. The primary fieldwork was pursued in Austin.). public contexts (Le. and family or community celebrations. Recalling the French occupation account.restaurant venues during performance breaks or after hours. etc. weddings. Additionally. As will be examined further throughout this dissertation. Initial research took place during fall 1991 through spring 1993. festivals). repertoire tendencies. general written observations.a practice built on a performative base of knowledge exemplified in daily practice.

newspaper articles. and performative bases of knowledge. they remain in the background during daily practice. Each of these invaluable sources forms the bases of knowledge upon which musicians and aficionados draw. based mariachi tradition. For example. It was clear that . Since the subject at hand concerns the U. there is a written base of knowledge. New Mexico. and the Basilica of La Virgen of Guadalupe9 for ten days in December 1996 also inform this research.S. This was supplemented by numerous mariachi conference and workshops attended throughout the whole research period in such locations as Tucson. These written sources have become part of the consciousness of mariachi musicians and aficionados. because of access and availability. and San Antonio. significant portions never reach the confines of the U. Arizona. Texas. This chapter focuses on the first two written sources (selected academic materials and instructional material) while succeeding chapters focus on the third aspect of written sources (popular culture resources) and both the performative and oral bases of knowledge. Alburquerque. This organization comes from the observation that while the written academic and instructional material sources may have a presence in the performative and oral tradition bases of knowledge. it is important to focus on the broader narrative concerning ethnicity that interlaces the oral. movie productions 10) highlighting mariachi performance and related issues ofMexicano/Chicano ethnic identity. written. however. based tradition. In addition to the oral tradition base and performative bases of knowledge. the materials cited are those which primarily inform this practice. three written sources concerning urban mariachi are particularly important: the first is selected academic material produced on the origins and practice of contemporary mariachi. and the third is popular culture sources (Le.S. there is no shortage of material produced in Mexico in all of these areas.5 Mexico City field research trips to: Plaza Garabaldi for four months in summer 1994 and for ten days in December 1996. 11 Before launching into a detailed discussion of selected academic and instructional materials. Specifically. the second is instructional material produced for direct application.

6/15/97. Austin. all these groups.it's flavor. You can't say it's just Spanish or that it's just from the indios. What is less clear is how ethnicity expressed through musical tradition engages a larger socio-cultural U.6 ethnicity plays a central role in mariachi practice at a variety of levels. had their own culture when the Spaniards came.a fashion that reflects the way ethnicity plays mUltiple roles in mariachi practice. You have to understand that it has a long history as part of the indios and European cultures Spanish really. 4/91. it has to do with that [cultural] mixing.. S. There were many parts of Spanish culture that . The Indians groups. urban mariachi. No. Ethnicity and Cultural Mestizaje Mariachi music is a mestizo music. Ethnicity permeates several parts of this dissertation work in dispersed fashion. they had sacrifices. New Mexico 1998) Mariachi is based on Spanish music. (guitarron player. Tucson. These qualities make it helpful to explore briefly ethnicity's general underpinnings as found in contemporary U. They achieved so much in science looking at the stars and figuring the cycles ... They're always showing the Indians as blood thirsty but that's not all they were. (young guitar player. Not bad engineers. I think people get really mixed up about who they are so that they think that the Aztecs and everything and their culture are something to be ashamed of.S. But they [Indigenous people] didn't have string instruments. It [mariachi] is a part of the Spanish culture that replaced the Indians' culture after the conquest. Tuscon. That's what gives mariachi its uniqueness. (preferred to remain anonymous. (mariachi group leader.. urban discussion ofMexicano/ChicanolLatino identities. AZ) They say it [mariachi] came from the Indians 12• There was also a lot of Spanish influence. 4/91. They [Spaniards] brought instruments and things with them when they came to make the Indians adopt their culture. AZ) No one can really say for sure if it was one or the other [Indigenous or Spanish] who had the strongest influence in what developed [in mariachi]. But I think it had to do with this music coming out from two very different cultures. Yes. TX) I really don't know .human sacrifices. The Spaniards brought the guitars. they built these tremendous cities.

they differ significantly as to the role each plays. great grandmother was Yaqui but we're really Hispanic. The speaker redresses this situation by invoking a precolumbian past that re-values Indigenous culture. these quotes show the stresses of a multi-racial history as engaged by the needs of a contemporary aesthetic. TX. Indigenous and European (Spanish).. AZ) The poorest people in Mexico are the Indians. Each subtly illustrates political tensions in how Spanish and Indigenous roots are used to explain mariachi as a mestizo tradition. though marked by the process. It means that I also have a strong Spanish background as history will show you. Religion was a big part of that because they tried to make all of them Catholic . My great. Though they may agree over the two main cultural influences. 7112/95) These excerpts represent a complex that interprets mestizaje as bi-cultural. It just wasn't music that they brought over. Our family comes from people who were wealthy ranch owners. 13 It's an aesthetic that searches for a validation of MexicanolChicano ethnicityand culture where its ''whitening'' (Europeanization) becomes a critical issue. We don't keep the customs of the Indians. Equally indicative are the comments that see people as rejecting an Indigenous heritage (fourth speaker). Far from building a facile relationship between Indigenous and Spanish musical influences. That's really our culture from Mexico. Spanish.7 were brought over. Most notably. Austin. 4/91. any discussion of African influences remains absent. These excerpts cover an interpretive range from mariachi as based on Indigenous sources influenced by Spanish culture to Spanish culture supplanting Indigenous culture.14 The erasure of African influences can perhaps be best understood as part of the same "whitening" dynamic that can inform MexicanolChicano ethnicities in relation to how Indigenous culture is invoked. I think they had their own way of doing things though and that's why Mexican culture isn't exactly Spanish culture. The Mexican government is so corrupt .. The excerpts are as intriguing for what they mention as what they omit. These ethnicities enigmatically distance themselves from those sources interpreted as derogatory. (guitar player. I consider myself Mexican and I'm very proud of that. Tucson. (foIkl6rico dancer. They suffer the most because they don't have any rights.

In sum. Cultural hybridities are often problematic to identify in Mexicano/Chicano musical practice because of the propensity to seek direct. (mariachi audience member and enthusiast. We're of Spanish background. As evidenced by the excerpts presented. To acknowledge this background (in some circles) is believed to invite negative race and class associations. to be Indigenous is to be poor and disenfranchised. In another respect.8 and benefits only the very rich. (Anzaldua 1987). These discussions become quickly rooted in the framings of cultural understanding that have traditionally denied Indigenous culture as a valid part of society. works may look at Indigenous based forms in . Even though my family was very poor when they came from Mexico. For example. It is a process that has strong implications for how people think of mariachi in terms of history. repertoire. there has been comparatively little written on the importance of a musical mestizaje that addresses contemporary musical practice. AZ) In this vein. That's [Spanish roots] what makes the Mexican culture rich (father ofa mariachi trumpet player. we're not Indians. instrumentation. Tucson. and content (Mendoza 1956. Stevenson 1952). Tucson. 4/91. non-mediated lines of descent between Indigenous and Spanish cultural forms in regards to such things as form. these dynamics show ethnicities as highly mediated forms within the mestizaje cultural process. rhythm. it is an issue that remains part of the discourse surrounding mariachi practice. Although there has been a significant body of literature discussing a cultural mestizaje for people of Hispanic descent in the U. AZ) We know some of the old [Indigenous] ways but a lot of it has been lost. I think of myself as Mexican American with more knowledge about my Spanish roots. these excerpts illustrate how Indigenismo is distanced through historical narrative.S. and traditionalism. 4/91. Claiming Spanish backgrounds while minimizing or even denying Indigenous cultural influence makes clear how negative assumptions emerge as powerful social stereotypes. ethnicity. The "old ways" and sense of cultural loss provide both space and time that separate Indigenous influence from contemporary identities.

Style.C. Daniel Sheehy's dissertation. also plays a significant role. The hamlet and cargo systems lS have been closely examined as major components in explicating worldviews and social organization. Steven Loza's book Barrio Rhythm: Mexican American Music in Los Angeles contains a brief section on the mariachi tradition and its development within the greater Los Angeles area.) has two chapter contributions on mariachi music. The U. and Repertory ofa Changing Musical Tradition. these may form a romanticized version of the past for use in the present. eds. "The 'Son Jarocho': The History.L. "Rhythm and Form in the Contemporary Son Jalisciense.A." 1978. The problematic is further complicated by a focus on European forms as part of creating cultural validity. Olga Najera Ramierez and Norma Cantu. master's thesis by Mark Fogelquist. mariachi expression." 1988. is one of the most well known academic document within mariachi performative circles. In recent work." 1979. Additionally. Mestizaje has been invoked as a sociopolitical cultural term to explain the origins of Hispanic cultures throughout the Americas and thereby "whiten" cultures as the expense of explicating Indigenous influences. the forthcoming anthology Changing Chicana Traditions (University of Illinois press. when Indigenous cultures are acknowledged.9 contemporary society as musical retentions or survivals. Consider for a moment that there exist cultures in Mexico strongly identified as Indigenous based. Both pieces look at the cultural expression of . perhaps the best well known is Steven Pearlman's University of California at Los Angeles dissertation thesis "Mariachi Music in Los Angeles. The Zinacantecos hold religious fiestas that have long been the subject of photographic essays and scholarly discourse.S. Academic Discourse Concerning Origins and Practice in Contemporary Mariachi Of all the works produced on contemporary U. Additionally. mestizajeimestizo can be invoked to emphasize and reclaim Indigenous roots as a positive association (recall excerpts).

An "Anglo. Fogelquist gave an interview on his restaurant's outdoor patio as the well-known conga musician Pancho Sanchez. Mark did master studies in ethnomusicology at U. In most cases.10 mariachi as related to women's participation.A. These groups differ from typical restaurant mariachi arrangements.16 in appearance and of European heritage. He recounted that his interest in mariachi began when he and his family resided in Mexico while his father pursued historical research on Pancho Villa. he was part proprietor in a well-known Orange County Mexican restaurant. takes a unique role as far as individual approaches and presence within the larger mariachi community. Often ensemble members andlor family members own and run these restaurants. however. He recalled that he had been immediately attracted to the music and its excitement.17 or some combination of these.C. payment from the establishment. The show groups perform in restaurant venues that are tailored to their needs. There are a number of restaurant based "show" mariachi groups within Southern California.18 offered by the house mariachi ensemble. and focuses on developing mariachi programs . It was revealed during the course of this interview that Mark felt that his thesis was ''full of mistakes. lighting. Each.A While at U." He also noted.L. decor. This was in addition to the regular "ShOW. Such things as stage construction. California.. microphones. ensembles performing in Mexican restaurants have only a tangential relationship to the business establishment. he became a member of the student university mariachi group Mariachi Uclatian. and table placement play major roles in highlighting the ensemble. the evening's featured guest. At the time of a summer 1991 interview. performed onstage.L.C. Collectively. They typically receive compensation in the form of customer tips. these works form the veritable backbone for contemporary mariachi research. He has recently relocated to San Jose. that people often cited that work.. Mark Fogelquist can be found at mariachi conferences and workshops because of his devotion to the tradition. Mark's group was especially well known for its restaurant stage venue that played host to a variety of musical groups. not without irony.

Since there are so few resources in English on mariachi. and guitarr6nio as transcribed can assist a number of individuals. vihuela. it is often the only .from the novice just learning the patterns to the professional interested in comparative studies. educator.part of the socioeconmic struggle engendered in 19th century mestizo life. He provided a lecture demonstration concerning the historical development of the contemporary mariachi ensemble. His overall scholarship is noted for presenting mariachi historically as music of resistance. It is a message that finds a receptive audience in young people facing challenging circumstances in contemporary life. although mariachi draws upon a number of Mexican regional mestizo musics. Another major aspect that gives the work life within the contemporary mariachi community is its treatment of mariachi history. A primary characteristic is that the thesis focuses on the son jalisciense-Iong considered the developmental core of the mariachi repertoire. His status as mariachi scholar. In particular. Fogelquist's thesis enjoys a presence in contemporary mariachi expression through his continued active involvement in the community and because of several key characteristics of the work. business entrepreneur. and professional musician make him a popular participant at a variety of mariachi public venues. As will be discussed later. The specific rhythm patterns and articulations on the rhythm instruments (guitar.11 for young kids considered at risk socioeconomically. More recently. the son jalisciense predominates the regionally identified repertoire. It also equally marks the thoughts of their parents and the generations before them who remember the social movements of the 70s and formation of such organizations as the United Farm Workers Union.S. 19 Transcriptions of the intricate hand strumming patterns within this thesis are useful for individuals within the mariachi community. he was a featured speaker at the San Antonio workshops. violin. he is a favored participant at a number of mariachi workshops and conferences throughout the U. His role at the Alburquerque event has also included teaching a mariachi course for academic credit at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

economic systems. His inclusion on programs invariably reflects this emphasis on historical materials. in anthropology and has a distinct sociological emphasis.L.12 academic resource of substantial length that students can consult. and leisure produce a nuanced picture of the mariachi community within a larger Mexican descent community. Steven recounts how he became involved with Mexican music performance. Pearlman's mariachi historical perspective relies almost exclusively on Fogelquist's master thesis with a few minor references to other sources (Rafael 1982. To read this work is to understand how heavily later scholarship draws upon the historical research done by Fogelquist. The . among other venues. it was not until fInishing master degree studies in anthropology in 1976 that he began studying and playing Mexican musics. 1988. the work has inspired other scholarship in this general area (this dissertation included). I believe that this work will continue to have a critical role in contemporary practice even as new works are produced because of Mark's commitment to the Mexican American communities and their children. religious practices. half the work focuses on the social relationships among mariachis within a broader Los Angeles Mexican descent community.. at Olvera Street in Los Angeles. An example is the dissertation completed by Steven Ray Pearlman. support systems. Steven Pearlman continues to be an active member of a mariachi group that often plays. Issues of immigration.A. Briefly. His increasing activity in a professional mariachi group and the "builtin funding" with professional performance made it an inviting line of research (pearlman 1988:22)." U. He recounts his ethical struggle in assuming the leadership role of the ensemble while still conducting research. The dissertation was completed in partial fulfIllment for a Ph.C. filial relationships. It is not a fact lost upon the contemporary tradition in that Fogelquist is noted for his command of mariachi history. Sonnichsen 1985). Although he had previously performed other kinds of folk and popular musics. At last report.D. The work also holds the import of being the fIrst major scholarship produced in English on mariachi music. citizenship. "Mariachi Music in Los Angeles. Lastly.

He additionally discusses the difficulty of correlating work structures with musical structures (pearlman 1988:179-80). Although the dissertation itself does not make explicit this conclusion. Among others. variable musical aesthetics reflect both a shared cultural space (musical style) and distinct contextual influences representative ofMexicano intra-ethnic social diversity. multiple social layers give one a sense of an integrated.i.e. this approach matches well with the explication behind mariachi musical style and variable musical aesthetics. he discusses the improbability that one song style can be taken as representative of entire culture. and yet changing community (pearlman 1988:69-172). For Pearlman. musical structure and content in performance. the definition of community depends less upon shared interpretations (and similar of engaging cultural forms) than shared cultural space within an urban landscape. The dynamic in each category tends towards figuring out a baseline comparative over which variation is seen as subject to contextual pressures-. These overlapping. show). In other words. Perhaps most importantly. these issues promote mariachi musical style as the key component in examining its social relevance. primary mode of work Cal tal6n. music performance is the . is integrated into greater Los Angeles society. One of the study's chief benefits is that it presents an intraethnicall y diverse community wherein definitions of community fall more upon engagement of related cultural forms. and context and audience (pearlman 1988:241-63). This critical point explains how mariachi can still be considered a musical style while encompassing a wide range of varying musical aesthetics.21 In this way.13 study then also explores how the mariachi community. music performance. Pearlman's argument views musical style and aesthetics as part of the "special relationship of music and culture" (pearlman 1988:178). diverse. interaction of structure and context. planta. as part of the Mexican descent community. The second half of the dissertation focuses on song style and meaning. and concluding remarks on the import of variable music aesthetics (pearlman 1988: 175-319). His review of Lomax's work outlines some of the larger problematics.

His group continues to be extremely popular and colleagues speak well of him in particular for his skills as a fair. this is only a partial explanation as to why his work remains overall less well known. repertoire. urban mariachi community than Fogelquist's. The focus is on a particular approach to music. disciplined ensemble leader. This work continues with Pearlman's emphasis on the performative mode.23 it is not an observation made lightly. It is a definition of musical style that rejects an unmediated relationship between song style and social structure. Given that his primary activities are more regionally defined. Pearlman found musical style as his primary basis for making such observations.S. Compared with Fogelquist's work. music director. and Mexican based mariachi groups.22 Given these circumstaIJces. it is no project worth its undertaking to try and give a definitive version of mariachi. based groups.S. bookkeeper. His primary presence is that ofa professional musician within the greater Los Angeles area. As examined in later chapters in this current work. Pearlman's work is perhaps less well known within the U. however. In some informal discussions. it is a much more broadly defined interpretation of the performative context. and history. Pearlman's work is distinguished by its concentration on U. Pearlman is perhaps less visible on a national level. and general music director. Given points of contention between U.S. structure. instrumentation. and lyrical content. it is not surprising that Pearlman's work holds a definite regional presence within the greater Los Angeles area mariachi community. It would not be consonant with the complex social diversity found within Mexican descent urban communities. talent scout. Consequently.business manager.24 mariachis noted that . The premise is that the mariachi performative mode engenders a multitude of layers that can simultaneously provide even contradictory interpretations based on differentiated ideologies of Mexican ethnicity. traditionalism.14 critical venue. publicist. mariachi is often only vaguely defined as a set of expectations that surround context. Mariachi professionals readily acknowledge that ensemble leader positions encompass multiple roles-. however. mediator.

15 since Fogelquist's work focused on Mexican mariachi primarily located in Jalisco that it was somehow historically more significant and of greater interest because of its "authenticity.2S This visibility and kind of exposure effects the tenor of mariachi performances given and the repertoire included. the work has taken on a "life" of its own through its dissemination and his continued presence on a national level. While Fogelquist may be uncomfortable (recall interview) or reticent to have his master thesis used as a credible source. A mariachi in Texas did an ice cream commercial for a regional company. Beyond regional implications. mariachi economics. For example." Pearlman's work only tangentially presents an introductory mariachi historical background that depends heavily on Fogelquist as a major resource. One of the key aspects of urban mariachi performance is that it must always respond to a changing audience. these dynamics are not unique to the Southern California context. This is a useful view of the U. issues such as immigration. urban tradition because it explains not only why certain parts of the repertoire are emphasized but also how those tendencies change. Another Southern California mariachi director recounted how the producers of the Leslie Nielsen film Naked Gun 2 Y2 had contacted him for a mariachi appearance in the film. As Pearlman's work seems to suggest. In this aspect. They were than subsequently asked to play the "ice cream song" by their audiences and soon it was incorporated into their repertoire. It is within these .S. In addition. Pearlman's work is also noted for its review of the contemporary mariachi repertoire. his dissertation gives a useful picture of what repertoire seems most prominent in this region. he gives a summation of the diverse ensembles possible within the mariachi performance realm (pearlman 1988:199-233). This seems particularly true in the Southern California region. and cultural vibrancy promote a responsive repertoire able to absorb both internal and external cultural critiques within an urban landscape (pearlman 1988: 100-124) . It eventually "faded" as the commercial lost its currency. many ensembles in the area frequently accept small parts on film and other media productions.

it's generally recognized that though the son jalisciense26 are the sones most closely associated with mariachi that other son tradition within Mexico have become a substantial part of the contemporary repertoire.sones. respectively.C. Sheehy's work is more indirectly related. some people are unwilling to consider sources that deal primarily with other song types. Style.C.16 kinds of dynamics that Pearlman tries to identify key song types that form the core of the repertoire-. a Mexican regional study and an urban study within the greater Los Angeles area.." U. As in the previous two cases. it still contributes a critical part to the historical narrative within contemporary mariachi practice. His work is not alone in attempting an extended genre study of mariachi. D. though it deals exclusively with the son jarocho tradition. In addition. Though his study is perhaps the least well known of the works mentioned thus far. Dan Sheehy currently heads the Folk Arts division at the National Endowment for the Arts. The works by Fogelquist and Pearlman connect directly to the mariachi tradition as. area.L. In this way. the dissertation completed by Daniel H. "The 'Son Jarocho': The History. It is difficult in both theoretical and practical terms to discount such sources that make a general discussion of Mexican mestizo musics as they play major roles in mariachi history and contemporary expression. for its detailed picture of mestizo musical histories in general. Sheehy's work remains important. Pearlman and Fogelquist. his . some musicians and aficionados feel a greater connection to sources that deal either exclusively with mariachi as a performance tradition or with mariachi as a regionally defined mestizo music primarily associated with Jalisco. Sheehy. Within mariachi practice. Sheehy'S continuing presence as a mariachi professional also effects how his written work exists within this community. 1979.. also finds a presence within the contemporary mariachi tradition. boleros. While other Mexican regional son traditions have a presence in the contemporary repertoire.A. Similar to Pearlman. Because the son jalisciense is seen as the cultural core of the sones within mariachi. and Repertory of a Changing Mexican Musical Tradition. he remains active as a mariachi professional in the Washington. and rancheras.

Both works approach musical changes within the traditions as part of changing social circumstances-. As a consequence. and song form and structure. it might be useful to review exactly how Sheehy's work reflects upon this larger sense of mariachi academic materials. much of the material focuses on musical style. and Analytical Study of a Mexican Regional Folk Genre. Sheehy'S work focuses on the sonjarocho as a genre study in the then (1978) contemporary context. Social. Both works focus on a regional. Lawrence Sheehy is not currently involved in mariachi performance or teaching. it remains almost unknown in contemporary mariachi practice and scholarship.. this may be attributed to the fact that it is an unpublished master's thesis. Each of these scholars wrote from a similar position in that regard.C. Also related to this part of the academic discourse is Lawrence Sander's master thesis "The Son Huasteco: A Historical.i. mariachi context.e. in specifically mariachi level. His concluding remarks leave one with a sense of urgency over the tradition's future: . area. Though it may be argued that Fogelquist's work is similarly positioned. Although Sheehy may enjoy a seemingly more significant national presence by virtue of his professional position with the NEA.C.L. lyrical content.S. Though Saunders work is part of this general discourse.17 activities as a musician are more regionally identified. By contrast. 1976.." U. 27 Sheehy's work is similarly situated with Fogelquist's and Saunders' efforts in that all three works spend a major portion describing the various traditions. repertoire.. instrumentation. folkloric musical expression as a genre study. socioeconomic shifts. As Sheehy notes in his case. this is off-set by Mark's critical engagement of the tradition as a lecturer and professional musician and his resultant social standing within the U. D.the Washington. mestizo. In some measure. At this point. Sheehy's unique approach is that he is interested in how musical change has come about as related to changing socio-economic conditions.A. there exists no "comprehensive description of the sonjarocho style or repertory" (Sheehy 1979:7).

and aficionados. Such changes were inevitable.. The focus of this study is indeed on the urban. From one perspective. in light of two factors: 1) the close ties of the tradition to its cultural context.18 It is clear that the son jarocho tradition is in a state of rapid transition of content. will likely continue.. At the traditional end of the son's cultural evolution. professional groups and their import on a larger mariachi community inclusive of musicians. it could be readily argued that the lack of academic . and the exploitation of the folk ideal will undoubtedly continue to be a financially and socially rewarding endeavor. following which the tradition may stabilize and look even more toward the professional urban musicians as models. and meaning. From this viewpoint. Many of the same considerations have had a decided effect on the evolution of mariachi as a musical style. they more importantly bring to light issues of musical change for mestizo musical traditions as related to socioeconomic pressures associated with emergent urbanization. these resources are not alone as far as a written intellectual base of knowledge. audience members. as the shifting socio-economic situation made some of the son's vital social functions and meanings obsolete. style. at the same time it created the climate for the development of new functions and meanings.S. function. and 2) the sweeping economically and socially motivated alterations of that cultural context . (Sheehy 1979:292) In a related aspect Sheehy makes some parting comments in regards to the popularization of the tradition within the structures of mass media and the recording industry: The foothold of musica jarocha in the recording industry and mass media promises to be self-perpetuating. The major difference is that this study approaches mariachi within the U. this current study begins somewhere where Sheehy's ended in following the continued evolution ofa Mexican mestizo musical style. urban context. In one way. it can be thought that Sheehy's could easily describe an earlier stage for the mariachi tradition. as the last generation familiar with the fandang0 28 passes on. Then. the great loss of content currently occurring. (Sheehy 1979:294) While these comments may collectively sound as if they're pronouncing the "deathknell" for the son jarocho tradition. Though it's clear these academic works clearly have a presence in contemporary mariachi practice.

musicians. Instructional Material Produced for Direct Application Mariachi instructional materials produced for direct application are perhaps the most difficult on which to undertake a comprehensive study. Musical transcriptions. As in the case of the academic materials.33 shoes. There are a few individuals who have begun distributing self-produced catalogues on a small scale. these materials (even those commercially produced) are not easily accessible. an even larger number are produced as booklets. method books. galas. the transcriptions form a major part of what is considered still to be primarily an oral tradition..29 resources. In that context these resources are a part of a wider range of mariachi items.e. They collectively form what might be seen as a surprisingly diverse resource.i. 30 In addition. it becomes clear that the development of these literatures has more to do with how people perceive pedagogy needs as related to the challenges in continuing the tradition. pamphlets. While a number of them have emerged as "published.31 ties. As we examine more closely instructional material produced for direct application.35 and sombreros. For what may be obvious reasons. the status and presence of authors within the mariachi community influence the uses and proliferation of their instructional materials. Because individuals who are skilled in teaching this music in . 36 Of all the written instructional materials. As part of these networks.19 literature leaves large opportunities for community materials to be produced in lieu of a well-developed body of resources. and general education materials comprise the bulk of these materials. and binders through self-publication. several individuals pursue professional contacts through either exhibiting at and/or attending mariachi conferences and workshops. and educators involved with teaching mariachi music. it is perhaps the musical transcriptions that are the most strongly pursued.34 finger picks.32 instruments. They are found in large part through mariachi professional and personal contacts with directors.

Among other examples. Of particular note are John Vela of Alice.38 He is particularly well known in mariachi circles for being able to handle almost any kind of order. given enough time. The majority of circulating materials has been transcribed and hand written by arrangers. university mariachi ensembles typically carry their own archives. orchestra. teacher. His commitment to conducting his business at the highest and most ethnical standards is well known. directors. Laura Sobrino is extremely well regarded as a professional musician.L. and choral programs bring musical skills Professional groups often turn to transcriptions to learn specific arrangements as quickly as possible. Texas. speaker and transcriber. Some people using computer based transcription programs have begun offering arrangements for sale or trade. California. with his business Mariachi Unlimited and Laura Sobrino with her Mariachi Publishing Company in Los Angeles. Trading or bargaining for hand written collections or selected pieces is considered an important part of both professional and educational networks. Educators also realize that many of the children with whom they work have been trained in school band. She is particularly well known . There are several kinds of transcriptions available.37 various educators have come to depend upon transcriptions as a major teaching resource. In addition to hand written arrangements. The University of Texas at Austin keeps a collection of mariachi transcriptions in their ethnomusicology archives that have been produced for the group since the mid 1970s. when she performed with the ethnomusicology mariachi ensemble. there are arrangements produced using computer aided transcription programs.C. A few of these individuals have formalized their work into business ventures.20 an oral tradition style are relatively few. and musicians in general. He has gained the respect of mariachi professionals and educators alike. Vela produces a modest mariachi catalogue that includes a number of transcriptions in addition to mariachi supplies and equipment. His business imports mariachi goods from Mexico.A. She began her mariachi studies while at U.

Southern Music Company in San Antonio. The trumpet parts are usually divided into first and second parts with sometimes a third part. I is published with this company. The guitarron part is individually transcribed as well. among a long list of credits. This resource comes replete with . Her transcription work in many circles is considered to be without equal. she has chosen to forward women's participation in mariachi as a way to enrich the tradition.the first professional all women mariachi show group. The director's score functions as a conductor's score in that it shows all parts and lyrics for general reference. 39 The kinds of transcriptions she produces are computer based. was a co-director of Mariachi Reyna-. The parts include all the bowings and phrase markings. Her dedication to the mariachi tradition as an exceptional teacher is also well noted for her concentration on teaching young women. Similar to the way in which musical transcriptions are produced. John Vela's The Guitarron Book Vol. she has given seminars on the experience of being a woman mariachi professional. lyrics included. is one example of a commercial publishing house that has done limited editions of both mariachi transcriptions and method books. 40 Guitar and vihuela parts have the strum patterns marked with chord progressions on staff notation. Texas. she asks questions about vocal ranges and instrumentation in order to fit the arrangement to the specific ensemble. Vocal parts are also transcribed with two and three part harmonies. The violin parts are exceptionally well suited to the instrument as Sobrino is a fine violinist. For any given order. A director's score completes the packet for each song. Method books in a variety of forms supplement these transcription sources. Individual parts are created for each instrument.21 as one of the earliest professional women mariachi and. method books are made available through professional and educational networks. and even third violin parts. Her exceptional talents as a teacher make her a popular faculty participant at a number of mariachi conferences and workshops. second. In addition to teaching violin classes and teaching privately. Based on her own experiences. The violin parts typically involve first.

1995. dominant seventh) which are considered to me some of the more "complicated" chords. Most at issue are seventh chords (Le. It should be noted that the chord notations so follow the system one would find in guitar chord books. Graded exercises follow an introductory course on how to read the bass clef. A grid of the vihuela strings is given with notations for where fingers should press down on the frets and which open strings should be played. The introductory remarks of this publication review some of the instrument's developmental history and some of its construction features. Unlike the guitarron method book. It's assumed the individual using this method book already has some command of the instrument and needs only a general reference source for fingering. It is more an instructional resource for how to finger various chords complete with chord substitutions. Exercises that focus on rhythm patterns for different song types complete this study. . There is very little else written beyond the various fingerings. this example is not so much a resource for learning how to play the vihuela. augmented. Also included is an introduction to the proper names of the various instrument parts.22 photographs on how to hold the instrument properly and produce the desired sound with its unique "pulling" technique of playing the strings. most guitarists easily make the switch to vihuela once they become accustomed to a five string system. Each hand position is meticulously illustrated with the proper fingering to produce the desired tones. Vela's vihuela method book is produced under a self-publishing mode in which Mariachi Unlimited is listed as the volume's publisher. diminished. Since the vihuela is quite similar to the guitar tuning system. use of the thumb in fingering is what seems markedly different for guitar players making this transition. The notation scheme is based on that which is frequently used for guitar chord books. This work is entitled Vihuela Chord Book. Beyond the intricacies of learning the specific strumming techniques required.41 The book does include an introduction to the names of various instrument parts and a notated tuning guide.

1992. There are also vocal .C. also a mariachi graduate of the U. Patricia Harpoole. An additional indication of this is that Lawrence Saunders retains his individual rights to this product. given Saunder's academic engagement of Mexican mestizo musical history. Included are black and white photos of the regional instruments and individual parts for each of the instruments. It provides a musical overview of Indigenous musics and then explains the developments of mestizo musics. ensemble. Other types of materials produced for direct application are materials that are intended for general educational purposes. the introductory remarks included are one of the few instances in these kinds of materials where an extensive history is given. independent publisher. An extended discussion on the variety of regional mestizo musics with some technical remarks on cadences and violin execution close the section. The introductory remarks give a brief history of mariachi and Mexican mestizo musics in general. It's listed as published by Fue Imaginea in Santa Monica. Not surprisingly. it seems clear that the typesetting used and cover illustration are more than likely the work of a small. 42 His name is listed next to the copyright date. These remarks are geared to the classroom educator and are easily accessible for at least fourth through sixth grade reading levels. California. this volume is intended more as a resource for an individual who already has a basic command of the instrument and reading knowledge of Westem staff notation. Again.L. produced with Mark Fogelquist's assistance a publication entitled Los Mariachis!: An Introduction to Mexican Mariachi Music.A.23 Another method book example that appears frequently is Lawrence Saunder's How to Play Mariachi Violin. Although the copy I possess in only a photocopy. The packet's construction is flexible so that it can also serve as an educational resource up to early high school. The volume includes a cassette tape with listening examples. Saunders' remarks emphasize that the transcriptions should be viewed only as a general reference since he views mariachi as primarily an oral tradition (Saunders 1992:1-16). An audiocassette tape accompanies these materials. 1989.

educational systems is at least evident through the popular media presence of Latinos or Mexican descent people. there is also the opposite to consider. much as in the way of a lesson plan. Though they may lack critical numbers in some areas. band. this musical mestizaje openly . these materials generate excitement in that they were constructed to be "user friendly. The scope and diversity of written academic materials and instructional materials for direct application illustrate the complexities of what it means to pursue a traditional folklore tradition within an urban context.43 Given the tendency of these expressions to focus on negative stereotypes in lieu of deep cultural knowledge of observations. There are suggestions on how to proceed. remain invisible. Indeed. though the students in some urban areas may not be exposed to large Mexican descent populations within their communities. There is hardly any substantial u. In a larger sense.i.S.S. or choral classes or even Spanish language courses. How this work differs from typical transcription packets is that the focus is on approaching music through learning about the Mexican culture. urban context in which Latinos. There are a series of exercises and even quiz materials that help aid the learning process. her talents for mariachi curriculum development are evident. for learning the son jalisciense ''EI Tirador" (The Shooter). if not Mexican descent populations. orchestra." It is not necessary that either the educator or the students be familiar with mariachi or Mexican culture in general. materials such as those produced by Harpoole are indeed a welcomed part of the mariachi practice.24 parts meant to engage full student participation. Although it can be imagined that this curriculum would have greater resonance is places such as the Southwest where there may be a larger context to which to apply this knowledge. An overall conductor's score accompanies the individual parts. the importance of these kinds of materials in U. There are also suggestions for various kinds of curriculum for which these materials might be useful. Given that Harpoole's university studies were focused in education.not just instrumental parts.e. there are a variety of popular culture resources which the engage ideas of Mexican ethnicity. In other words.

and history within the urban context. celebrate. . In other cases. Rather than presenting a view that focuses on that which can be said to be lost or deteriorated. mariachi is pursued as an evolving tradition that draws upon musical change as a major strength. only general information about their backgrounds and positions within mariachi are given. because of the sensitive nature of the comments given. speakers specifically requested that they be identified by name. In those cases as well. appreciate. The mariachi musical mestizaje is also representative of the creative contexts and extreme diversity through which it is pursued as a daily social practice. What follows in succeeding chapters is perhaps but a brief visit into those venues which show the life of this tradition and its place in the thoughts and emotions of Mexican descent people who philosophize. strategize. traditionalism. speakers preferred some modicum of anonymity.25 reflects bases of partial knowledges that bear the markings of a culture not fully incorporated into American culture on an equal basis. and make grounded these theoretical issues into keenly pursued definitions of ethnic identity. In many cases. In accordance with their wishes. their wishes are followed.

26 Notes to Chapter I 1 enthusiasts 2 Peter Manuel noted in his review of a Temple University Press forthcoming anthology that my chapter on mariachi performance would be welcomed. The Perry Casteiieada Library at the University of Texas at Austin certainly maintains itself as a university academic institution. The proof came when I found that excerpts of this thesis have become part of the resources circulated through parts of the broader Austin mariachi community.S. it's not unusual to come upon local school children as well as general community members making use of its resources.S. 3 A Taco Cabana is a chain of fast food eating establishments that serve Mexican food. race. 10 Visually oriented commercially produced films are included in this context as "texts. 8 9 The Virgin of Guadalupe is considered the patron saint of Mexico and is much beloved by certain segments of the U. ." They provide a ''written'' narrative ofMexicano/Chicano identity and are read as such in mariachi practice. or primarily raised in the U. the term's usage refers to the person's own self-identity vis-a-vis issues of cultural identity (class. This example is especially illustrative. 4 S 6 To this day. it continues as part of the oral tradition as well as some written sources within this community (Le. They are easily spotted because of the bright pink exterior and indoor/outdoor patio areas. Mexicana and Chicana refer to females of Mexican descent.S. In each case. and visual documentary sources. language. The term Mexicano refers to an individual born and raised in Mexico or primarily raised in Mexico. Mexican descent population. Those terms loosely refer to an individual of Mexican descent who was either born and raised in the U. 7 Chicano and Mexican American are used interchangeably throughout the whole of this work. I was speaking with this person at an Austin Taco Cabana before he was to begin playing with a mariachi group who had been contracted to make regular appearances. Though some mariachi practitioners are well aware of the academic scholarship that refutes this argument. gender. I cannot recall the article's title or its authorship. because of the lack of published materials in English. Perhaps most at issue here are commercially produced sound recordings. however.). CD liner notes and website materials). films. in part. etc.

Typically. This allows for great artistic control of the group's presentation and practice. The cargo system refers to the religious. mariachi decorum holds that the ensemble be provided food as part of the given celebration or event. there are several "show" mariachis that are housed in Mexican restaurants. the ownership and management of the Mexican restaurant are somehow related to group members." 18 An example supporting this view is that the National Ballet Fo1kI6rico of Mexico often concludes its performances with a rendition of the popular son jalisciense "La Negra" 19 . and African cultural influences. In this Southern California context. In most cases. Though mariachi professional and ethnomusicologist Mark Fogelquist gives mariachi conference and workshop lectures that present mestizo musics as a combination of Indigenous. Most notable are mariachi conferences and workshops where there is conscious engagement of these materials for pedagogical purposes. Tremendous amounts of energy were put into rediscovering Indigenous heritage as the historical roots of Chicano culture. the idea is not embraced by the majority of mariachi musicians and aficionados. IS The hamlet system refers to a social organization principle whereby smaller villages based on filial relationships exist in a general geographic area. director of Mariachi Los Camperos. there is some combination of these modes of payment. A group of Arizona State University at Tempe students follow teachings of a person they consider an elder in the local community. Other students make a conscious effort to follow a kind ofIndigenismo that can be closely linked with the Chicano student movement of the 1970s. only two speakers even mentioned African influences in mariachi. dismissing any influence as tangential.27 These kinds of resources emerge most prominently only in a small number of contexts. and political base of organization built upon reciprocal relationships among families 16 17 Anglo denoting white person Payment can include monetary and/or other kinds of compensation. Both were vague in their comments. 11 12 The terms "indios" and "Indian" both refer to indigenous people. social. Nati Cano. Many restaurant groups view the venue as a potential showcase that can lead other employment opportunities and building repeat clientele. It is important to note that there do exist parts of the Mexicano/Chicano community that are actively engaged in studying Indigenous cultures and integrating studies into daily life. 13 14 In the many interviews conducted. In another respect. These groups perform scripted presentations usually from a staged venue inclusive of such things as microphones. has been known to state that his presentations are his version of "American dinner theater. Spanish.

by several accounts. The al talon mode of performance means the ensemble depends on "piece" work. Film assistants responded that this was not the desired image. he is well-respected by his immediate contacts within the mariachi community. Some mariachi ensembles are known to have planta arrangements with places like hotels for well over five or seven years. however.S. usually on a weekly basis. They were looking for "more the Pancho Villa look" with "stuffed stomachs" and things like big mustaches.S.S. Mexican descent musicians. 21 22 Even though mariachi ensembles may have a music director who is not the acknowledged ensemble leader. He is not a nationally well known figure though. ensembles can be a mixture of Mexican nationals and U. show mariachi is usually based in a restaurant venue fitted to the mariachi performance need where the business establishment is owned/run by ensembles members and/or family members. They work literally "on the heel" where they solicit in venues where people pay a certain price for each piece performed. they were equally critical about U. 23 24 Several mariachi musicians at a Southwest mariachi conference and workshop discussed at length their varying opinions and knowledge about these two works in particular.S. U.28 ("The Dark One"). groups in general of not quite having that "Mexicano" sentiment. 20 The vihuela and guitarron are the regionally identified string instruments considered part of the Jalisco tradition. Conversely. they also voiced criticisms that saw Mexican groups as sometimes less disciplined or inconsistent in their musical execution. While mariachi musicians at Plaza Garabaldi readily identified those U. As previously mentioned. for substantial length of time.S. It is presented as the epitome of the mariachi dance and music tradition. 27 . based groups of the highest professional rankings as musically strong. it is more often than not the ensemble leader who ultimately determines repertoire choices within the performative context. 2S 26 Song form from Jalisco Saunders has in the recent past been associated with mariachi teaching and performance though from primarily a "behind-the-scenes" approach. One of the larger trans-national problematics of mariachi performance is the respect and musical abilities with which groups are attributed in regards to Mexican or Mexican American ensembles. U. based groups acknowledged the professional dominance of selected Mexican groups. As Pearlman notes (1988:100-24). He declined their offer for employment. The ensemble director submitted the group's professional photo. The planta mode refers to ensembles where set arrangements are made with a business establishment.

playing demonstration with a great degree of repetition." 34 35 A number of guitar and vihuela players have started using plastic finger picks. however. 33 These intricate networks are largely confined to the sale and distribution of the regional instruments (the guitarron and the vihuela). There are various arguments as to the role transcriptions should play in contemporary expression. These are the ties that are worn with mariachi suits. these resources are fairly idiosyncratic and have not been consistent in their appearance and use within the larger mariachi community. As will be further explicated. identifying credible establishments. these picks are specially designed for the specific vihuela string tensions and rapid articulations required. These are more accurately referred to as a special kind of short boot style worn by most professional groups. a specific kind of short boot is considered to "look best.i. Laura kindly agreed to have selected portions of some of her transcriptions used in this dissertation to help illustrate musical analysis.i. 30 31 32 Galas are the sets of silver or silver colored decorations sewn on trajes (mariachi suits). 28 29 Published in the sense refers to a recognized commercial press. A large.e. wide-brimmed Mexican hat 36 37 The majority of mariachi teachers use oral tradition techniques to some extent. and guitars are of course more readily available in a variety of venues.29 Sheehy defines the fandango as the "festive celebration of southern Vera Cruz in which the tarima [wooden dance platform] and the performing of the son are the central part" (Sheehy 1979:378). 38 39 .e. However. There are a number of recorded sources that are routinely circulated with some accompanying written materials. there are other resources published on home-grown presses in what might be seen as an emerging cottage industry within contemporary mariachi economics. Because the pant leg on a typical mariachi traje (suit) is fitted closely to the leg. Their construction is unique to the suit so they are not readily available outside of mariachi products. ordering in bulk numbers. It is certainly possible for individuals to deal directly with a number of Mexican businesses to obtain a wide range of mariachi supplies. many ensembles and educators prefer to work with someone like Iohn Vela who deals with whatever market uncertainties may exist. IN some cases. violins. Trumpets.

42 Mexican chain restaurants and their decor are just one concrete example. where they simply use the copyright symbol and their names to claim ownership.S. Some mariachi educators have complained that the "kids" are not getting a full mariachi education in not being rigorously taught how to transpose. etc. scanners.30 It's not uncommon for gutiarron parts to be assumed as already included in the guitar and vihuela part. copyright offices in Washington. The popurris and boleros are a large part of the repertoire used to highlight vocal performances." Among my contemporaries. 43 . 41 Many examples found show people using things like desk top publishing computer programs. Students from non-Spanish speaking backgrounds are often shocked to learn that the Mexican restaurant Chi-Chi's name translates to "breast.. the ensembles must be able to quickly adapt to whatever musical key the singer prefers. 40 It is often the boleros and popurris of the repertoire that often require "complicated" chords in a wide variety of keys. Hooters refers to another well known chain where its waitresses wear revealing clothing and it's a definite departure from the family atmosphere that Chi-Chi' s seeks as a business establishment. These are not items that have been forwarded and registered with the U. a frequent jokes relates to the suggestion that Chi-Chi' s might be some kind of "Hooters" place. In these cases.

As this young person could also tell you (from a bi-lingual perspective).. The blank may be filled in with your full name or some address related to vou.depending upon the intention of the speaker. Whether the question is posed in English or Spanish. intonation and expectations and might mean the difference between an afternoon in the park or washing dishes.a process that not only defines those realms but also states how they relate to one another. it reveals the complexity of discourse that can only be learned as a process of acquiring a broad cultural competency. both speakers must be active. the point is not so much that different language areas exist as much as that in order for any kind of exchange to occur within those areas. Even at this level. In another sense. experienced participants in the enculturation process that gives sense and meaning to those subtle language differences. The element of "play" can rise to the surface as it becomes a matter of cultural competency whether or not the speaker and respondent have indeed traveled into the same realm of exchange or that a 31 . As folklorist Americo Paredes has aptly shown. the subtleties of discourse can escape even the most proficient student if the person is not intimately familiar with the different modes of communication used by Spanish speakers. . it means a great deal whether or not the question is posed in English or Spanish.CHAPTERll HACIENDO COSAS (DOING THINGS) "Que estas haciendo ?" ("What are you doing?") is a question that can often greet a young ChicanolMexicano person. it carries its own specific meaning. It is a competency gained through minute components found in an individual's immersion not bounded by several years of intense classroom or field study.

"Que estas haciendo?" usually expresses more than a passing interest in what you are doing and demands some response. Unwarranted generalizations may be reached on the basis of misinterpretation of words.32 series of miscommunications has ensued. As Alfred Arteaga explains in his introduction to the anthology An Other Tongue: Nation and Ethnicity in the Linguistic Borderlands: . It can provide a chaIlenge. He focuses on misrepresentation where Mexicano/Chicano communities become uncritically associated with certain liabilities or character flaws due largely to a series of mis-translations between Spanish and English. and the ability to communicate was enough of a goal for an ethnographer who wanted to elicit kinship terms or to work out taxonomies of plants. As this excerpt elaborates.particularly Chicanos and anthropologists. In any respect. Paredes begins by mentioning the "current quarrel" between minority groups and the social sciences. this realm can be used to the advantage of the native speaker in redressing hostilities and the contemporary import of historical relationships. or statuses. As Paredes notes. linguistic cultural competency is of unqualified importance in cultural analysis where ethnographic interpretations illuminate deep socio-symbolic meanings and affect. Paredes' work reminds us that cultural bilingualism is not so clearly marked by models that focus on vocabulary acquisition or familiarity with grammatical structures as hallmarks of linguistic fluency (1993). It is a different matter when you attempt to interpret people's feelings and attitudes in actual speech situations. if he comes before us as an interpreter of a people's ethos or world view on the basis of their linguistic behavior. the exchange highlights how people relate to one another in daily life in explaining for themselves and others the meaning of what is being communicated.what you are doing may be less than desirable. animals. On should seriously question the competence of a "fluent" ethnographer who cannot even keep his tenses and genders straight.or represent a call for information. especially if a dialect expression is taken in its standard dictionary meaning or a metaphorical expression is taken literally (1993 :76). Fluency does allow you to communicate.

In viewing mariachi practice... through active participation/subjectification. this abstraction is only methodological and should not be confused with. No doubt this can be done. any definition of folklore on the basis . that the articulations of languages (e. The collection of things requires a methodological abstraction of objects from their actual context.. the mariachi can make it seem like everyone there is completely involved. it's like you're a guest only you're a paid guest to get things going for a party! An audience participant and mariachi aficionado further elaborated: When everything is going well . The know how to relate to people very well. We do a few jokes and talk to the people . It is the contention of the essays here. particular subjects of particular states. As one mariachi musician explained: [A good mariachi group] involves the audience.. dead about it [the performance]. English or Spanish) and that of social discourses (anything from regional dialect to legalese) participate in the push and pull struggle to define some version of "self' over and against some "other.33 The words in An Other Tongue describe the words by which we are marked subjects.. in varying ways. If there isn't that connection between the musicians and people in the audience then there's something missing ." Similarly. From this perspective. often it is essential for research purposes. The implication is that the audience commands the cultural competency to engage this musical expression as a communicative process. understood. Gets them to be relaxed and really enjoy themselves. The matter is one of interrogating the processes of subjectification that define selves and others as the subjects of nation and ethnicity. mariachi music and music making (not incidentally with its predominance of Spanish language texts) provide a time and place where a response is required and.. power that must be reinforced continually to maintain a particular image of the world and hierarchy of relationships (1994:1). it is helpful to keep Dan Ben-Amos' comments in defining folklore not as the collection of cultural mentifacts but rather a performative context as folkloric practice.. it is a common contention that these linguistic and discursive relationships manifest active displacements of power. Nevertheless. Moreover. or that is the way it should be I think. The best groups are great entertainers and excellent musicians. or substituted for. the true nature of the entities..g. This is a very joyfu~ spirited music .

its expression as a part of social practice helps define Mexicano/Chicano identity as part of a diasporic community. folklore is not an aggregate of things.. How mariachi creates a time and space for cultural communication (process) involves a complex of activities that simultaneously acknowledges the parameters of musical performance as marked or framed as separate from other activities and totally integrated within a cultural scene or place.S. Mexican descent communities (see Chapter llI). Issues of a perceived homeland and cultural roots permeate mariachi in its lyrical structures and overall affective qualities in invoking a kind of nationalism relevant to U. While mariachi may exist as a musical genre in a variety of regions throughout the U. Ethnomusicologist Mark Slob in notes the proliferation of what he terms as "micromusics" within "big music-cultures" despite the unequal power relations where micro musics are seemingly overwhelmed by dominant culture. aspects of a specific musical diaspora seem equally applicable to Mexicano/Chicano communities in the U. the Polish polka exists in a region of population pockets stretched across five thousand kilometers in widely separated urban areas.particularly those in urban contexts. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett addresses historical immigrant communities and their relationship to a home or mother country as a folklore of ethnicity in which . In speaking of regionally related musics he notes: Regions also pop up in the linkages among diasporic communities.34 of these abstracted things is bound to mistake the parts for the whole. In the U. Although his comments are directed towards Euro-American contexts. In its cultural context. .a communicative process. It is within these urban areas then that mariachi practice is similarly situated as a micromusic of distinction within Mexican descent communities.S.d. groups far from a perceived homeland and sharing familiar music.. to be exact" (n. To define folklore. Of particular import is the social creation of community through musical expression or cultural repertoires as part of cultural diasporas. but a process. it is necessary to examine the phenomena as they exist.:9).S.S.

The betwixt and between conundrum points to a relationship that is mitigated by its own set of historical contradictions as the process of cultural synthesis demands an ongoing process of retrenchment. let's examine more closely the context of the Detroit Mexican Town area. rejecting. As writers such as Gloria Anzaldua have noted (1987). Cultural forms necessarily engage these issues in producing a variety of meaning in how forms are approached and practiced. Detroit Mexican Town The Detroit Mexican Town area is an area that is perhaps less well-known to would-be travelers than the celebrated Detroit Greek Town or Italian Town areas. particularly when it comes to issues of cultural identity. . and with what meanings and effects? (1983:43). These observations seem most appropriate in discussing how Mexicano/Chicano people express what is at stake for a given community by the modes of expression they choose. how people pursue those political and social agendas that seem most relevant to their situations in affirming. An interesting research problem would be to explore how people with multiple codes invokes these codes and alternate among them: when. the politics of identity for Mexican descent communities this side of the border engender a complexity that is not reducible to the either/or proposition (Mexican or American) that may be invoked. In other words. She notes: Italian families who eat American style platter (meat and vegetables) one night and Italian style gravy (sauce with pasta) the next on a regular basis may be said to be engage in cultural code-switching. to what end. It is especially intriguing how people negotiate arenas that have been pre-edited for them. so too do their attitudes toward the use of the cultural repertoires vary. In analyzing how this is concretely expressed in daily life.35 "multiple cultural repertoires and cultural code-switching' prevail. and creating societal codes of normalcy. Just as bilingual speakers may vary in their attitude toward keeping their languages discrete or allowing interpenetrations and code-switching.

More than once." The division between these areas is also marked by the difference in population.the part where visitors and tourists go and the areas where MexicanosiChicanos go about the business of everyday life. 1 a small grocery store. those stores and shops that extend well beyond the pockets of even both sections of Bagley street. a Latino record store. valet parking. a MexicanlLatino goods import store. Non Mexican descent people outside of the first tourist section of Bagley are cause for second glances and commentary. 2 Bagley continues on the other side of a major highway. The main attraction in this second part of Bagley street is the outdoor venue named Fiesta Gardens. and glass front windows proliferate. BMWs. The second part's place and the surrounding neighborhood as a not-quite-urban-renewal though not totally abandoned sphere reveals the difficulties in maintaining a public space in relation to community needs and desires. and a tortilleria. This is in stark contrast to the edifices in Greek Town located in a part of the city where parking garages. It also represents a certain socio-economic access (or lack thereof) to community resources." They have missed the richest parts of the area. I have smiled at acquaintances who remark that Mexican Town is "quite small" or "not really all that interesting. a relatively short street with several Mexican restaurants.3 (the other side with all the restaurants). like much of the surrounding area. indoor malls. This second part of Bagley appears perhaps less glamorous than it's counterpart in "el otro lado.36 Mexican Town is located on Bagley. they more often than not relocate themselves to the Bagley tourist section once they reorient themselves after having gotten "lost. The shops are serviceable but conspicuously "shabby" in appearance in small effects ranging from comparatively poorly maintained sidewalks and streets to peeling coats of paint. The area is not generally considered to be among the most economically successful portions of the city. .. bears witness to the idea that there are at least two parts to Mexican Town-. a panaderia. This part.4 While it is true you may occasionally find a displaced visitor in the neighborhood streets surrounding Bagley or in the clothing stores on Vernor.

. It was not long before I realized how deceiving the initial impressions of neglect were for Fiesta Gardens and its surrounding neighborhood. history. During summer celebrations. Each successive weekend brought out larger numbers of people as the popularity of these events increased and included a different emphasis. Its physical dimensions appear relatively small.finding the grocery stores that carry our foods and spices.S.one flying the Mexican flag and the other flying the U. Fiesta Gardens can hold several hundred people as they spill into the back areas that can double as parking spaces. The idea was to showcase the area and Mexicano presence in Detroit. Small tents with various Mexicano foods and goods dotted the area while several tables and chairs were set near the fountain where musicians could set-up their equipment. flag. When I first came to Michigan. I thought Fiesta Gardens was small and deserted. The Mexican bakery and Latino music stores became favorite places to visit on more than several afternoons when Ann Arbor and the university seemed lacking in comparison. The overall effect reflected an agenda that promoted communal knowledge. and shared experience.37 Fiesta Gardens is a grassy area marked by a central fountain and an iron arch that states ''Bienvenidos'' ("Welcome") and two flag poles. Fiesta Gardens and the surrounding neighborhood appeared relatively neglected. One weekend concerned the work of a community based organization dedicated to founding historical archives about the history of Mexicanos in the Detroit area. I had been thinking of the Mexicano community areas in Austin. My earliest visits to Mexican Town were much like visits made by many of my Latino colleagues who look for the familiar in the unfamiliar-. The summer of 1996 saw the launching of sustained fiestas over several weekends. both contemporarily and historically. the places where restaurants taste like someone's back kitchen and where you see brown faces and hear Spanish on the street. Displays with photos of orquesta musicians from the 1940s and 1950s and pictures of the surrounding Mexican neighborhoods as they looked then were the main attraction. Texas where large gathering places were fenced in and security teams were brought in during special events for crowd control.

Anthropologist Patricia Zavella details in her work on Chicano families that the insider/outsider researcher position is clearly marked as a somewhat artificial construction. questions arise as to how intraethnic complexities engage group consciousness. the social dance event becomes the drawing point where Mexicanos access power and community in ways that have been denied in a larger socio-cultural context.38 Scholars Manuel Peiia and Jose Limon have critically reflected upon the relevance of a Turnerian communitas for Mexican descent communities in the U. In Peiia's work. His not-so-rhetorical questions of what happens after the dance foreground issues of exactly how successful these spaces are and for what broader purposes. The point being that she.Le. The dance event becomes an empowered space juxtaposed to an external reality that systematically disenfranchises Mexican descent people from positions of socioeconomic power (1985).S. Both perspectives playa critical role in how we look at the use of space and how people collectively create cultural knowledge and history in staking their socio-cultural claim as a group. Issues of class. gender. Limon acknowledges the moment of community but questions the strength and necessity of casting these events as forms of cultural resistance (1994). was neither "fully in" nor "fully outside" in her relationships with women cannery workers and their families. education. While both writers maintain that a particular ethnic identity (even one with a strong regional emphasis) is the axis along which communitas emerges. It was extremely context sensitive to the individual with whom she was working and what they were discussing. as a Chicana scholar and anthropologist. It seems though that these kinds of observations are often approached from notions of insider/outsider observers and participants along the lines of a specific ethnic background. His writing reminds us that the strength of socio-cultural analysis lies in the writer's ability to effectively communicate the uneasiness in observing larger social patterns and the complexities they engender within these spaces of empowerment. racial discrimination and sexuality. and maternal experience were but a few of the salient .

My sense of Chicana feminist identity. Shelemay focuses on coordinated group fieldwork and its impact in training developing scholars. ironically hindered my understanding of the nuances of the ethnic identity of the women I studied here as historical actors. the expectations concerning ethnicity and cultural background can bring some unexpected revelations. constructed through my participation in the Chicano movement.39 factors (1987:17-29). perhaps have the greater rapport. In contrast.. She discusses how a group of students worked on a community field project within a Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn.. the extensive liturgical and historical knowledge of the three cantors in particular led them to assume information they had not yet verified and thus impeded their ability to interview effectively . the information directed to them was somewhat minimal and less detailed than that for their counterparts. the non-Jewish team members were given special attention by our research associates because of their concern that the "outsiders" understand esoteric aspects of Jewish tradition and Arabic music (1988:379). In the end. The perception was that they required less guidance. In addition. Chicano/Latino scholars who privileged the term Chicano (1993:53). New York. My status as insider also posed the dilemma of how to present the ethnographic "other" to my peers. of all the students. At times. as ethnomusicologist Kay Kaufman Shelemay has discussed. She further reflects on the challenges in particular to her own Chicana/feminist sensibilities in relating to working-class Mexican American women: My purpose here is two-fold: I will discuss how my status as a simultarteous cultural "insider" and Chicana feminist research reflected a conundrum. ZaveIIa extends the import of this theoretical dilemma even further by noting the intraethnic dynamics between herself and the community of Chicano scholars. The final team in this multiple term project was composed of all first-year students and included three cantors in the Ashkenazic Jewish tradition. The Jewish students in the group found it difficult in the expectation was that they would. Most of my research with mariachi has yielded another slightly different perspective in at least two respects as far an insider/outsider relationship and its .

In a second respect. emblematic of mestizo musical traditions (Chamorro 1983. It has also emerged on an international front as the traditional music most closely associated with Mexico and. Although the speaker is clearly referring to the idea of insider/outsider when identifying Mexican descent and non-Mexican descent peoples in the first part of his statement. As one mariachi musician explained to me: Mariachi has always been something that also brings other people into it. Rafael 1983). mariachi musicians and aficionados see themselves as a community with privileged knowledge and experience.S. in some sense. They wouldn't miss one of our performances! These elements of both inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic diversity play crucial roles in understanding the finer contours of how insider/outsider perspectives function as a part of mariachi musical expression. Even when mariachi was starting in Mexico. sonjarocho. and Mexican culture in general. intraethnic Mexican diversity also remains a paramount concern. . He acknowledges that Mexico's intraethnic diversity has. son huasteco). The first relates to the idea that mariachi has a history of inclusivity and thereby its own theoretical and practical engagement of insider/outsider perspectives. sonjalisciense. the music also draws in different people. A young mariachi musician commented: I didn't really know what mariachi was before I started playing [mariachi] violin. I had heard of it and thought it was this old-time music . We didn't learn much about any of those things but my parents supported me when I told them what I wanted to do..Jalisco. While it's Mexican.. thereby.. contributed to an overall stance that mariachi (since at least the early twentieth century) has incorporated a number of regionally identified song forms (Le. you have people from throughout Mexico who were attracted to it from outside where they say it mostly came from-. music of my parents. Mexican descent people.. I have to say that I was really pretty ignorant [about mariachi] .40 relevance to ethnic identity. They realize that mariachi is neither universally accepted nor even familiar to many U.

She also asked how my mother was and if my mother had come back into town yet. thinking I had met her someplace else.but here. There was too much over which to offend by stating what was perhaps the obvious. for example. however. there was too much at stake to deny connections to one another even on the seemingly most inconsequential of levels. A woman in her fifties greeted me in Spanish and asked how I was. She gave a warm greeting and I. to say the least. at Fiesta Gardens during a celebration en la comunidad. accompanied themselves on the guitar while singing a wide range of traditional Mexican musics. In another context. I stopped to look at the display. however. the largest crowd was assembled for the full mariachi. she had recently visited me in Michigan. food. and talk may not seem a particularly revolutionary concept in our contemporary theoretical circumstances. a brief experience reminded me how very much is at stake for the concept of community as a means of active survival. A well-known .41 People coming together to form a community and to give celebration through music. Although Fiesta Gardens was open to non-Mexican descent people (indeed part of the agenda was to welcome people to learn about the area and Mexican customs). When the woman at the booth saw me approach. Although perhaps even fully realizing her mistake upon seeing me at close range and hearing my voice. The conversation was interesting. The morning at Fiesta Gardens had passed well into the early afternoon. We had mistaken each other for someone else. the majority of people were of Mexican descent. material goods and services. she thought she recognized me. she would not acknowledge that I was a stranger to her. most likely short laughs and apologies would have been in order. Although there had been several smaller musical groups with individual performers who. I have many times been to the Detroit Mexican Town area but stand no danger of being recognized. My mother did not know this woman. gave an equally warm response. nor did L My mother lives in California. While walking by an exhibit booth that held the wedding couple6 wooden frame where people could stick their heads through the hole and have their pictures taken.

Also. it is extremely difficult to make that full connection with an audience that is otherwise engaged with food and conversation. The physical arrangement of Fiesta Gardens promoted the enjoyment of musical groups from chairs and tables set on the grass area in front of the food booths. The organizers were also concerned that the ensemble contracted be among the best that the Midwest region had to offer. and there was a fair amount of background . During this performance. the Indiana group seemed to be one of the most logical choices. and around the fountain area as they engaged the performance. The criticism against some of the local groups had been that they were not that lively and did not know how to engage an audience in this way.. Although Detroit is known to have approximately 2-3 mariachi ensembles. The cement area also had a center fountain and decorative structures at the comers. is not necessarily conducive to mariachi performance. it seems that the reason why this might have been the case is that the Detroit groups are most well-known for their Mexican restaurant work. In some important respects. and proximity to Detroit. the final reason why the Indiana group was contracted was because people on the committee had becn impressed by their ability to engage an audience. As organizers later confided. these dynamics resembled the restaurant context. through the grass area with tables and chairs.42 group from Indiana had been contracted. attention seemed sporadic. this occasion (in the eyes of community organizers) warranted the contracting ofa major group known for its exceptional musical expertise. it was indeed difficult to physically locate an audience as people wandered behind the tent area housing the sound equipment. Balancing budget against financial needs. People moved the chairs were they wished and a number of people had brought their own chairs to place in the area as it suited them. this particular restaurant context sees the groups playing during the busiest restaurant hours when general traffic. overall status of the group.people talked with one another. availability. etc. The sound equipment had been placed under a tent area but the musicians themselves came out onto the cement plaza area next to this grass area. Speculating further. noise. In that context.

Elementary school-aged children were busy playing with the fountain water while still others climbed onto the decorative sculptures surrounding the fountain. Because this mariachi performance was included as part of an outdoor community event in Fiesta Gardens (in the heart of Mexican Town). However. 8 The totality was one that sought to create a specific Mexicano/Chicano cultural identity for public participation. There was a brief: introductory segment when the majority of attention focused on the performers. The attention began at the end of a taped music segment where the sound equipment and other preparations . The engagement of mariachi performance in such a setting illustrates how the micro details of social interaction come to play significant roles in defining a cultural heritage. Older members of the community were pleased to have chairs moved underneath shaded areas for the use. there were some unique qualities in this mariachi performance as related to this specific community context. wares from a regional bookstore focusing on Latino culture. people adjusted the venue to their individual desires and needs. people did not cease their activities once the mariachi music began. Younger people were more than content to mill around the area with their parents or adult companions able to supervise their activities from a comfortable distance. As has already mentioned. members from these various groups could be found milling around all the areas. The mixture of diverse individuals did indeed represent a microcosm of the Detroit and surrounding area's Mexican descent population.43 noise. Young adults were standing around the cars that had been parked at the edge of the venue near the grass area. the issues of public space and its usage were prominent concerns. No. The security persons (twO)7 strolled around the fountain area and seemed relaxed in laughing with the children and keeping an eye on groups in particular of teenagers and a few street people. A distinct consciousness of recognition and celebration was apparent. In all cases. and items from a company specializing in Chicano clothing. In close proximity there was yet another section of Fiesta Gardens with tents that included (among other things) Mexican imported goods.

The simultaneity of events are accounted for by constructing a visual mapping of micro-details (1987). speech. As the performance progressed. and the physical movement of a few carefully chosen zapateado ll or polca steps-. People began finding seats or standing closer to the equipment tent in anticipation of the performance. what is most compelling about the overall affect of these ethnically marked exchanges? It is precisely on this point that how even what appears to be the most inconsequential carries embedded. Both Christopher Waterman and Regula Quereshi have offered intriguing methdological approaches in illuminating the rich details of social performative expression. 9 the smells of came asada con chile.10 limeade.to name a few. In choosing to look at the micro-detail of community celebration in this way (inclusive of the role of mariachi).44 were made. it was easily ascertained that they became part of the socia-cultural mixture and eventually blended into the social background. the inter-group relations become a ''thickly'' complex frame of socio-cultural interaction. and white. This written excerpt has a cassette tape of the actual performance which accompanies the volume (1990:196-212). etc. movement. The visual document becomes the basis of a written transcript in which multiple individuals are given a specifically notated timeline of activity. However. Waterman's study of Yo rub a juju music of southwestern Nigeria includes a section written in "real time" where events of a given performance are related through a multiple layered approach. The presence of the mariachi was made known through their music sound and engagement of the audience. Clifford Geertz has provided an excellent conceptual model for incorporating multi-layered structures of social interaction where social meaning is created (1973). Regula Quereshi employs video recording technology for analysis. streamers in red. Collectively. time.. Their sounds as much contributed to the conversations among people in SpanishlEnglish/Spanglish. Gestures. green. and history converge to strengthen potent ideologies. the colorful paper-mache flowers. music sound. deep meaning in contexts where a sense of place. how . all become part of the written transcript.

2nd generation. however. Social Actors and Community In answering some of those questions. history. bi-racial/multiracial. Spanish speaking. Overlapping constellations of ideas and intraethnic diversity over ethnicity. English only . the very thing that evokes richness in their expression provides the strongest challenge to cultural analysis. light skinned/dark skinned. city employee. college student.lMexico born. In discussing popular culture in general. 1st generation. Fiske notes that: Everyday life is constituted by the practices of popular culture.a plaza in the U. Texas. how can cultural analysis account for how intraethnic diversity may be engendered in any such gatheringmechanic.S. in which Mexican descent people have gathered? Even more importantly. ideology countered or evaded. class. top-down power opposed by bottom-up power. reluctant teenager. hegemony met by resistance. California. social discipline faced with disorder (1989:47). and is characterized by the creativity of the weak in using the resources provided by a disempowering system while finally refusing to submit to that power. gender.. a critical element in acknowledging that creativity lies in acknowledging the constraints which not only inform but can exist for specific communities as an integral part of that apparent creativity. In essence. gay/straightibiltransgenderaI. mother. and culture send us in the direction of social actors as cultural bricoleurs (1963-76 Levi-Strauss) or semiotic guerrillas (Fiske 1989:19). U.S.45 does one account for the competing ideologies that go into the creation of an ethnically marked critical part of cultural expression. The culture of everyday life is best described through the metaphors of struggle or antagonism: strategies opposed by tactics. recent illegal/legal immigrant. the discussion can turn to cultural forms that cast a long shadow in noting that they simultaneously operate on multiple levels in social practice. the bourgeoisie by the proletariat.. . naturalized citizen. Apparent creativity and fluidity of social expression cannot be wholly denied. Michigan. Spanglish.

a counterpart. but neither are they free-willed. Recognizing the potential pleasure and pain associated with what people have to gain and lose in cultural assimilation as an ethnic group reveals mitigating power relationships. Mexican descent people and other ethnic minorities must deal with a far different plane of social realities that make such shifts in social allegiances less fluid and intensely subject to cultural limitations that define the group as less than desirable or productive members of society.46 These arguments definitely forward the idea that social struggle for empowerment between warring classes is a major underpinning for creative expression. Fiske states a somewhat qualitatively different case for social actors in that: The people are not helpless subjects of an irresistible ideological system. the room for negotiation is critically limited by social realities that highlight and strengthen racialized aspects that mitigate the treatment and productivity of people of color.the orquesta tejana. biologically-determined individuals. . More specifically. Manuel Peiia has argued a case for looking at class relationships as a key factor in interpreting Texas-Mexican musical expression and ethnicity. the culturally defined ethnic group is neither totally removed nor welcomed as a full participant in those power structures. In its cultural existence. they are a shifting set of social allegiances formed by social agents within a social terrain that is theirs only by virtue of their constant refusal to cede it to the imperialism of the powerfuL Any space won by the weak is hard won and hard kept. it is an expression that had. but it is won and it is kept [emphasis in the original] (1989:45-46). in the emergent Texas-Mexican middle class. In other words. 12 The prominence of these ensembles as symbolic root metaphors (in a Turnerian sense) reveals the finer contours of an intraethnic diversity that speak to multi-variegated issues of cultural assimilation (1985). Peiia historically links conjunto and its stylistic evolution with the TexasMexican working class. Additionally.

materials remain abundant. This is a normal occurrence and often musicians can be found sitting underneath a canopy. even when limiting the scope to materials which deal specifically with Mexican music and Mexican descent communities. three examples come to mind. Even further limiting that scope to what has come into my purview (without actively searching) within the last ten days (April 15th_25 th. large letters reporting violent crime in Mexico City.47 Popular Media Portrayals There is no shortage of material that is easily cited as far as how Mexican descent people are depicted in the popular press as less-than-desirable and/or morally flawed. In relation to the incident's placement and comparative attention to details. 1998). The article and accompanying photograph were selected from the Associated Press. this item was clearly highlighted as the worst abomination-. Although there were other incidents of violence related. the photograph that is included gives ample pause. While some may argue that this may appear to be stretching the issue a little. the rape of the female tourist was the lead introduction.S. The accompanying photograph depicted a male mariachi musician. For the purposes of this study.S.1). An article that appeared in the Ann Arbor Press focused on increased violence to tourists in Mexico City. the . The opening lines related how a U. at Plaza Garabaldi getting his shoes shined. as the luster of their shoes are restored. Not insignificantly.the honor of U. female tourist had been beaten and raped. or simply with their feet on a wooden box. The musician's face was hidden behind a Mexican newspaper with a headline in bold. (white) female virtue is at stake as the Mexican male becomes a lurid figure lurking in the shadows. in full traje (see illustration 2. It would require a far more systematic and in-depth study to delineate the specific issues over which these portrayals find their strongest expression.

1 Austin Mariachi Ensemble in Traje de Charro .48 Illustration 2.

S. It is perhaps here that these indirect associations built on inference are most dangerous. the intent to portray this violence as a national problem is clear. entitled "Ethnic Jokes by Attorney. The photo and its placement closely associates Plaza Garabaldi and mariachi with criminal behavior. thus having some direct basis for their inclusion.S. from Utah's The Salt Lake Tribune. the inclusion of a Mexican male at the broadest. Instead. the picture within a picture highlighted that the U.49 accompanying photographs in the Mexican newspaper directly concerned specific incidents and particular victims (Stevenson 1998). The close association of a national symbol of mestizo culture (mariachi) with a portrayal of violence unchecked against primarily U. The photograph caption states that the number of attacks on tourists "both foreign and Mexican-. 14 A second example. In an ironic commentary. The area surrounding Plaza Garabaldi (inclusive of La Lagunilla 13) already enjoys a poor reputation. Even recent urban revitalization of the plaza has failed to overcome this association with violent crime. Judge Criticized" notes that: A public defender [Steve Laker] did a mock mariachi dance in front of a smiling judge and suggested that "Spanish" music be played the next . publication refrained from direct visual reference to the incidents themselves. relates an incident in which a public prosecutor and judge made disparaging remarks concerning Mexican drug suspects who had been in front ofa camera for video arraignment in the Webber County JaiL The article. tourists does little more than illustrate Mexican culture and its people as somehow flawed and morally reprehensible for their apparent inability to conduct a civil society. In accessing the symbol of national heritage and culture.has doubled in the first months of this year" (Stevenson 1998). A colleague in Mexico City in summer 1998 for a professional conference diwlged that she had been warned to stay away from the area. most national level blanketed such associations into a national identity representative of the society as a whole.

''Because of their [the defense attorney's and judge's] authority and status in the system. "Our interpreter could probably sing for us. cut short the laughter by saying: "Tum these guys off. we could choreograph this a little bit. that ifwe had some Spanish music or something like that when we get four defendants we could. in his words. " This slippage revealing the underlying complex racial relationships is underscored by the earliest responses given by members of the local Mexican American community. ." The judge. police officers pull them over without probable cause. The emphasis is clearly on contexualizing these incidents as part of a significant social pattem. La RazaIS attorney Mark Martinez is quoted as stating: ''The judge and the defense attorney set a tone for others to demean Latinos." The article further quotes the video taped incident: "It occurred to me." Martinez said." replied 2nd District Court Judge Parley Baldwin. Indeed it is too late as the tape is first broadcast on a local television station two days before this article appears. "discuss how I might adequately apologize to the Hispanic Community." said Laker. This passage hightlights a mode of thinking for its capacity to relate how social interaction incorporates unjust and detrimental targeting of a racialized segment of the population. will you?" (Zoellner 1998). "That would be good. your honor. apparently realizing the camera was running. "And it would be entertaining." The interpreter pipes in: "1 forgot my guitar.one that is repeated on a multitude of social levels. Far from simply reacting to these events as an isolated incident. after his clients were gone from the room. And all of it happens because someone in authority gives theme the signal that one group causes more trouble than the other" (Zoellner 1998). other people see that and it trickles down. The disclaimers of the tape being taken "out of context" and that ·'racial insult was not intended" fallon skeptical ears as the judge issues a statement that he has a meeting scheduled with Ogden City Councilman Jesse Garcia to." he said.50 time Latino drug suspects appear in court. "Court clerks are rude to [Latinos].

'" An argument can be made that these examples have relatively little to do with the cultural forms they seek to represent and those most knowledgeable would dismiss these pieces as ill-conceived.S. so too should the U. their creators (Mexican descent people). Mexican decent communities. drugs. The program depicted these corridos as valorizing drug traffickers and their lifestyles. Responses to these criticisms by Mexican descent charros and participants were .S. based on record sales of the group Los Hurcanes. After presenting these corridos as Mexican musical forms in Mexico. These three mass media portrayals collectively associate gang activity. "We're drug runners even when we're being 'cultural.-Mexican border so too should potentially "deviant" forms of musical cultural expression be eradicated. Popular media portrayed issues of rodeo and animal cruelty as solely emanating from a particular racial (Mexican) sphere.S. however.S. As a colleague wryly remarked upon the ABC example. murders. Clips from concerts for Southwestern. as soaring in U. In a similar way. and assault with Mexican musics and. ABC Saturday Evening News program that highlighted corridos with lyrics related to drug trafficking culture. rage. context. The overall effect was one that surmised that as the corridos and their popularity in Mexico generate debate over the merits of this music. Mexican descent audiences solidified this observation (ABC 1998). before it's too late. 1998. theft. In the imagery of the Mexican (re)immigration over-running the U. by extension. become concerned about the apparent musical "wave" that was enguifing parts of U. they remain part of a broader conversation that characterizes ethnically defined people as undesirables in society and therefore less acceptable-lacking the ability and rights for full citizenship. Olga Najera-Ramierez explores how the debate concerning charreadas (Mexican rodeos) and animal cruelty becomes quickly polarized and racialized in the popular media and the California legislature. violence.51 A third example is the April 25 th. rape. the piece went on to portray the genre's popularity.

uncritical. more specifically. the program promoted a racialized framing of the event. to name a few. The "Pity the Horses" segment of the respectable 20120 is an example of the subtle and no-sa-subtle discursive strategies employed to gain the public support necessary to ban the event. there remain critical differences. Because of this kind of relative instability for U. phenotypic traits that give rise to assumptions about ethnicity and its often concomitant misconceptions-levels of intelligence. In addition. attitudes.. Despite the otherwise honorable intention to protect the animals. but what value . They are a part of the subtext as long as the conditions which give rise to them remain a part of society at large. language skills. I would argue that space "hard won. conceptualizes a people as a problem [emphasis in the original]." For communities of color. it became obvious that what was perhaps most to be grappled with was not so much the definition of mariachi. more to the point. almost maniacal adherence to tradition. is not so easily determined because mitigating circumstances only perhaps slightly recede (not actually disappear) at given moments. She concludes: The debate concerning the issues of cruelty to animals in the charreadas concerns the treatment of Mexicans.S." as Fiske notes (1989:45-46). and trustworthiness. As such. stubborn. not just the animals. People of color are culturally constructed to be biologically determined by parentage and. space is often not hard kept for this fundamental reason. abilities. The liberating shifts in social allegiances cited by Fiske depend a great deal on the supposition that people are not "biologically determined individuals. these tactics encourage racism (1996:510). strengths and weaknesses. ethnic minority groups as far as full participation and acceptance.52 framed as an ill-conceived. The racialized media portrayals of this debate are particularly disturbing because they inform the way the public perceives other people and conceptualizes a problem or.S. 16 The import of these ideas for musical expression relates to modes of cultural expression that have become deeply invested with meaning for the purposes or redressing and addressing those issues. desires.. Throughout the course of this research. Ncijera-Ramierez's work suggests that these observations are far from being isolated incidences for the whole of Mexican descent populations in the U.

The key concept is realizing that no matter how clearly defined moments of social practice remain rooted in the given performative moment. grievance. recalling Dan Ben-Amos' remarks. Chavez's The Lost Land: The Chicano Image ofthe Southwest (1984) and in such literary studies as Ramon Saldivar's Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics ofDifforence (1990) and Jose Limon's Mexican Ballads. grievance. their power comes from those aural/oral and visual contextual narratives through which performance gains its meanings. and a reverberation of that echo. there is an echo. and resistance survives into the present in the Chicano historical and literary study in which loss of the homeland and the ensuing resistance to American domination is privileged in such histories as Rudolfo Acuna's Occupied America (1981) and John R. Chicano Poems (1992) (1993:229-30). The difficulties in figuring out what kinds of communities are established through mariachi remain centered on how ethnicity and ethnic identity play crucial roles in social organization. as ofa way of life lost irretrievably. yet never lost to the imagination since remembering the homeland is always a form of retrieval. Mariachi as a performance tradition highlights how these spheres become intertwined in moments of historical lucidity for a population engaged in conflictive metacommentary. Not Yours) concerning Mexican American autobiography and issues of history. The definition of mariachi itself is but an indication of deeply rooted evocations that make it a part of a social landscape within the U. I would suggest that these figurations of "loss. what is culturally communicated through mariachi practice as a living tradition. In confronting this process through literary texts in his work (My History.53 it has as a distinct mode of cultural expression. primarily for and by Mexican descent people. Genaro Padilla concludes: In each of the autobiographical texts I read. The figuration of loss. memory. a way of never letting go of the idea of a past reconstituted in the present in however transformed and contingent a manner. a strategy for sustaining a complex of daily cultural practices even as culture is changing. and self-representation.S. The questions became centered on why the tradition continues to exist and. and resistance" remain equally valid as a way to approach ethno-theoretical 17 concepts of historical understanding .

A few months' salaries later and he had his own vihuela bought on a driving trip to Mexico with the paper where he wrote the name and address he had been given by his newfound compaiieras. the common desire to present a narrative wherein the speaker shared some intimate knowledge of his/her trans-formative process through mariachi was strikingly consistent. he stayed into the late hours to wait for when mariachis finished with their performances elsewhere and came to this one small Mexican restaurant. Throughout the course of many hours of interviews. It was a real journey for me but I had to have that instrument and the only way I could get something like that I felt was by going there myself . He traveled every opportunity he could manage to listen to mariachi musicians throughout Southern California.54 generated within contemporary practice.. Then it became this challenge to prove to myself that I belonged . I'd never been to Mexico before that trip.I felt bad as far as being sick and everything but then also because of how little I knew about my own heritage. I'd only heard stories from my dad about how my great grandfather came from Jalisco on foot to Arizona. There were times when all I could think was if I would really get back home. That really came through on that trip. Though there was a wide range of specifics involved with the details told by each individual. it was like I had to make this journey to know better what it was I was doing.. what emerged most prominently in musicians' autobiographical accounts were descriptions of how they became involved in mariachi performance and what those issues meant on a very practical level as far as their own understanding of Mexicano/Chicano history and culture.. One gentleman recounted how he was a young man in his early twenties when he was stationed in San Diego as a service person. that everything I was seeing was a part of me even though things had become really lost as far as me knowing anything. . Man.. He recalled how he became ill and had no money left for food on the return trip. At first only tentatively. The mariachis there soon recognized him as "that kid" who would stay for hours. They would join the resident mariachi group for informal playing sessions. His spoken Spanish was poor and only by gesture with a few broken sentences could he communicate to the instrument maker what he wanted.

It is a peculiar sensation. I mention these kinds of associations explicitly because in contradistinction there exists an alternate basis for how non ethnic minorities often interrogate issues of ethnicity and cultural background through imposed ethnicities. For majority culture. It is DeBois doubled-voiceness actualized in contemporary practice. this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others. what are those questions that don't get asked but are wondered about in viewing someone's ethnicity? Being a part of a community of color means negotiating at least two major dialectical narratives about who you are and what your presence means. a Negro. the Negro is a sort of seventh son.55 The issues of belonging or finding a space or membership was often at the heart of these interviews as well. the Teuton and Mongolian. a membership in a "club" or quite literally something like a country club has to do with established economic and social standing. these questions seriously considered have much to say in their framing and the relative casualness with which they are often posed. Coming to mariachi was detailed as gaining entrance into a kind of club where the various paths followed were anything but direct.a world which yields him no true self-consciousness. Perhaps even more importantly. After the Egyptian and the Indian. two warring . the Greek and Roman. of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. The contours of these paths were informed by these issues of loss. already a member. this doubleconsciousness. sponsors membership/entry.an American. Perhaps a family name is already well-established or a peer. and gifted with second-sight in this American world. two souls. two thoughts. but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. born with a veil. Recall the last time you were asked or asked someone where a good (ethnic) restaurant was? Recall the last time you asked someone or were asked what nationality are you? Recall the last time you asked someone or were asked where were your parents born? Far from being an exercise in intense navel gazing or sessions in pursuing cultural angst. One ever feels his twoness. and resistance. grievance. . two unreconciled strivings.

The paradox of this is that while it may seem apparent how this internal "othering" creates detrimental effects when people become alienated from a cultural background. the process camouflages how embracing that same cultural background can equally create alienation.1 9 The point is not to embark upon an argument that wanders into the well-traveled theoretical routes of nature vs. This line of argument is often criticized for its biological determinism and dismissal of entire groups of people based on flawed genetics or pre-dispositions. gender. In a sense. In this realm of imposed ethnicities. the point I would like to emphasize is that the cultural production of ethnicity. it is by birth culturally defined as the origins of ethnicity. whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being tom asunder (1989:2-3). 18 From one important social perspective. membership in the U. Far from being an argument that posits the biological outside that which is culturally determined. direct knowledge. and inheritance of history.S. gender. you learn what you are through a complex socialization and as part of the broader society you often learn what you are not vis it vis dominant cultural constructions dedicated to limiting the social relevance and power of ethnic minority groups. and inheritance of history are often defined through the social construction of the biological. I believe perhaps one of the greater crimes attributable to this line of reasoning has to do with denying the processes of socialization through which people become and remain active members of an ethnic community-.haciendo cosas. What is at hand is the sincere recognition of how critical a role both mitigating social factors and the process of socialization play in the realities of everyday life. Mexican descent community is not through happenstance.56 ideals in one dark body. or even social standing. From within your cultural group. The afternoons in the our kitchen or living room when the (MexicanaiChicana) . nurture. this gives rise to an internal "othering" wherein the results can equally mean distancing one's self from a cultural background or embracing it only in very specific terms.

In writing about folkloric expression in these terms. it is a continuation of what was started long ago in learning how to listen. While I was writing this dissertation. Spanglish and history of our family. Nostalgia becomes a useful tool in ascertaining how the complexities of ethnicity come to bear on whose definitions become most prominent at various times in folkloric expression. and those historical motions or shadows one encounters from the comers of the eyes represent a refashioning project made concrete through daily life. without documents. birth certificate] for the longest time. Grandpa kept her "papers" [immigration documents. dusty houses near fields]) and what was marijuana anyway? Another ria who ran away with a man grandpa didn't like.S. His meaning was that we often are put in positions of having to put things back together again in a piecemeal fashion. a colleague made a comment about our work in Chicano and Chicana studies being something akin to managing Humpty-Dumpty. cuentos untold.she nearly starved in Mexico with babies. It is these moments that come to mind when spending time at Fiesta Gardens as an adult Chicana. appearing to the youngest in the family as a stranger because her name had not even been mentioned while she was gone.57 ladies would talk and speak in tones meant only for female ears gave me a membership early into this club. Ifwe revisit the notion of nostalgia less as a dismissive factor in defining folkloric expression than as an agent of change and critical inquiry by social actors. The slap of tortillas as ''women's work" and good smells of food mixed in with the talk about a cousin who went to jail for marijuana ("Pobre Frances!" [his mother. English. my aunt who always lived in small. Nostalgia as part of the post-modem condition becomes not an emptying-out of social meaning through symbolic systems but a cogent mode of 20 . I would suggest that this excavation process and the piecing together of histories yet unwritten. one might be struck by the tendency to think of these ethno-theoretical motions as based on cultural productions of nostalgia. She reimmigrated into the U. In many ways. It was here that I learned my Spanish. several things become possible.

The group had traveled in a van and looked a little worse for wear upon their arrival.. they would stop and discuss a multitude of . Because of nostalgia's less "respectable" status as a way of dealing with historical inquiry. Nevertheless. As one singer commented. A few miscues with the designated navigator saw their arrival unexpectedly delayed by several hours. That the mariachis from Indiana came to perform only strengthens the importance of the tradition in a specific Midwestern context. Along the way. still strive to confirm and maintain the presence of the Detroit Mexican American community. It is important to realize that the Fiesta Gardens festivals as celebrations. it openly welcomes it. they would leave Detroit Mexican Town in the late afternoon to begin the long trip home.. Susan Wlllis provides the initial steps in this by noting: The discovery of a historical object during the course of our own daily-life activities. its malleability as a concept promotes a place from which marginalized groups can speak. mariachi relies upon the cultural slippage of nostalgia between an antiquated sense of the present and its mediation within dominant historical narratives. defines us as something more than spectators. The question is whether such musing inevitably slides into nostalgia. Engaging an historical past. those moments when we use the p~st to engage the present have the power to escape nostalgia (1991: 15). though often threatened by organizational difficulties and lack of financial and institutional support. those instances when we actively come upon the past are better able to produce critical rupture with the present than is possible when the past is merely displayed for us . The crucial difference for mariachi performative expression is that rather than escaping nostalgia. The key to this analysis then is active participation. It uses nostalgia as an active way to redress historical erasure and displacement of Mexican descent communities. We might be tempted to compare our world and the sort of activities we perform with the imagined world of the object when it was in use.58 intellectual inquiry on the part of social actors.haciendo cosas. 1982:109) much easier to affirm than it is to achieve. While every encounter runs the risk of recuperation. Many of us find Adorno's flat declaration that "The right to nostalgia cannot be validated (Adorno.

59

aspects in evaluating the performance. Although musical execution and overall technical merit would certainly figure into this discussion, the main subject would be how they contributed to the overall sentimient021 of the event. How successful were they in communicating the alegria22 of this musica23 and what did they contribute in helping creating a sense of comunidad?24 And, sometime (perhaps some evening later), someone might remember that they told me they stopped for gas along the way and remained close to one another. They had not had time to change out of their trajes 2S and felt it necessary to stay together while meeting strangers' glances.

60

Notes to Chapter II

1 A Mexican

bakery.

2 A tortilla factory that makes masa (com or flour dough) and the tortillas (round, flat bread-like items) from that masa.

When speakers use this term to refer to the section of Bagley that is more commercialized with people drawn to the restaurants, they are also referring to the use of this same phrase in making a border distinction between the U.S. and Mexico. The economic opportunities sought by immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border are reflected in a playful way as people speak of this economic division of Bagley street. It should be noted that the reflection and these divisions are not simply the embracing of these economic opportunities but also a social critique of limited access to these opportunities as well as the social ramifications for the community in general. The more commercialized section of Bagley tends to attract tourists of nonMexican descent.
3
4

Vernor street is a specific example where many Mexicanos do their actual daily shopping. The stores are more practically oriented stores than the ones on Bagley that usually hold tourist import items such as over-sized sombreros and zarapes.
S

The speaker was referring to mariachi participants in terms of audience members. For large, U.S. urban areas that have several mariachi groups, it seems the rule rather than the exception that there are at least a few "hueritos" (fair-skinned or white as in Anglo) who practice the tradition as singers or instrumentalists. In addition, Latinos from non-Mexican backgrounds also perform. In Austin, IX, one of the better known groups during the early 90s was distinguished by an African American member. He was known for his fine voice and excellent guitarron skills.
6

The couple was of course dressed in a charro traje while the bride dress appeared very elaborate with lace and a tall comb at the top of the head.

7 The two security people were from a private company. Their only formal markings were a work shirts with the company insignia, dark dress slack, and black loafers. One was an African American woman in her 30s and the other was an African American male in his early 40s. The organizers had specifically asked for security persons of color, recognizing that racial tensions could intensify any confrontation in the heart of Mexican Town. After the event, these security guards were especially recognized for their good work in maintaining general order. I believe their relaxed manner and experience in having worked at a number of public events where people of color predominated were both factors in their success.
8

They included hats, t-shirts, and sweatshirts that were decorated with specific Chicano iconography- Le. black t-shirts with Azthin, La Virgen de Guadalupe, etc. Their baseball

61

caps with the words Chicana or Chicano stitched on them with cholo type figures were especially popular. A cholo is perhaps most closely associated with Southern California ChicanolMexicano culture. The cholo figure is perhaps most stereotypically represented as clothed in, among other things, bandannas, flannel shirts, baggy khaki pants, and white undershirts.
9

The prominent colors in the Mexican flag. Grilled/roasted beef with sauce made from hot peppers.

10

11 The term refers to a kind of foot stamping technique used in Mexicano folklorico dance. It is this kind of dancing that is most closely associated with mariachi music.

12 13

See Peiia 1999a concerning the orquesta tejana.

La Lagunilla is a series of stalls in warehouse-like contexts near the back of Plaza Garabaldi. This general reference also sometimes includes the outdoor stalls in the area as welL It is also an extremely popular gathering place on the weekends for street vendors as welL Plaza Garabaldi underwent a major face-lift beginning in the summer of 1995 where the old iron fences were replaced and major cement construction was done. Among other things, an outdoor cement overhang was created near the main street. Mariachis now routinely solicit work from underneath this structure. With the introduction of a new metro stop at the square, police sweeps of the homeless, streetwalkers, and drug activities have increased.
14

is The article itself did not elaborate on the exact form and purpose of the La Raza organization. It can be surmised, however, that the title (The People) indicates some dedication to Latino/Chicano social issues.

In a provocative speech delivered before the Wisconsin Legislature on March 25, 1998, Greenbay Packers football player and ordained minister Reggie White offered the following observations: Blacks are gifted at worship and celebration; Whites are good at organization; Hispanics were gifted in family structure; the Japanese and other Asians are inventive; and Indians are gifted in spirituality. Although White later apologized for his remarks offending anyone, he said his comments were about society as a whole and not meant to stereotype (Theimer 1998).
16

term "ethno-theoretical" is decidedly clumsy; however, a distinction was necessary to ensure a place for critical analysis and theoretical observations made by social actors as well as academics.
18 An excellent example of how ideology plays a crucial role in just such a process is Jose Limon's article, "The Folk Performance of 'Chicano' and the Cultural Limits of Political Ideology." It recounts how students in reclaiming their cultural heritage through the

17 The

62

Chicano student movement actually alienated themselves from certain aspects of Mexican descent culture in adopting "Chicano" as a self-identifier. I have often heard these phrase used to indicate that a person is engaged in something but not necessarily at that particular moment. In other words, the person has a sense of engagement even though they may not appear to be "busy" at that moment.
19

A cuento is a story usually communicated orally that can have some kind of moral implication or directive.
20 21 22 23 24 25

feeling Joy or happiness. music community suits

notably. and scheduling remain prominent factors in what 63 . it is difficult to speak in consistent terms of the numbers and variety of instruments considered a good mariachi ensemble. In a crowded Austin. There is something almost visually shocking to the uninitiated in seeing a musician wearing a full traje l (complete with sombrero) strike drum heads with a flurry of drumsticks. Mariachi Campanas de America has been known to announce that they are the world's first mariachi to include a drum trap set. financial considerations. Still others seemed curious to hear what it sounded like. The contemporary debates over what musical instruments should be included in a mariachi ensemble are directly related to issues of authenticity and traditionalism. availability of musicians. Texas (see Illustration 3. Additionally.CHAPTERm MUSICAL REPERTOIRE AS SOCIOCULTURAL INVESTMENT When Mariachi Campanas de America of San Antonio. The announcement and the drummer's presence never fail to elicit a range of responses. remains uncontested. Since a great deal of this depends upon a combination of each instrumentalist's ability and experience (including how well the musicians relate to one another). It is a claim that.1). Indeed. Texas theater in 1995. some audience members laughed at the instrument's inclusion while others seemed perplexed by the group's desire to include it in the first place. What seems most pertinent is how the group's overall sound can respond to the demands of the evolving repertoire. takes the stage. audiences are often confounded by a drum trap set (when it is included).

64 Illustration 3.1 Mural at San Antonio Mercado (market) Las Margaritas Mexican Restaurant Depicting Members of Las Campanas de America .

Many of the members pursue their work on a full-time basis. color. based context.65 kind of ensemble appears at each engagement. Limon 1994.S. Gutierrez 1991) emerge as the cultural expression of historical knowledge as part of every day usage. Issues of class. and African influences. It is based in La Fonda Mexican Restaurant and. Peiia 1985).Indigenous. Suppression of both African and Indigenous roots in Mexicano/Chicano culture have been well-documented in pieces that critically reflect upon contemporary ethnicities (Anzaldua 1987.S. Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano is acknowledged as one of the premier U.how the tradition is defined as a distinctly Mexicano tradition within a U. and the ways in which communities have been racialized (Almaguer 1994. symbolic acknowledgments of the tri-ethnic Mexicano mestizo heritage.S. Mexicano communities can focus even more sharply on how musicians are placing themselves within an international context. gender. has stated his . a show mariachi is larger ensemble fully capable of staged presentations that can include dancers and the use of intricate arrangements. Transnational Relationships u. Mariachi Los Camperos. the group's director. and the meanings through which musicians and participants understand the ensemble and repertoire as a whole. European (primarily Spanish). historical understanding. Discussing instrumentation foregrounds the intertwining of traditional expectations. as Nati Cano. show mariachis. for the mariachi. a Southern California group has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. These complexities help explain why a trap drum set is of such cultural in dissonance in mariachi performance where ethnicity assumes a key role in explicating social meaning in musical performance. Moraga 1983. Show mariachis are also often based in a home restaurant that may be ownedlrun by the musicians andlor family members. Briefly. In some sense. instrumentation fills that role of providing syncretic.

groups who regularly features a harpist. Los Camperos refer to early nineteenth century mariachi history when the harp functioned as the bass instrument (Fogelquist 1977). In addition to the scripted show. what the speaker is actually referring to is a sense among U. based mariachi performance complex and its international standing vis-a-vis groups based in Mexico. usually on the basis of repertoire." In more general terms.S. Los Camperos have occupied an interesting role in having been characterized by other musicians as perhaps "less traditional" than other groups because "they do shows where they play for the Japanese tourists. Although filial relationships are a part of a mariachi performance complex that . Microphones. and performance situations. and stage sets present the group to its best advantage. instrumentation. All the tables are arranged so that there is not a poor seat in the house.2 and all that. based ensembles that seeks to have the Jaliscan harp as a regularly featured instrument. A stage built at the front of the dining area is the visual center of the room. As Steven Loza notes. lighting." having set shows for specific dinner seatings. Despite its record of excellence and numerous awards.S. than the rest of their counterparts. Mariachi Los Camperos remains a fixture on the Los Angeles mariachi scene and regularly includes some of the best musicians from Mexico (1993:88). mariachi groups that there are some ensembles considered more traditional. Mariachi Los Camperos must constantly negotiate the tensions that exist both within its own U. Los Camperos often bills itself from the stage as one of the only U. By including the Jaliscan harp.S. The instrumentalists' talents are showcased in carefully scripted presentations that strive to maintain some of the mariachi's spontaneity by incorporating audience participation and frequent movement of the musicians from the stage onto the floor with the patrons. Los Camperos de Nati Cano appears to be one of the few U. . playing 'Sakura. Although several other groups may from time to time include a harpist as a guest musician. the physical space of the restaurant is arranged to fit the requirements of the ensemble.S.66 mariachi does something like "American dinner theater.

S. You know we go someplace where people might think. and unofficial "jam" sessions) that debate the merits of different playing techniques. Premios (prizes) awarded in national and international competition and official recognition such as the National Endowment for the Arts Music Heritage Awards and many other honors recognizing outstanding artistic achievement remain highly contested.] I don't think they quite have the same feeling for it . I have some good friends over there [in the U.. But I think we're a little more professional sometimes because we have to be. presentation. training.the people who know this tradition from having been professional musicians for longer than I've been born! Here.S. Some of them [mariachis based in Mexico] say we [U. Miguel Aceves Mejia. you have to work a little harder to study with someone really good. trajes. based mariachis] don't playas well.S. mariachi conferences and workshops. Jorge Negrete. The wealth of commercially ." and that kind ofstuff so we're really sure that we show up looking good and the guys don't drink during a job.67 exists both within U. singing styles. professional concert series. I can't really say if it's one thing or the other. a number of high school. Lola Beltran. In a way it's a little true because I think most of the best teachers are in Mexico. borders and between U. university. and Mexican groups. These tensions3 extend over a number of public and private displays (Le. Vincente Fernandez. and Jose Alfredo Jimenez provide historical and contemporary performance standards.S. Texas).S. But their groups don't have the same life to them (plaza Garabaldi mariachi trumpet player). As always. An increasing part of these discussions are recordings released by individual ensembles. It's mostly just the sound. With the advent of compact disc recording technologies becoming more accessible and economically feasible. middle schoo~ and professional mariachi ensembles have released their own CDs. "Oh lazy Mexicans.] who are really good musicians. but I know when I hear a group from there [the U. professional competition and community standing remain equally important factors. the recordings released by venerated groups like Mariachi Vargas de Tecalithin and solo singers such as Pedro Infante. We also practice a lot as a group to make sure we sound good and everyone's part is sharp (guitar and guitarron player in Austin.. Mariachi is a very definite style. and that comes through in the music. and musical arrangements.

Though total agreement is rare over where boundaries of musical style. are continually measured against issues of historical understanding of mariachi as an established tradition and its possible future. In terms of instrumentation at least. ibid. and guitarron. as aspiring mariachis intently study their favorite groups and specific song arrangements. The internal conflicts over what values traditional and more modem approaches to mariachi foreground a lively discussion among musicians and their audiences. mariachi performance complex. Within the broader tradition. there exists a general expectation or "ideal" against which actual instrumentation in a given performance context is measured. Innovations and developments interpreted as more modem or recent events (approximately within the last 50 years).A. evolving practice.68 released recordings of this repertoire provides ample opportunity for comparative study. Ensembles that work as planta groups maintain the most stable memberships. the discussion remains consistent over how groups and individuals view their efforts. . As Steven Pearlman notes in his work concerning the L. Ensembles that work al talon follow a circuit of places which have little or no financial obligations to the ensemble so that the musicians are usually paid by the piece by patrons making requests (1988:71-2. interpretation. execution. Instrumentation The ideal ensemble should include trumpet. this seems most directly related to the issues of balance and the role that each section plays within a mariachi ensemble. violin. core debates center on issues of traditionalism and the recognition that mariachi exists as a vibrant. guitar. depending primarily on standing engagements at such places as hotels or restaurants and chamhas Gobs/single performances). As to the ensemble's exact configuration.:89-90). groups exist at a variety of economic and social levels. and stage presence are located. vihuela.

guitar. For example. Sonority of the instrument's acoustical construction (arched back) allows a good quality instrument to carry easily the bass line for the entire ensemble with a full sound. functions as the bass. or is some combination of the two. AZ. The playing technique demands a follow- . 4ths. The vihuela. the part is actually most often realized in octaves. then at least one trumpet and a couple of violins I would say is what you need. In any case.3). If the vihuela and guitarron are there.2 and 3. tuned A-d-g-c1-e-a. in parallel3rds. 4 (see lllustrations 3. The guitarron. The underlying process behind this ensemble director's opinion concerns the relationships between each instrument and the divisions between larger sections of instruments. mariachi director). Although the guitarron part is notated in written form as a single line. the trumpet and the violin handle the melody lines. these professional performance modes engender a range of instrumentation that take into account whether or not the ensemble exists as a regular group. and guitarron collectively form the rhythm section. sometimes harmonizing with one another between the trumpet and violin sections and within each instrument section. The arrangement ingeniously facilitates the playing of octaves and keeps the string tension to a minimum while providing a full range of pitch content possibilities so that an experienced musician can easily play in virtually any key or harmonic progression. the overall musical sound generates the most commentary about the instrumental configuration: There needs to be a good sound. though each has a distinct role.69 As can be imagined. as the instrument does not follow an expected arrangement of lowest to highest strings in succession (note that from the 4th to the 5th string the pitch goes down a minor 6th). or 6ths. You can even manage without a vihuela if you have a really good guitarist or two (Tucson. The tuning is at first a challenge to many beginning players. emerges primarily from "pick-up" players.

2 Gaitarron Front View .70 D1ustration 3.

71 Dlustration 3.3 Guitarron Back View .

The instrument's construction involves Mexican cedarwood for the sides and back. The hand snaps back slightly at the wrist as the arm from the elbow curves away from the instrument into the air. the vihuela also has an arched back and is made of materials similar to that of the guitarron. In this case. Thus. the string tension is minimized so that the rapid manicos. Machine heads or wood pegs are used to manipulate the pitch of each string. the technique requires continual anticipation so that the bass part remains on or slightly ahead of the beat rather than behind. also reflects a tuning that goes down a minor 6th between the 3rd and 4th strings. The manico technique combines with the acoustical properties of the vihuela to create an important rhythmic role. In terms of overall shape (Illustrations 3. can be executed with some ease while still providing a wide range of pitch content. or strumming patterns in the right hand. These gestures usually ornament cadentialligatures.4 and 3. these nylon strings have a rich resonance that is paired with a rapid sound decay. 7 The vihuela belongs to the same string family as the guitarron in that they are both considered Jaliscan instruments closely associated with the development of nineteenth century regional. a-d l_gl_b-e 1. The instrument's shape (arched back) and size contribute to a bright timbre. 6 It is rare that more than one guitarron is used in an ensemble. and tacote (a light. The vihuela tuning.5). harmonic modulations. Since the strings are physically very thick. S much thicker than guitar strings. This is achieved primarily through . while the vihuela does have a harmonic function in playing the chord progressions. Unlike the strings of a classical or Western guitar. strong wood) for the top. its role becomes strongly percussive in the overall sound. mestizo popular musics (Fogelquist 1975). or perhaps a meter or tempo change. This is particularly important in passages where the bass line is "walked" through more melodic gestures such as arpeggiations or scalar patterns.72 through that is unique to the instrument in that the strings are plucked with the thumb and first or second fingers of the right hand.

73 illustration 3.4 Vihuela Front View .

74 DlustratioD 3.5 VihueIa Back View .

there is a tendency for the articulations to become "blurred" as the tones blend together. the patterns are less sharply defined because of the guitar's resonance. These rapid strumming patterns combine with the instrument's acoustical properties to produce clear rhythm patterns that penetrate through the whole of the rhythm section as well as the larger ensemble. It's role is primarily harmonic. in the son jarocho8 tradition. 9 or backs of the fingernails striking the strings. for example. again either the nail or the back of the nail striking the strings. the marricos.75 the use of specific genre-related marricos or strumming patterns executed by the right hand and their relationship to the rhythmic pattern established in the guitarron. Within the mariachi repertoire. As Sheehy also notes. these marricos serve a similar function. As has been previously discussed by Sheehy. as the chords played on the instrument have a longer decay period than the vihuela. Some guitarists use a pick to counteract this effect. the resulting rhythmic patterns are thought of as extended patterns that repeat themselves and help identify specific song types (1979:97-111). In this sense. Each musical genre has a pattern of marucos that uses a combination of down and up strokes. are intricate patterns that hold the key to the repertoire's entire rhythmic framework. Although the guitar follows the same manico strumming patterns as the vihuela. Basic upstrokes use mostly the thumb. as the vihuela and guitar players are expected to have a technical command of a wide range of patterns. individual finger picks. Over rapid strumming passages. the vihuela emerges as an important percussive element. The focus is on maintaining a loose wrist where the forearm rotates with a minimum of motion to facilitate the fingers moving across the strings. Basic down strokes use primarily the middle three fingers with the finger nails. The Spanish guitar is the final element of the rhythm section. It is also . since the clarity of the strumming patterns. remain "clean" sounding because of the instrument's rapid sound decay and the comparatively bright timbre. even the most intricate.

He noted that although he had not actually seen the ensemble. as far as playing techniques and general sound quality. It seems wise to consider that the presence of European based instruments engender an historical presence that has . their usage. and articulation. Sheehy 1979. a colleague of mine recounted that a small Mexican restaurant near his home had apparently recently added a mariachi ensemble on the weekends. In addition. he had heard over successive weekends that "mariachi trumpet sound.often sharp." As he elaborated further. even though both instruments ostensibly play the same instrumental part. is seen as unique to mariachi music. "pecked" notes where the airstream is stopped by the tongue behind the upper teeth. and Spanish guitar are usually acknowledged as European instruments. Mendoza 1953. trumpet. Texas. Their bowing techniques also include such things as caballito lO techniques. While the trumpet. Stevenson 1952). Many guitarists new to mariachis at fIrst find it somewhat challenging to adjust their strumming technique to where the wrist and hand carry most of the motion. violin. as opposed to the entire forearm moving from the elbow. Previous work on traditional Mexicano musics have focused on violin. and guitar as mainly European borrowings or cultural influences (Fogelquist 1975. The sonorities achieved bolster the harmonic language in providing a backdrop to the vihuela role. The violin does function as a melodic instrument. Mariachi violinists generally use less vibrato than classical musicians and have a delicate repertoire of sliding and fingering techniques that create specific sound qualities. each of these instruments (violin. The guitarist may have a slightly higher bridge than a classical player to aid in the desired sound quality while doing rapid strumming patterns.76 precisely this characteristic that makes the guitar ideal in its role of providing a strong harmonic base. distinct mariachi trumpet vibrato''wide'' effect achieved using the jaw. trumpet. he commented on a recognizable. and guitar) has a specific function with artistic expectations for the whole of the ensemble. 1969. While r was in Austin.

77 effectively remade those instruments into particular cultural icons. Pearlman specifically argues: What is most interesting is that as the [mestizo] musical ensembles evolved. Indigenous past with contemporary musical expression. The argument itself in this context is compelling not so much for its plausibility as much as the illustrated need to reconcile an historical. Pearlman is referring to the basic division within the mariachi ensemble that has been previously explicated as the melody section (trumpet and violin) and the rhythm section (guitar. roles. that. and guitarron). point towards the contemporary evocation of a colonialist experience. vihuela. The role offlautas has been taken by the melody section and the tambor role has been taken by the rhythm section. Steven Pearlman presents an interesting case in arguing for an Indigenous based musical aesthetic to explain the relationship that developed between instruments in mestizo musical string ensembles emerging in nineteenth century Mexico. mUltiple chamber flutes. . highly mediated mestizo Mexican culture takes on significant levels of historicallayerings in its contemporary understanding within. The cultural ruptures created at the time of conquest are well documented as the collision of two autonomous worlds that violently engaged one another in a dominant (Spanish)/subordinate (Indigenous) relationship (Todorov 1984). The emergent.S. The argument focuses on how Indigenous musical ensembles used ocarinas. Few have looked at the ways in which the instruments are constructed under a specific Mexicano musical aesthetic as the aural and visual symbols of mestizo cultural expression. by their very presence. U. cognitively comparable. it appears that aboriginal instruments and ensembles were replaced. post-contact. and other flautas as the melody instruments juxtaposed to tambor or drum instruments as the percussive element (1988:46-54). Icons. by others that filled structurally contiguous. For this reason the continuity from the hypothetical ll aboriginal ensembles to the modem mariachi is compelling (1988:47-8). most notably. based Mexican descent communities.

a Chicana colleague raised in the barrios of East Los Angeles speaks of how her family identified primarily as Mexicano without acknowledging an Indigenous history and. herbs. Much as in the needs expressed by Pearlman in thinking about how the roles of Indigenous musical practice are reflected in the instrumentation of the mariachi ensemble. It is not only a reclaiming of an historical past but the recreation of spaces previously marked by silence and erasure. at some levels.various kinds of preparation of snake skins and meat.78 The definition of mestizaje itself acknowledges Indigenous heritage. In a similar vein. and poultices notwithstanding. While Indigenous based dance and music at the Zocalo may appear recreated or . The herbs mom made on her electric stove in Fresno for our stomach aches and the shops on the Westside with statues never to be found in our Northside Catholic church remain in my memory as those places where no one would (or could) quite explain these things. The Indios active today on the Zocalo square in Mexico City also remind us of these cultural gaps in mestizo cultural expression in response to contemporary needs. although in a meditated process often marked by ambivalence and historical reinventions that seek to build coherence where violent (colonial) disruptions dominate. a certain leap of faith or logic is required. She cogently pointed out that this Europeanizing of their culture at the expense of the indigenous roots was to her an attempt to ''whiten'' Mexicano culture. "Some people" occasionally peeked through in veiled references in our home through those teas and especially through those stories about healings and how poultices incompletely remembered could cure most anything. And all points in between must also be filled in as best as possible from emergent bases of cultural knowledge. even actively denied it-. "Some people" become this powerful group of individuals who knew what all those powders and candles could do. They became the things that "some people" believed in or the basis from which curanderas could bring healing.

what foods. In perhaps one of the more pointed moments. European (Spanish).79 reinvented for perhaps the local tourist trade. a more concrete excavation takes place at the Aztec El Templo Mayor (The Main Temple) at the same Zocalo location. and exercise approaches promote health and well-being from an Indigenous perspective. In a stunning visual reminder. 12 It is similarly out of expressive stresses/fractureS/omissions that the historical threads of Indigenous. Some materials of these structures were similarly used for the construction of yet other layers. Archeological excavations are still taking place today as the site serves as a "living" dig connected to the major museum that houses many of the artifacts found. inclusive of music. This visual cacophony represented in integrated structures testifies to time and spaces when they functioned as a whole. In this way. Stones themselves were taken from the temple ruins to build newer buildings under Spanish colonial rule. multiple historical layers in relief show how structures were built upon the foundations of temple ruins. both the guitarron and the vihuela are discussed in contemporary mariachi circles as the "heart" or "root" of the ensemble in defining a characteristic mariachi mestizo music sound aesthetic. teas. intent. the Indigenous speakers address the Mexicanos at large as the main reason why they come to this main center. religious practices. They . herbs. method. It perhaps metaphorically represents what is more difficult to characterize about thought. These archeological structures reflect how materials were used to construct parts of the city throughout different eras. and apparent cultural creativity. Within the open excavation. Leaflets documenting poultices. the Indigenous speaker addressing the gathering crowd notes what a "shame" it is that he must address them in Spanish (the language of the conquerors) and not a native tongue such as Nahuatl. The Indigenous speakers say they want to remind people of their cultural roots and the knowledge that remains buriedlforgotten. and Indigenous history are distributed for a modest fee. and African cultures have been integrated into contemporary mestizo practice.

Manuel Peiia's clarification that close relationships existed between mariachi and the orquesta tipica during this period (1999a) suggest how these wind instruments became part of mariachi's history. Basing his observations on interviews with mariachis active during the early part of the twentieth century. For Mexican descent communities in the U. the tensions in identifying the instruments for their European background relate to the respect the mariachi tradition garners on its own merits. and those you can say are really European instruments.80 visually and aurally represent a connected past to a musical history whose edges emerge from colonialist relationships based upon an intercultural process of mestizaje. Contrasting that . he found that the trumpet was initially only sporadically introduced and that audience reaction was somewhat mixed (1 993b:5-8). The earliest released mariachi recordings through Arhoolie Records support the idea that the developing ensemble often included ad-hoc instrumentation. That's where I think the respect comes in. You can say that but also . as evidenced by the early twentieth century recordings... the speaker went on to identify different periods in mariachi history that included a number of different kinds of instrumentation. In a related vein.. We get some of these guys who say ''well... some have felt that little attention has been paid to how each instrument developed within the mariachi itself. We use trumpet. violin. mariachi instrumentation has been a particular point of contention among musicians.using what was at hand in forming a group..S. guitar . Finding flute or trombone players in a mariachi. In looking at how mestizo music has been characterized as adopting European instruments. Each one of these instruments has great history in the mariachi . would not have been unusual (Clarke 1993a and 1993b). As this examples illustrates. they're really very different instruments [from the European instruments] .. Jon Clarke additionally notes the ambivalence with which the introduction of the trumpet to the mariachi group was initially met.you have to remember though that this isn't the kind of playing you would do in an orchestra or classical ensemble. this is only mariachi music" like a folk tradition and then they start to play and then they realize it's not that easy.

The point is emphasized when we realize that professional mariachis remain flexible in their instrumentation to reflect the demands and expectations of their clientele and the performance context. can speak from their deep knowledge that that is the expected norm. those considered most knowledgeable. The idea expressed by a Texas mariachi leader in this excerpt is that the trumpet is an integral part of the contemporary ensemble. A relevant illustration is given by a mariachi director in Austin.. vihuela. The misunderstanding hinged on the idea that a full mariachi is thought to include at least approximately six to eight musicians. The potential customer explained that what he wanted was three musicians. violin. Texas who recounted how he had been contacted to provide ''three mariachis" for a given event. Aficionados. note that he refers to ''those who know mariachi" in strengthening his observation. Although a potential customer may come to a public performance or group rehearsal to "audition" the ensemble. Indeed. exact instrumentation is often part of the negotiations in arranging a playing engagement at private residences. audiences are likely to be offended or feel "cheated" if the mariachi ensemble they have hired does not include at least one trumpet. Additionally. The person making the inquiry did not possess the knowledge to understand the impact of what he . if the trumpet is missing it's not really complete for those who know mariachi.. "Why so high?" The leader replied that hiring twenty or more musicians was going to be expensive. When he returned the telephone call with a price quote. People expect guitar. guitarr6n and especially trumpet . those potential customers most knowledgeable are specific about not only what number of musicians they require but also what instrumentation they expect.81 with contemporary expectations. He replied that he would need about a week or so to contact all the musicians. the individual balked at the price.

At some functions. The more permanent groups also respond to audience . The goal is to meet audience expectations and render as well-executed a performance as possible. those groups working a/ talon are especially motivated to learn emerging popular favorites. the repertoire is defined along the lines of individual songs. On another level.. sones. traditional repertoire that well-trained musicians should know.rancheras. The mariachi director ended the conversation by noting that what the person wanted was "not a mariachi but a trio!" Repertoire Considerations The mariachi repertoire is often spoken of as consisting of a core. mariachis and their audiences maintain that a good. he can lead the rest of the group along.as the primary components of the traditional repertoire. and va/ses. This is in no small part due to the expectation that a well-trained group can respond to multiple audience requests.82 was requesting. especially those that include knowledgeable audiences familiar with older songs or other wide-ranging Latino musical genres such as merengue. Spanish language hip-hop. rhythmic.. As can be readily surmised. huapangos. and stylistic characteristics. In discussing the significance of a traditional repertoire base. musicians refer to specific broad song types or categories. and probably another 100 or so pretty well. mariachis consult with one another before responding to a request that may not be a regular part of their repertoire. In terms of daily practice. salsa. Our group knows probably around 800 songs really well. boleros. po/cas. professional ensemble can know literally thousands of songs. tempo. Each of these broader song types is differentiated by a combination of meter.especially when referring to musical style and technical execution-. or Chicano rock. As long as we have someone who has maybe heard it enough to sing it or know the chords.

On the face of this analysis. In a ranchera. chorus. The harmonic plan employs three chords-. "Otra! Otra! Otra!" ("Another! Another! Another!). Although the solos may be notated. and an instrumental interlude which is then followed by a return to the second verse and a repeat of the chorus. before the final chorus is rounded out by a coda (last 2 measures). This strophic song progresses through two verses. The rhythmic organizing principle as forwarded by the rhythm section (guitar. This particular piece also provides an interesting example of how traditional musical/theoretical concepts employed in Western musical analysis may only just begin to unravel the complexities of the mariachi repertoire (see Illustrations 3. Volver" is perhaps one of the best known rancheras. IV. The degree to which this is done intentionally is reflected in how some mariachi aficionados refer to an especially well-played instrumental solo as having been "sung" very well. usually violin and/or trumpet. it is also a song in which many non-Spanish speakers may comfortably join-and they often do.83 expectations in order to maintain long standing engagements and procure chambas (specific playing engagements) as a favored group. and V7. often performance situations see individual soloists improvise on the melody. Since the chorus consists of primarily one word ("volver").7).I. I have participated in several performances where the mariachi group was not released by the audience. The ranchera "Volver. the instrumental solos in the hand of a skilled musician can take on some of the vocal inflections that were expressed in the verses during the vocal solo. An 8+8 measure phrasing maintains a regular flow for each verse and the chorus. vihuela. especially at Southwest public venues. until "Volver. and guitarron) often falls along a quadruple or triple meter with the stresses on the 1st and 3cd or 1st beats respectively. The instrumental interlude features instrumental solos (1 measure before black letter rehearsal number 5 through 5 measures after rehearsal 5). many instrumentalists .6 and 3. A host of musicians have noted that it is often used as the final encore in a given performance. Volver" was performed.

Ie hago caso al corazon. I know loss. to return. I know what it is to want. to return. Este amor apasionado Anda todo alborotado por volver. you were so right. volver. I will come to where you are. INSTRUMENTAL INTERLUDE ******************** Return to the second verse and finish with the chorus. I know loss. yo se perder. y me muero por volver. Nos dejamos hace tiempo. volver. Volver" . volver.6 Lyrics for "Volver. yo se perder. llegare hasta donde estes. just arrived for me. D1ustration 3. to return 1.84 Volver. And to return. voy camino a la locura To return. pero me llego el momento de perder. quiero volver. volver. to return. Time has passed for us But the moment of loss has y aunque todo me tortura yo se querer 2. I want to return. I'm paying attention to my heart and I am dying to return. This passionate love still continues restlessly to return. I'm going down the path of madness and although it completely tortures me. 2. to return to your arms once again. 13 CHORUS: Y volver. tu tenias mucha razon. a tus brazos otra vez. Volver 1.

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The explanation behind this musical conundrum lies in the chief difficulty of reproducing the affective sentiments and qualities so strongly associated with ranchera music. the ranchera beat pattern is established early in the instrumental introduction (measures 2-4). the overall aesthetic calls for a more balanced approach in the strength of each line.i. Although a back beat pattern is thus established. In a quadruple meter. vibrato. Volver" is a widely know piece and often used as the final encore to signal the end of musical presentations. As an example of this process. Aspiring Spanish language popular singers in Mexicano traditional musics are expected to have command over the vocal inflections. The guitarron plays on beats one and three with the rest of the rhythm section responding in quarter notes on beats two and four. it becomes the litmus test against which all other abilities are measured. In this sense.91 and singers new to the tradition (although sometimes already competent musicians in other musical genres) find the harmonic form and structure deceptively easy to learn. they find the ranchera stylistic and expressive qualities some of the most difficult to produce.a fine line that is easily crossed.S). and extreme timbre shifts associated with a good ranchera singing style. The ranchera "Volver. This closure of the introduction gives the setting for the vocal entrance (m. This has in no small part contributed to her popularity and international presence in Spanish language venues. Indeed. The moderate tempo allows for a pronounced emphasis on beats two and four. . The fourth beat pickup to measure 4 in the bass begins a more active line that ornaments the V7-1 cadence.e. however. it is in ranchera music that she is thought to excel and indeed her name has become synonymous with the genre. the Mexicano popular musics singer Lola Beltran is skilled in a number of Latino popular music genres. in some circles the measure of a good singer ofMexicano traditional musics is how well a singer can sing a ranchera. mariachi shows or staged concerts. It seems only the most skilled are able to provide that affective presence without overstatement. however.

"Yvolver. The songs "stops" as the vocalist gradually enters the song. volver. A common feature of the ranchera vocal aesthetic is the musical expression of time out of time. In addition to these aspects. The effect is further emphasized by the chorus vocal part remaining in the uppermost vocal range of the whole piece. In a strophic song construction.when the speaker just arrives at his sense of loss. the return to the second verse (beginning one measure before the coda) emerges as an unusual feature. In returning to this momen~ extreme despair is established in that the repetition foreshadows a cycle of regret from . it is perhaps one of the most tender moments to be found in the repertoire. The texture has a minimalist accompaniment (resembling in overall sound an a capella texture) as only the guitarron and rhythm section providing skeletal harmonic support. In addition.92 For this arrangemen~ the mariachi transcriber has chosen "ad lib" to describe the vocal entrance." holds the song's key emotional concept in its utterance as the strong desire to return in time once again to the arms of a lover. An additional example of this vocal technique comes in the chorus (1 measure before rehearsal 4). the rhythmic pulse is suspended in elongated values for the second syllable of vol-ver. we can see that a return to the second verse focuses on the moment of extreme regret-. a poetic Spanish language competence is demanded to fully understand the multiple levels of the language being used. Not only does the declamatory style need to be sensitive to syllabic stresses and articulations. Coming in a close second to the chorus as the piece's emotional climax is the return to the second verse after the first chorus and the instrumental interlude. A sense that the singer is about to tell a story of extreme emotion pervades as the syllables come slowly and are laid bare without musical accompaniment. eventually arriving at the tempo and meter previously established. By examining the text more closely. this chorus is the invitation for all participants to share in the evocation of this emotion. In contrast to the earlier example. volver. but double entendre or abstract meanings must be made concrete in their delivery. In the hands of a skilled interpreter.

the vocal solo part (fourth measure after rehearsal 3) begins in the upper vocal range and also incorporates an "ad lib. self-sufficiency. The concept is taken to be operative on both sides of the border.. Not inconsequentially. As components of this nationalism. As Manuel Pena notes: Romantic nationalism in Mexico has exerted a unifying influence by appealing to the glory of the nation's ''unique'' heritage. simplicity. often used in combination (I 985: 10-11). and patriotism. It is a reference that is particularly important...93 which there seems to be no exit. Although the lexical . as will be discussed later. sincerity. £t is the sentimiento or active evocation 14 of a particular kind of historical past that gives life and meaning to the performance. or mexicanismo" (1988:11). though with distinct contextual meanings." approach to the phrase" . Since the 1930s the principal vehicles for this portrayal have been film and music.. candor.have contributed to the ideology by ennobling the existence of hacienda and rural life in general." Even with this technical expertise under control. rural workers. the expectation is that the technical efforts coalesce into a specific kind of general ranchera expressive quality that must be invoked for a singer to successfully perform the piece. the qualities then that Peiia most closely associates with the 10 ranchero concept. Ranchera music itself is most often defined on the basis of the themes and subjects it addresses in its romanticized evocation of 10 ranchero. le hago caso al coraz6n. manliness. In sum. in the adoption of the charro traje (suit) by the mariachi ensemble. embodied in the twin symbols of the charro and the campesino .. In referring to the charro and the campesino. the concept of 10 ranchero and the symbols that cluster around it. and ranchera music by extension.. It is this complexity then that is to be commanded and expressed in a good ranchera performance. portraying this existence as idyllic. His comments refer to this process and its symbolic meaning for Texas Mexican communities. Peiia is invoking cultural stereotypes that deal with the landed gentry/owners of the haciendas and the poor.of which mzisica ranchera is one. are those which Mexicanos ascribe to themselves as " .

As people recently introduced to the tradition have often observed: Does everything about this music have to do with love? Aren't these pretty "macho" lyrics? This stuffis really "over the top. This is not to say that these idealized conditions reflect love relationships that meet with unmitigated success. misunderstanding.i. "Soul Sauce" (Tolleson 1990). and "The Spicy Bite of Latin Music" (Hernandez 1987). "Mexico Lindo" [Beautiful Mexico]. These chracterizations. The ranchera under current discussion. a competing relationship. or unfulfilled desire. The concept of heartfelt emotion remains the commonality. love relationships adopt a tenor that is equally provocative in their abstract appeal to idealized circumstances. others appear more subtle in their references. A brief review ofa number of popular press notes illustrates how notions of sexualization (some would say over-sexualization) invoke interpretive language to describe these Latino popular musics. "EI Rancho Grande" [The Big Ranch]." is just such an example. "Shake Your Body " (Walsh 1988). At this point. It also brings to the fore a series of gender issues that Peiia alludes to when speaking of the "manliness" invoked. many rancheras that deal with love relationships focus on the difficulties involved such as betrayal.e. In the world of the idealized rural life and its nationalization as a symbolic core to Mexican culture." I'm always impressed with how beautiful and romantic this music is. I believe they illustrate how cultural stereotypes can inform intellectual curiosity. Why do they [the singers] always sound like they're in such pain? Far from being able to provide satisfactory responses to these questions/observations and many more like them.94 meaning of the words of some rancheras do deal explicitly with these themes (Le. "Hot to Trot" (Fernandez 1993). Volver. some careful discussion about this apparent emotionality must be included. though perhaps from a different perspective than one might readily imagine. on the contrary. ''La Ley del Monte" [Law of the Mountain]). combined with the twin . "Volver.

and Tomas Mendez) and execution. The first is that the song texts remain malecentered in their genesis (dominant composers associated with this genre include Jose Alfredo Jimenez.." (Walsh 1988:50). .95 specter of the Latin lover. While the lyrics themselves take on a set of diverse characters and regional identities. The second is that the gender relationships are idealized and normalized into a dynamic between male and female lovers where the male figure frequently becomes the pursuer or wooer and the female figure assumes a passive role as the object of desire. heavily cologned men in open-neck shirts keep the ladies under close observation . Felipe Valdes Leal. forthcoming). shape our expectations of how emotions and love relationships are deployed within the context of a Latino popular musics frame. IS The point that emerges out of these two observations is then how do people make their interpretations of lyrical meaning relevant to their socio-cultural position? At least part of that question can be answered by looking at what common threads exist in the overall relationship between these pieces and their musical expression.." Manuel Ezquivel. "Attractive young women teeter across the dance floor on their vertiginous high heels. "Handsome. Other scholars maintain that the lyrics themselves are of secondary importance in relation to the kinds of evocations inspired (Le. Jose Angel Espinoza "Ferrusquilla. What remains constant and idealized are at least two characteristics that define this approach. 10 ranchero). their general approach remains relatively consistent.).a male centered voice dominates the narrative. and the overly erotic Latina. Mariachi music with its idealized love relationships does appeal on a certain level to these observations in the kind of characters invoked and the import of their actions. women create lyrical meanings while engaged as active listeners (Aparicio 1997. As scholars focusing on women's listening practices in Latino popular musics have noted. their hourglass figures accentuated by off-the-shoulder Lycra tops and tight leather microminiskirts" (ibid. Jaquez.that many of the lyrics have very little to do with the actual contemporary lives of the participants.

96

The following text is from a ranchera entitled "Ay Jalisco! Of interest in this nationalist evocation of 10 ranchero is that the land itself(see illustrations 3.8 and 3.9) (stanza one) becomes the female body. The state of Jalisco has a rare, young, beautiful girlfriend in the city of Guadalajara. The comparison or symbolism is neither accidental nor unusual in appealing to a constructed femininity for the ultimate portrayal of nationalist sentiments. This exuberance is musically achieved within the framework of a
polea- a rapid, duple metered piece rhythmically organized around each beat divided

into an even down and upbeat. The pattern is established early (m. 12) between the guitarron (downbeat) and the rest of the rhythm section (upbeat). The introduction (mm.l-ll) is marked by a strong melodic motion with unison doublings between the trumpets and violins. The rhythmic crispness of the dotted eighth notes and sparse harmonic accompaniment in the rhythm section highlight the effect. A rapid, repeated flurry of sixteenth notes in the violin 1 part (mm. 9-11) carries this rhythmic energy into the vocal entrance in the pick-ups to measure 12. The musical exuberance is also carried by the fact the this polca resonates as dance music. The mariachi repertoire itself has a number of Mexican regional dances associated with specific pieces. They consist of a prescribed set of steps and movements employing zapateado (foot stamping) patterns usually done by individuals trained in what is generally referred to as/olklDrieo dancing. It is usually understood that the zapateado form of dancing is associated with older, more traditional parts of the repertoire. A second part of the repertoire concerns Latino popular music dance genres in general. Inclusion of these genres is seen as a more modem addition. Examples of this repertoire would be boleros, cumbias, merengues, and salsa music. A third kind of reference to dance concerns a part of the repertoire most pertinent to our current discussion ot: "Ay Jalisco!" "Ay Jalisco!" itself is considered a ranchera. However,

97

jAy Jalisco No Te Rajes[ (M. Esperon and E. Cortazar) 1. Ay Jalisco, Jalisco, Jalisco Tu tienes tu novia que es Guadalajara Muchachita bonita la perla mas rara De todo Jalisco es mi Guadalajara 2.Me gusta escuchar los mariachis Cantar con el alma sus lindas canciones Oir como suenan esos guitarrones Y echarme un tequila con los valentones. CHORUS: Ay-ay-ay-ay Jalisco no te rajes Me sale del alma Gritar con calor, abrir todo el pecho Pal echar este grito Que lin do es Jalisco, palabra de honor. 3. Pal mujeres, Jalisco primero Lo mismo en Los Altos Que alIa en La Caiiada Mujeres muy lindas rechulas de cara Asi son las hembras de Guadalajara. 4. En Jalisco se quiere a la buena Porque es peligroso querer a la mala Por una morena echar mucha bala Y bajo la luna cantar en Chapala.

Oh Jalisco[ Don't Give Up Oh Jalisco, Jalisco, Jalisco You have your girlfriend it's Guadalajara Young, beautiful woman the most rare pearl Of all Jalisco is my Guadalajara
I like to listen to the mariachis

To sing with soul their beautiful songs To hear the sound of those guitars And throw me a tequila with the braggarts. Ay-ay-ay-ay Jalisco don't give up It comes from my soul To shout with passion from my open chest To throw out this shout How beautiful is Jalisco[ word of honor. For women, Jalisco is first The same in Los Altos as in Over there in La Caiiada Women very beautiful, with very cute faces That's how the females of Guadalajara are.
In Jalisco they want the good one

Because it's dangerous to want the bad one. For a brown-skinned woman fire a lot of bullets And sing under the moon in Chapala.

Return to the chorus with the text from" ... abrir todo el pecho" repeated.

Dlustration 3.8 Lyrics for "Ay, Jalisco!"

98

Conductor Score
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99

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The huapango. is strongly associated with conjunto music. is usually based in a triple meter with a manica extended over six beats. A beginning guitar or vihuela musician might start with the following pattern (see illustration 3. These pieces simultaneously engender a specific Mexican regional identity and also how Mexican descent communities in the U. Because of this complex. In many parts of the Southwest. Mariachi ensembles relate to their audiences and often adjust repertoire to cater to their tastes and desires. Indeed many pieces from this conjunto repertoire have found their way into the repertoire of Tejano mariachi groups. there are other types closely associated with mariachi performance. associated with the Huasteco region. . Although the sonjalisciense (region ofJalisco) dominates the contemporary repertoire as far as regional pieces.10): . In addition to the characteristic strumming pattern below. particularly in the Southwest and most specifically in Texas. it is no wonder that its influence should be felt in the mariachi arena. create multi-layered ethnic identities during social practice. This modified two-step. In light of the fact that Tejano music has become an internationally recognized popular music form particularly in the latter half of the twentieth century. 16 Among what is considered the most traditional part of the repertoire are pieces that often have a strong Mexican regional identity. the huapango is also easily identified by the use of falsetto. Mexicano/Chicano popular musics can act reflectively upon one another in social practice.105 since the rhythmic patterns are those of a polea. it has a musical resonance that can overlap with other Mexican descent dance forms.S. mariachis playing "Ay JaHscot" at public gatherings or festivals can inspire people to take to the dance floor in a modified two-step.. among Texas-Mexicans (tejanos) beginning around 1930" (1985:ix). Scholar Manuel Peiia describes conjunto music as a "highly popular type of accordion music.

the sixteenth notes have "doubled" a space where an eighth note might have been executed. One of the better known huapangos is "La Malagueiia" (The Woman from Malaga).. Manuel . Again. as an object of desire embodies those ideals conceived as the height offemininity.the sixteenth notes on the first upbeat of the second measure.v golpel downstrum where sound is stopped by the hand D1ustration 3. In effect. In early stages. The complexity in evoking a Spanish model for Mexican beauty and refinement dredges up the specter of promoting European based forms as culturally superior. the manico uses an ornamentation sometimes referred to as a redoble.12).v l' downstrum upstrum (thumb) downstrum using the fingers in a fan motion .11 and 3. Spain. This interplay is perhaps in no small way part of the conversations that surround how people engage a Spanish ancestry. this comes at the expense of Indigenous or mestizo based forms. This dynamic is further highlighted when realizing that the musical form dictates that a Mexican male voices these desires. instrumentalists may learn the strum without the redoble. By definition. regional identities (see Illustrations 3.. The woman from Malaga. In referring to Americo Paredes. La Malageuiia is constructed as a female body engendering nationalist.106 Key 17:.10 Huapango Strumming Pattern As evidenced in this example.

for mariachi the fact remains that Western style notation and considerations of pitch. harmonic progression. 1977. and tuning are relevant to the mariachi experiences for both musicians and listeners. based mariachi musicians and ensembles.S. Several classically-trained university musicians have over the years expressed to me astonishment over the technical and interpretive skills exhibited by some of the best U. tuning. however. 1976. his comments are appropriate to the discussion at hand in illuminating the politics invoked in creating and expressing a Spanish history by Mexican descent people in the U. The tenets of pitch. Transcription Although the ethnomusicological debates over context sensitive analysis and transcription are far from over (Herndon 1974. The difficulty lies not in noting differences but in positing these differences in value-laden judgments as the basis of musical inferiority/superiority. Florida. All kinds of stuff" The idea is that divisions between folk or popular musics and Western classical musics remain more operative than perhaps one might expect.S. As one University of Michigan undergraduate music performance trumpet major recalled of his visit with Mariachi Cobre in Orlando. Seeger 1958). they are relevant over a specific mariachi aesthetic that may use these concepts for different purposes and end results. timbre. and instrumental technique can sometimes be invoked by classically trained . it highlights the struggles for cultural validation and how those struggles engage forms seen as partially or primarily European based both in form and content. Kolinski 1976. 18 "They did some really incredible stuff. sound production. More pointedly. In a sense. vocal quality.107 Peiia mentions the non-adherence to "inferiority complexes born of the rape of ancestral mothers by Spanish conquistadors" as the explanation for the "folklore of machismo" as a symbolic alibi for "frustration rooted in other spheres" (1991:40).

Ellos me quieren mirar pero si tu no los dejas. below those two eyebrows. r offer you my heart instead of my poverty. Ingrata me traiciones cuando de ti estaba 2. te ofresco mi corazen a cambio de mis pobrezas. Refrain ridiculed my passion. (optional other second verse: Con tus ojos me anunciabs que me amabas tiernamente. cuando de ti estaba ausente. que eres linda y and to tell you lovely. r want to look at them but if you don't allow them.Que bonitos ojos tienes debajo esas cejas. but if you don't allow them not even to blink- Refrain: Malagueiia salerosa. besar tus labios quisiera. te ofrezco mi corazen. I want to besar tus labios quisiera. debajo esas cejas. I want to kiss your lips. Refrain DIustration 3. you betrayed me when ausente. you te burlabas. I admit you are right. Yo no te ofresco riquezas. que bonitos ojos tienes. if for poverty you scorn me. you are beautiful and charming like the purity of a rose. when r cuando de ti estaba ausente. Ungrateful. The Woman from Malaga 1.108 La Malageuiia l. young woman that hechicera como el candor de una rosa. Graceful woman from Malaga. I admit you are right. Si por pobre me desprecias. (optional other second verse: With your eyes you told me that you love me tenderly. r was away from you. si por pobre me desprecias. y decirte nina hermosa. 2. what beautiful eyes you have. If for poverty you scorn me.11 Lyrics for "La Malagueiia" . malegueiia salerosa kiss your lips. yo te concedo razen. pero si tu no los dejas ni siquiera parpadear. de mi pasion was away from you. that you loved me tenderly. que me amabas tiernamente. I don't offer you riches.What beautiful eyes you have below those eyebrows. yo te concedo razen.

12 Music Score for "La Malagueiia" . Violin 3 _: solo . ~G7. ..--. r i : :: ~ : 6 It J J J J •I J J F' G J i J F .---. 11 Vln..109 La Malaguefia Conductor Score Violin 1 Violin 2 . :'F r r r r DIustration 3. J J J J J Gtrn..l Tpt. I'! . 2 Voz Arm.3 Tpt.i .rf : fft' mc.b .2 Vln. ~ I'! BbTrumpetl II - - BbTrampet2 " II ~ Voz Armonla GuitamSn I!: Vln. 4~ .

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community classes. and listen to this music. Mariachi musicians and audience participants engender musical experiences that vary from conservatory training (both U. Perhaps the most extreme ends of a continuum of opinions expressed are exemplified by the following two speakers: Music [reading] lets you learn things very quickly. In addition. you're really limiting yourself. Issues of musical notation have also in recent years highlighted a sense of professionalism among the most respected U. groups in that young musicians aspiring to membership in these elite groups are expected to be skilled in both written notation and aural transmission. are in themselves only the starting points for how one may "enter" a mariachi song. The difficulty in approaching this topic is readily apparent in reflecting upon the various interviews given and experiences those interviews highlighted. we are faced with a particularly interesting challenge. teach. the tenets of a Western European musical system (by way of Spanish influence) remain relevant in discussing the ways people learn. In its very definition as a mestizo musical tradition. to self-taught individuals or some combination of these. musicians are aware of their own training as it relates to these elite groups and have varying opinions as to the importance of music notation.S. If you don't read well.S. arguments can be made against such judgments by noting that cultural conceptions of music and music making prevail that may have absolutely nothing to do with the Western classical system. Additionally. as we will see. these considerations in terms of musical form and structure. I think all the best [mariachi] musicians have to know how to read because that makes you a complete musician. traditional apprenticeships with wellknown performers or groups.118 musiciansllisteners as the standard against which all other musics are evaluated. and Mexico).a certain arrangement or a song you don't have time to learn [by ear] with someone. like I tell the kids. In some instances. In the case of mariachi. I see it as an important part of getting .meaning that they can equally learn new music by listening to recordings or hearing the ensemble play through the piece a few times.

his early training included elementary school and high school orchestra programs as well as classical violin training in high school and college.119 a good musical education and being a professional musician (California mariachi school program director). a Chicano born and raised in California.together. Yes. In some respects. In the case of the first speaker.sometimes you hear these groups who use only music and they just don't have that sound. Well. In the end." It is under these kind of aesthetic arguments that issues of mariachi instrumentation. Historical knowledge interprets mariachi as primarily an aural tradition. The tenor of musical development and personal relationship to the tradition emerge as salient factors. Both speakers came to mariachi music as musicians in their late twenties. both reflected upon their musical training experiences in general to further illustrate their points. The second speaker also began in an elementary school program (trumpet in band) and lost interest in school programs in high school. neither had played the music before becoming involved with local mariachi groups. repertoire. choosing to play in a number of neighborhood rock bands. both musicians are speaking from their overall association with institutionalized musical experiences. Interestingly. They get so busy trying to read the notes on the page they forget what they are supposed to sound like. The ear is the final judge and listening to good groups perform and good singers is the key. and contemporary use of musical transcriptions enliven the debate as to the importance of this tradition. Both speakers work with young students. While both referenced a strong listening background to mariachi music and traditional Mexicano musics in general. and perhaps most notably. musical interpretation."the ear is the final judge. Reading music is OK if you're not dependent on it but learning how to listen is far better because that's what makes a good musiciannot reading notes. I think reading music for mariachis is less important because listening is so key (professional mariachi from California). it is only by understanding mariachi as a culturally constructed . There remains a tendency to associate musical notation as a tool primarily of Western classical music training.

musical elements. lyrics. moreover.120 icon that we begin to see the socio-cultural positioning of individual speakers emerge as ideologically based expressions. The communal ownership and sense of place and time in people relating to that tradition and actively creating the points along which the tradition is defined. It is a discussion that will endure as part of the social fabric as long as Mexican descent people engage in cultural retrenchment to validate. historicize. it perhaps only indicates how much the richer ongoing discussion can be. and practices emerge as the central theses for those debates. . And if a trap drum set enters along the way. and produce knowledge from an unequal plane of socio-cultural empowerment.

Nydia Rojas. The speakers were of course Mexican nationals themselves. 8 . Some of the poorer quality instruments have wood pegs that are ill-fitted and slip too easily. Nydia Rojas BMG ARCD 8823. Texas. younger player. It assists in assuring that at least one guitarron player is available for engagements and that a more experienced player helps train an upcoming. international tensions illustrate how mariachi has become a symbol heavily invested in through musical ownership. 7 The son jarocho is defined by Sheehy as a "musical-choreographic genre native to the southern coastal plain of Veracruz" (1979:1). 3 In an interesting and relevant aside. mestizo music. the left hand must be fairly strong and agile in using sufficient finger arch and pressure to produce a "clean" sound. 6 A notable exception is university. She said that "Sakura" ("Cherry Blossom") was a traditional song recognized by most Japanese as it had often been taught as part of a school education. sung at the 1996 Mariachi Espectacular in San Antonio. Nydia Rojas was born in California. S The first three strings are made of a thick nylon while the last three are usually made out of a thick metal alloy. (by age 16 she made numerous international and national appearances and recorded her first professional album. Although a distinct form of Mexican regional. son jarochos such as "La Bamba" have become a part of the mariachi repertoire. the lowest string may sometimes be fingered by the thumb. to critical acclaim). 1996.121 Notes to Chapter ill 1 Mariachi suit or outfit 2 A University of California at Los Angeles student of Japanese descent was intrigued by the taped recording of Los Camperos performing this piece one evening as part of a dinner show for a number of Japanese tourists. Also. Some of the fingering positions use the 3rd and 4th fingers (where the index finger is 1) together to finger one note. Several guitarron players have commented that while they may have a personal preference between machine and wood peg tuning systems. both serve equally well on a good quality instrument. So well was her performance received that some audience members were overheard to say that she must be a Mexicana (a Mexican national) to sing like that. 4 Helmholtz system where middle C equals c 1 and the C two octaves below middle C equals C. an emergent mariachi prodigy. high schoo~ or junior high/middle school mariachi programs where directors encourage more than one student to learn the instrument. Although open strings are freely used. A delicate balancing act must be maintained between the fingers being used to equally distribute strength.

based ensembles. Players using both natural fingernails and plastic tips note that each has a slightly different sound quality and that the plastic picks perhaps more easily produce a louder sound. 9 Caballito is a derivative form of the word caballo which means horse. The bow is moved quite rapidly with little or no vibrato and creates a hard edged sound by digging into the strings with great pressure. The idea is that there is a "tripping" rhythm created evocative of a galloping horse's hooves. In addition to touring internationally. The pick attaches as a plastic band circling part of the finger as a rounded piece of plastic curves over the top of the finger. . 17 18 Mariachi Cobre is among the most respected U.and not dependent upon a well-defined repertoire exclusive to its traditions. An interesting example is a young mother who used finger picks after she had a baby as she wanted to minimize the possibility of hurting her child while bathing her and changing diapers. 12 13 14 Unless otherwise noted. 10 Pearlman uses the tern "hypothetical" in deference to the fact that pre-Columbian musical studies must rely primarily on limited sources of archeological artifacts and representative iconography. and descriptions from Spanish chroniclers at the time of contact as well as indigenous religious codices. California 9/97. The initial idea of an evocation of a particular historical past came from a conversation with Manuel Peiia in Fresno. instrument reconstructions. It is on these kinds of observations that many people associated with mariachi performance define it primarily as a music group with a particular musical style. This piece extends well beyond the fingertip so that it appears as a long fingernail. The caballito designation is sometimes marked where notated eighth notes are played in a rhythm pattern perhaps most closely described as a dotted eighth note followed by a sixteenth note.122 The finger picks used are usually made of plastic and worn on the index and middle fmgers of the right hand. IS 16 Ibid.S. I have tried to use a notation system that best approximates the systems used in various instruction materials in contemporary teaching. She liked the finger picks so much that she continued to use them long after the child was out of diapers. 11 It was during excavation for the subway lines that many of the initial archeological finds were made which gave rise to this site as a site of inquiry and a major museum. all English translations are done by the author. they regularly participate as instructors and performers at national mariachi conferences and workshops. Most musicians agree that the decision to use picks or fingernails comes from individual experience.

there has been a relative mushrooming of annual conferences throughout parts of the Southwest. have emerged with a pronounced public profile as surrounding communities become familiar with the event through increased media exposure. newspaper articles.i.CHAPTER IV CANTANDO DE AYER (SINGING OF THE PAST) FOR THE FUTURE There is indeed something almost palpable about the excitement generated when hundreds of young mariachi musicians come together with recognized mariachi professionals as a part of a mariachi conference and workshops. Often beginning as smaller. students. public presentation. these larger programs have evolved into international phenomena as their participants come from throughout the U. 123 . These events have enjoyed increasing popularity and garnered the attentions of the general public and educators as potential sources of positive reinforcement and development of latent cultural pride among young students. training.S. and history are undergoing critical discussion of the tradition's contemporary practice and its future. and Southern California.e. professionals of all levels. In many respects. more regionally defined events. Directors. It is within these conferences that issues concerning performance practice. and community members engage in an intensive event that frequently provides the impetus for improving existing programs as well as developing new ones. Alburquerque. Within the last five years.l Some of the largest conferences and workshops held in Tucson. features in local radio and television broadcast programs. the kinds of grass roots organization integral to the formation of mariachi conferences and workshops and their continued success draws upon existing school programs and the emerging field of mariachi professionals. and Mexico.

s registration fees. and travel expenses. In this sense. In addition.2 When I see these kids .124 A roomful of guitarron players with instruments (that look bigger than many of the young musicians themselves) can be an inspiring sight. participants may also be from amateur. The community really fets behind us. all kinds of fund-raisers-. Some of these [mariachi school] groups work hard all year to raise the funds to be able to come here. even some of the better known school groups exist on the fringes of school budgeting priorities and must contend with minimal funds on a yearly basis for such things as instrument purchases and repairs 4. we have a dinner dance that the V. Do your best and take pride in what you can accomplish. Since this [mariachi] group is considered an extra-curricular activity. bake sales. I say. especially taking into account registration fees. we hold fundraisers.you are going to be around some of the best mariachi musicians in the world. they [students] have to keep their grades up in order to participate. and all that they have accomplished to even be here [at the mariachi conference and workshops]. professional or semi-professional7 groups or interested individuals who represent a wide range of ages and experiences. music. concerts where we ask for a donation and the majority of the funds go towards making this trip. trajes. I use this trip as an incentive to get them to improve and be dedicated to practicing. sombreros. I get really excited. these events highlight a unique microcosm for understanding how a Mexican performative tradition continues as a vibrant part of urban life..car washes. hosts.. "Hey... Briefly." (high school mariachi director) The costs of bringing even a small mariachi school group (eight or nine members but often at least a dozen or more) are not inconsiderable. Namely. With my group. lodging. and food and travel expenses. look.W. For example. how people of Mexican descent are engaging mariachi as a way to reinforce and explore positive . 6 Although school based mariachi programs provide a large number of participants at these conferences and workshops.F. the importance of these events on national and intemationallevels8 reveal nuanced discussions of how mariachi educators and musicians are seeking to shape the performative character and quality of mariachi as a living tradition.

Each session 9 .m. guitar.m. class. and vihuela) and playing ability (Le. violin. these events exist as active sites through which intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic ideological conceptions embedded in issues of language. advanced violin). Break Out into InstrumentaINoice Workshops 1O-11:30a. panel discussions). Mariachi Conference and Workshops Format Typical mariachi conference and workshops follow structures that alternate between smaller class contexts (instrumental and voice workshops usually divided according to ability and experience). The break outs into instrumental workshops are usually divided by instrument (trumpet. the structure of these events becomes the organizing principle through which social meaning is produced.m. lectures. and even 3rd parts. age. Far from presenting a picture of uniformity and communal agreement. These events take place over the course of several days. In this sense. Break Out into InstrumentallVoice Workshops 2:15-3:15p. beginning violin. and performances. The melody instruments (violin and trumpet) are usually further differentiated into 1st. LUNCH Showmanship Workshop 1-2p. and gender reveal the contradictions that mark social interaction as a highly mediated complex of experiences.m. group meetings (full group rehearsals. guitarron. Full Group Rehearsal3:30-4:30p.m.125 images of Mexicanismo through creative artistic expression. Orientation/lntroductions 9a. The following gives an example of what the first day might look like: Registration 8-8:50 a.m. intermediate violin. 2nd.

some students receive a folder of music well in advance of the actual conference and workshops. This is not to say that competitive issues based on musical performance aren't part of this context. A great deal is invested by a young person exploring new skills in a supportive environment where they literally walk . Adequate preparation isn't simply a question of presenting a musical competency for the purposes of forwarding a professional or personal presence. (15 year-old female conference participant) The issues of public presentation as expressed by this young participant involve a complex web of concerns generated by a sense of confidence and the meanings invoked when an ethnically defined tradition becomes the site for cultural intimacy/exchange and knowledge. we already have learned the music as far as notes and most of the rhythms. the concerns of how well individuals perform within a nurturing but also discerning context speaks volumes about how participants approach these events. As one participant illuminated: When we come here. lO Not insignificantly. Then you don't have to struggle so much and I have this friend who is a good violinist but she is really shy so for her having music beforehand lets her get prepared so that we all can enjoy [the conference] as much as possible. Depending on early registration procedures. The suggestion is that such basic elements as fingering. Music directors and teachers then have an opportunity to prepare students to take full advantage of the workshops. But it's when you get here and you are surrounded by all these professional mariachis that you really get a sense of how to play this music. pitch. It also inspires confidence in musicians who have less experience and/or feel insecure about the level of their skills. and rhythmic values can be learned beforehand so that issues of style. They are the best! I like having the time to prepare myself when we can get folders of music beforehand. You can listen to recordings for things like style but it really can't replace the experience of working with someone who you know who plays with Mariachi Vargas or Mariachi Cobre as a professional. ensemble.126 is directed by one or more professional individuals who act as directors in teaching a specific set of pre-determined repertoire. and specific mariachi playing techniques can be focused on for the duration of the workshops.

place.16 In addition. it is not enough to perform well for the sake of musical execution. I can't get over being here [conference and workshops] because these are the people I listen to and hear play all the time at home on recordings and everything. My family is very proud whenever we [the school mariachi group with whom the speaker plays] perform so this is another way to see ourselves improve. and "Las Trompeterias. What is invested in this execution by these speakers are their abilities to confirm and explore concrete images ofMexicanismo as positive aspects of social life. It means a lot to me as a Mexicano to be able to play this music well. .127 among their idols who function as role models in everything from music to dress. "La Jota Tapatia'.14. ''El Viajero. I know I can improve and get better so there isn't really a better place for this... ''El Son de la Negra" 17 was added as a piece which all . language. Musical competency and public presentation of those skills are marked by an intense evocation of historical meanings which engage cultural conceptions of time. The cultural arts become not just the symbolic representations of those issues but the very materials from which those social realities are created. ''EI Son del Gavihin.13. and general deportment. They're so good and me with my little guitar that came from one of the pawn shops. "Serenata Tapatia" IS.real professionals. I tell them that they don't know the long history or very much about the great musicians-. This is perhaps no better realized than in the musical repertoire forwarded at these events. The 1991 Tucson International Mariachi Conference included in its folder of music: ''£1 Zopilote Mojado"ll.12... (17 year old male student from a California school mariachi program) These statements read collectively illuminate the seriousness with which the event is approached from the perspective of youthful participants. In this sense. The predetermined repertoire is reflective of the organizers' perspectives on what pieces address a wide range of skill levels and what a final show concert can realistically include within the given time constraints.who play this music. Some people think that because it's Mexican music that it's simple or really easy to play. and honor as central to the music making process..

l8 After their participation. Other elements included in conferences and workshops may be showcase events where individual ensembles give a public performance. Informal exchanges in and around officially scheduled events often promote small groups of participants playing music for the sheer pleasure of it in whatever space may be available. The culmination of the conference and workshops is usually a final public concert in which conference participants take the stage with the professional groups and teachers. In the case of the San Antonio conference and workshops. groups of participants banded together intent on playing/singing a well-known standard. "Las Trompeterias" served as a potent reminder that newly composed songs remain an important part of mariachi as an evolving tradition." are well-known mariachi standards that provide exposure to core repertoire over a variety of song types. The opening strains of music produced in this fashion by just a handful of musicians can quickly lead to numerous individuals joining the "call" to playa certain song.128 participants already knew and for which there was no urgent need for a notated version. It is often a highlight for young students to stand alongside their mentors and play in a large public venue for an enthusiastic audience. Of all the pieces included in the folder. there is sometimes "more playing going on outside the . only a small number were performed by participants in the final concert program. they enjoy the rest of the performance as audience members while paying careful attention to all stylistic and interpretive elements illustrated by the professional groups. In addition. Some conferences make rehearsal rooms available for this purpose as well as to encourage impromptu lessons between participants and instructors. All of these pieces. with the exception of "Las Trompeterias. It is not uncommon to find. As one observer wryly noted. They would be considered songs at the heart of the repertoire of any able mariachi ensemble. groups are judged by a panel and only the winners within particular categories are invited to take the stage at the final concert (see Illustration 4. outside a building or in the hallways.1).

129 Illustration 4.1 University of TeDs at Pan American Mariachi Ensemble 1999 San Antonio Mariachi Conference and Workshops .

. the concept reveals an enormously potent event characterized by its duality as a publicly acknowledged event with a somewhat private. the best places to purchase mariachi trajes. these first-time participants are among the most enthusiastic and confident in their newly bolstered self-confidence and command of repertoire. highly controlled environment. however. and of course the chisme of who is doing what as far as tours. recording. It is indeed not uncommon for conferences and workshops in general to distinguish participants and control access to . when they asked permission to enter the individual teaching classrooms. By the end of the conference. When a local television news crew came to a Southwestern mariachi conference and workshops. sombreros. 19 The overall effect is perhaps best registered in the faces of young. Further supporting these observations is that some conferences use participant buttons or tags that allow only registered participants to enter workshop rooms and rehearsal halls. instrument makers and qualities.130 workshops than in them!" The instructors and professional musicians themselves are also prone to forming such impromptu ensembles. In another respect. though more often with their peers as opposed to younger conference participants. The concern was that the classes be exposed to undue disruption and that the camera equipment might prove a distraction or threat to participants. The total effect is one of immersion in mariachi performance and interaction whereby participants meet a wide range of musicians while discussing such topics as playing techniques. etc. and teaching. they were allowed to tape the large group rehearsals and interview specific instructors. decorations. first-time participants who may initially be intimidated by the talents of more experienced players and sheer number of musicians. permission was granted for only a very limited time and place (approximately 10 minutes in the violin sectional rehearsal). On the face of these observations. it may appear that controlling the environment is primarily a matter ofthese more practical issues. 20 This immersion concept is a conscious part of the organizers' agenda and often taken as a hallmark of the event's success.

Some of the smaller conferences and workshops may exist on a less elaborate level with a few workshop classes over the course of a day with a final concert given only by professionals that same evening. A few felt that it had been carried as a "local color piece" that did little to communicate what the event represented. Although most organizers are enthusiastic about the public presence the event can gain. and teachers. Schedules may be adjusted to take advantage of the presence of certain individuals who may take on a previously unannounced workshop or event. One instructor went on to relate that a previous year's coverage had depicted the event as a Mexicano social gathering filled with "happy music. In addition to annual conference and workshop structures that reflect an ongoing evolution from year to year. Over the years. the incident with the local news crew was later recounted by organizers as a potential concern in how the event was represented to the public at large. a handful of individuals may emerge as the core directors. they are also equally wary of mis-representations of the tradition and the purposes of the workshops. In the end. organizers. Instructors and teachers also carefully monitor participants' progress and the addition of extra rehearsals is not uncommon. and professionals may become closely associated with a particular conference and workshops. however. educators.131 certain events. however. they felt the coverage had misrepresented the seriousness and dedication required on the part of participants and instructors. The larger events have a tendency to last anywhere from approximately two to four days. the expectation is that there will be schedule adjustments made during the course of the event itself. the structure of the event is meant to remain as . Sometimes these commitments can take on unexpected or unannounced participation by individuals and groups whose professional obligations may not allow confirmed commitments until the actual event itself. a certain group of teachers. Commitments made by professional groups and the resultant instructors vary from year to year in terms of the specific individuals." In other words.

Last year. She admitted some impatience with changes that occur with relatively short notice and. She went on further to elaborate that her experiences were still relatively new as far as mariachi conferences and workshops and that most of her expectations were formed according to other kinds of professional workshops and conferences. Note for example the difference of opinions over the inevitable shifts in schedule: I don't really understand why they do this [change the schedule]. The registration is also a little chaotic because everyone tries to do it at the same time and inevitably things go wrong with people's registration so that it takes time to figure things out (speaker 1).. a veteran of mariachi conferences and workshops. comparatively speaking...132 flexible as possible in order to respond well to the unforeseen vagaries that inevitably arise with the number of participants and professionals involved. showed up as a surprise and they members of Mariachi gave this presentation on showmanship that they fit in the schedule.having attended eight events in two states over four years. in a haphazard fashion where word of mouth is often the initial mode of notification to conference participants. The structure of these events can be seen as an interesting interpretation of how modes of artistic cultural expression are prioritized for the purposes of enhancing the learning experience under specific aesthetic expectations. in her opinion. Many readers of this thesis will be familiar with the phrases ''Latino (central) time" or "Chicano (central) time. It's great to see everyone[ Registration is really the first time you see who and who is here in one big group so there is lots going on as far as people offering un abrazo [giving a hug] to their friends. Speaker 2 is. It was really good and everyone was so excited that they came (speaker 2). You would think that they would have things a little better organized . It was not until participants were gathered in a general meeting a few hours later when changes in the schedule were officially announced and confirmed. Speaker 1 is a relative newcomer to mariachi conferences and workshops.21 as used to describe a flow of time that is seen as markedly different than that held strictly accountable by such things as wrist watches or .

If they can take away from this something that will be with them their whole lives. would-be participants at a Latino popular music dance who come at the designated start time of 8p." On the contrary. Some critics may see this as an indication of poor organizational skills or even "sloppiness. Por diOS22_ don't come until at least 9p. The primary underpinnings of such attitudes are remarkably consistent among conference instructors. the subtext is equally informed by the apparent limitations they involve.that's powerful. Maybe they won't make it back again. (instructor and community leader) Even though these events are highly celebrated for what they may accomplish. as evidenced above. In a joking manner. it also acknowledges those time pieces by noting that things within Latino communities. Even for the ones who do return. The multi-day frame invites change within an overarching concept of time where particular goals may be reached and enhanced by this flexibility. can sometimes rarely begin at the time listed/announced. particularly social functions. the significance of such time conceptions often have more to do with an attention to detail that is predicated upon thorough preparation and the maximizing of opportunities.m. You have to take advantage of instilling the pride and knowledge. we only get them for a few years.133 clock faces. The primary focus on the mariachi conference and workshops for its ability to be mounted as well as possible means a flexible association with a given time frame. For example. and even then you'll be early. even if hourly/daily timetables are "compromised." What should perhaps be patently clear is that mariachi conferences and workshops are conceived of having such significance that every opportunity is maximized for the good of the conference participants and overall success. would likely find themselves with organizers and band members doing sound checks and adjustments.m. the focus is on what needs exist and how they can be best met in this context. The strength of those convictions also explain how a perceived "weakness" or . Most notably. The following is representative of those sentiments: We may only get one shot at some of these students.

This becomes somewhat clearer in reconsidering the earlier remarks made by speakers 1 and 2. the various ascriptions and applications of that concept varies widely (as well as its appropriateness). In another kind of analysis. 24 As Speaker 1 further related. the expectation of the time schedule was based on what she considered a professional conference and workshops.134 "sloppiness" is actually an integral part of an aesthetic priority that recognizes the limitations of time and resources as part of an effort to maximize these opportunities. and not entirely without merit. The assumption would be that Speaker 1 apparently showed unfamiliarity with this over-arching concept of time that allows for great flexibility in response to the significance of the event. Notably. and acknowledgment of opportunities that may be extremely limited. among other things. how closely a specific time schedule was followed. an interpretive explanation that focused on an ethnic identity as the key to understanding how cultural conceptions of time inform this context might follow. They came from another set of expectations about what a conference and workshops should achieve and how it should be organized. individuals. Although the concept of Chicano or Latino Central Time can be said to be within the knowledge of most Mexican descent U. these expectations came from those ideals that Speaker 1 had internalized from her experiences in first academic settings (conferences attended as a university student) and later professional contexts in her role as a research analyst in a major U.S . the event's capacity for education. Those observations depended upon concepts of time that were founded on notions of efficiency as measured quantitatively and qualitatively by.S.23 that the speaker registering frustration over the apparent fluctuations in scheduling changes and the flow of events was perhaps of non-Mexican descent. Both Speaker 1 and Speaker 2 are of Mexican descent. The connection is far from appearing quite that seamless both in its complexity and depth for cultural expression. One might have assumed.

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corporation. Her standards for evaluation, as she reflected later, might not necessarily be compatible with the overarching goals of a specifically mariachi conference and workshops. She also expressed extreme satisfaction with the quality of instruction and number of playing opportunities. Speaker 2 also had previous, non-mariachi experiences with the format of conferences and workshops as a middle school teacher- inservice days,25 educational conferences, etc. The difference between the two in their assessments hinged on how familiar each was with specific mariachi conference and workshop goals that shaped the progression of these events and what constituted success within this particular social framework. Adding yet another dimension, organizers themselves critically reflect on concepts of time as related to general expectations of a conference and workshop format: Yes, the conference/workshop format gives us a kind of organizational legitimacy. When we present ourselves as a professional event, it helps people-- like potential sponsors-- understand that we are organized ... I hate to say it but sometimes people think a bunch of Mexicans don't know how to run something like this very welL We've been doing that now for years and you can't argue with our success. Still, sometimes people have a difficult time understanding. (conference organizer) These considerations, in turn, inform how the format itself evolves to fit needs defined by social relationships within mariachi as a performative practice. Richard Bauman has suggested that folklore performance is: the key to the real integration between people and lore on the empirical leveL This is to conceptualize the social base of folklore in terms of the actual place of lore in social relationships and its use in communicative interaction. Now, once we have shifted our focus from the abstract association of a corpus of folklore with an aggregation of people to the integration of folklore with people at its very source, in performance, we may reexamine the empirical utility or conceptual validity of viewing folk groups in terms of shared identity (1972:33).

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This challenge in how we define ethnic groups in relation to a musical cultural expression is especially relevant in the current context as the mariachi conference and workshops become a public space through which notions of tradition, history, and ethnic identity become focal points. The legitimacy of these concerns then become part of the ambivalent attitudes expressed through critical commentary by organizers and participants as to the structure and timing of these events. In other words, the event itself becomes a marker of cultural competency and ethnic pride as it must respond to both internal and external modes of criticism that may employ very different criteria. These modes are neither wholly imposed nor fully adopted without critical reflection. The fragmentation of these considerations may be seen as stemming from the diverse population that a mariachi conference and workshops seeks to address.

Participants
The majority of participants must contend with financial considerations that go well beyond registration fees. Travel fees and lodging fees make up the bulk of the expense for participants who must travel from long distances. 26 As has already been noted, this is a particular hardship for school based ensembles where school funding may be minimal and the students' socio-economic status may prove prohibitive to funding such trips from family resources. Students having access to mariachi conferences and workshops are required to have a basic musical knowledge as well as their own musical instruments. Both of these requirements assume a certain level of socio-economic access that can address these requirements. It is not necessarily a requirement that students have private musical instruction. Public institutions make available musical instruction as part of their curriculum, although mariachi instruction may be considered an extra-curricular event (outside of regular instructional time) or, even as part of regular school curriculum, accessible only to

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those who maintain a certain level of academic success and who can provide their own instruments.27 Several of the largest mariachi conferences and workshops (Le. Tucson and Alburquerque) make a concentrated effort to attract local students as well as students in outlying areas where a school bus commute each day is possible. Strategies such as "carpooling" bus rides (thereby splitting the costs over several schools), ensuring students pack a lunch, and community fund raising activities all figure into the equation of broadening access to these events. Given the requirements for a certain level of musical competency, participants tend to be primarily of high school and junior high or middle school ages.
In addition to student participants, adults of varying experiences and

knowledge also form a considerable part of the total participants. The adult ages and abilities vary widely. Some may come from semi-professional or professional groups while others may come as individuals not specifically affiliated with a specific group but interested in further developing skills. These gatherings have also become popular destinations for individuals who have in effect retired from mariachi as a profession but who still have a great desire to play with others. For me, the time has really gone for being a professional and that's alright. My love for this music hasn't diminished over the years. There are still some men my age or older who still do this work professionally. It's difficult work and even if you are retired from another job, you still miss that time with your family or grand kids. I've got two grand kids and 1'd rather spend the time with them than be gone most evenings and weekends. .. I come here to play this music with people who appreciate its history and great beauty. (62 year old retired gardener who also worked as a professional mariachi for over 40 years) The desire to play with others who come to the tradition with a sense of respeto (respect) is often what motivates many of the professional or semi-professional individuals in general. There are a few retired individuals who have become recognizable fixtures at a number of conferences and workshops throughout the

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Southwest. Indeed. it is not uncommon to find particular groups or individual participants (students and adults alike) who regularly attend a given event or events on a consistent basis. The development of lasting relationships comes to include particularities of past events and the details that unfolded in shared experiences. These inevitable comparisons lead to inter-group and individual exchanges that may extend well beyond the confines of the conference itself Professional fraternal relationships also inform these exchanges as these events draw a number of people together who otherwise may have sporadic contact with one another. It is a place to "catch-up" on old and new business. For example, one musician, during a rehearsal break. shares recent photographs offamily members while others recount stories relating to touring and performances or how their friends in other places are doing. Because of work and personal commitments, many adult participants may choose to attend only on the weekend days, especially if they are from the local area. They can schedule participation around work and personal commitments as well as defray participation costs by not having to contend with hotel or travel expenses. The general adult participation is also marked by different senses of how the conference best serves varying interests. I come nearly every year. It's right here so why not take advantage of it? I don't play in the final concert because I can only come maybe two of the days and that's not enough rehearsal time. I'm not a great musician though I really enjoy playing this music. My father taught me how to play when I was little and we learned then by ear so the music isn't very easy for me to read. If I can hear it a few times then I can join in. I also don't do the final concert because that's really for the kids and I'm happy to sit in the audience and listen. There are some very talented kids here (63 year old man from Arizona, retired construction worker). The speaker clearly shows how the differences in ages can effect a participant's view of hislher role in the overall structure of the conference. Although it is theoretically possible that adult participants could end up in any of the given workshops as far as

As with many other musical traditions. It is a beautiful tradition and I can understand how someone who is not Mexican can be very attracted to it. mariachi also has its share of child prodigies and extremely gifted musicians whose young ages belie their high degree of skill and competency.. a Southern California-based all women's group. We teach people that in how we approach the music with the respect it deserves. She had already been impressing audiences with her mature singing style as a member of Mariachi Reyna. That's what I think we try to do here.139 the different levels. A recent example of this is the career or Nydia Rojas who at the young age of seventeen recorded her first solo CD with Sony Discos. Like other participants. the questions and "novelty" of their presence persists in this Mexicano space as an inclusive agenda remains highly mediated by racial issues. One of my best friends is an African American school . From this perspective. non-Mexican descent participants form relationships based on friendships and mutual respect. than I think it's great if they want to play. The youngest participants. mariachi has an ambiente 29 that's marked byamistad'° where you gain conjianztll working with other musicians.28 Their presence and the presence of other non-Mexican descent people do cause commentary and discussion among Mexicano participants who express a wide range of opinions. the attitudes of non-Mexicano participants become critical as Mexicano participants formulate perspectives about their presence: To me. with some notable exceptions. Ostensibly. tend to gravitate towards the beginner levels. however. They are sometimes referred to as the "hueritos from California. participation is open to anyone who has the desire to participate and who can manage to attend conference events.. most tend to bring experience and skills that allow them to participate in at least the intermediate or advanced levels. As long as a person gives that respect. A family of participants from the California coastal region has become quite weIlknown for their skills and attendance at several conferences and workshops. While it is clear that these events are marked as a Mexicano space. some participants of non-Mexican descent can be found.

I think if we had too many of them [non-Mexican descent participants] that it wouldn't be the same. (mariachi violin instructor) Though this speaker as a bi-lingual individual is equally at ease in either Spanish or English. He has a great love for this music and I don't mind sharing that with him. he has a tremendous respect for the tradition. I personally feel fine about that as long as the event is rooted in the Mexican community and for primarily Mexican participants.140 teacher who plays vihuela. "Hey! Don't you have enough places for you already? What are you doing crowding in here?" (15 year old female vihuela player) Learning to respect others is the key. It's so important for us to have a place where we know. In effect. (39 year old male guitarron player) I'm sorry to say that some of them [non-Mexican descent] participants just don't have the feel for this music. There is a kind of amistad in mariachi that makes it very open. our culture is respected and made public for our own benefit. But I do sometimes think like. But I think one of the great things about the conference is that we are in a place with so many other Mexicanos where you can really enjoy yourself and feel confident about your culture and heritage. as he confided later. Again. only those terms and conceptions in Mexican culture could adequately express those feelings. he tellingly uses concepts in Spanish in code-switching to explain his meaning. their presence invokes a space of critical commentary that reveals the nuances of inter-cultural tensions as expressed in the following: I do think it's important that this event remain mostly for Mexicanos. these words more accurately explain the character and general spirit of mariachi than their English translations could. (father of high school mariachi trumpet player) I don't think they [non Mexican descent people] have to be thrown out of the conference. In his mind. I don't think anyone who is really interested in playing is going to be here [at the conference and workshops] with a bad attitude. The kids get exposed to the idea that Mexican culture has something valuable to offer them but also can be something others [non Mexican descent people] see as good. There aren't a lot of white participants here and the ones that are do have that respect I think. and they [the students] know. It may seem an insignificant point but it actually gives much relevancy to the idea that though non-Mexican descent participants may be welcomed under concepts of friendship and sharing. They don't know the culture or .

He expressed concern over the fact that he would be a ''white guy" playing the guitarron. at least one white student of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor El Mariachi Michicano ensemble spoke to me about what he might expect at his first mariachi conference and workshops in San Antonio. They [non-Mexican descent participants] can always go to the concert or any of the other performances. From the other side of this issue of non-Mexican descent participants. and ethnic identity prevail in how participants view themselves and interpret the participation of non-Mexican descent participants. Seeing them learn more isn't what this is about. if they want to learn something I'm not going to say ''No. Ifwhite . (middle school mariachi director) These remarks show how issues of inclusivity in mariachi within the conference and workshops context exist as part of a larger conversation in which racial attitudes.they have to learn how to handle all kinds of different situations in life where because they are Mexican American they have to deal with people who might not like or respect them or their culture or understand very much about them. I've talked to a few [kids] and like I always tell them. Texas." There are other places they can go to learn this music-maybe they can learn from someone in the area where they live or a university or college gives classes. I don't think we've ever really had any major problems or anything like that. Some kids do get not exactly upset but thinking more like. I think this is more for us [Mexicanos].141 the background very well. Sure. cultural stereotypes. his concerns reveal that even potential non-Mexican descent musicians are aware of the racial tensions from a perspective that examines personal comfort level and the difficulties that may accompany a white or non-Mexican descent presence in a Mexicano context. (48 year old guitar player) I know some of the students see the white people here and kind of look at them a little funny because of trying to figure out why they are here. In this way. Although this individual did not end up attending the conference because of other work commitments. issues of cultural competency and respect become salient factors in evaluating the premise of the conference and its responsibilities to Mexican descent people. ''Why are they here?" you know. go away. Those attitudes and tensions are unfortunately things they have to learn to deal with in order to survive. Here [at the conference]. like questioning.

As a non-Mexican descent participant confessed: I wouldn't stay if someone told me to get out. In many ways. For many in this context. On the other hand. I'm a guest here and I'll come as long as I think I'm made welcome. the speaker symbolizes white culture and the politics of socio-cultural dominance. I love playing this music and probably don't do it very well. Most of them do that (50 year old guitar player). he is forced to confront (albeit in a very limited space) dynamics related to those which Mexican descent people are subjected to in everyday life. I get a little tired of people looking at me like what am I doing here? I can understand that to a point. the nonMexican descent participant's comments focus on individual identity as the locus through which the limitations placed upon him can be redeemed. The emphasis is on shared . they soon become so through the process of establishing their participation. The cultural politics of this situation are not lost on the Mexicano participants as many of them see this space and its inter-racial exchanges as having enormous potential for inverting those power dynamics. As I look at it. Interestingly.but what a wonderful place to come and learn from people who are professionals (27 year old male guitar player).I mean look at how Mexicans are treated in general. I think people should look at me as an individual and then decide what they think of me being here. This is in direct contrast to the prevailing social aesthetics of the event which focus on group and community interaction through musical expression.142 participants as yet are not cognizant about these issues prior to the event. His value and worth within a given context are called into question based on a perceived ethnicity and the assumptions about how that ethnicity is defined and what potential (non) contributions it may involve. These last comments focus discussion on the very issues surrounding the presence of non-Mexican descent individuals in this Mexicano context. As another non-Mexican descent participant further illuminated. the tensions are felt even in the friendship that may be extended under the agenda of inclusivity: I've been coming to these events for three years now.

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histories and bases of knowledge that function as the key points in drawing together an intra-ethnically diverse population. In thinking about these collective dynamics, what is it about the event itself that forms the premises upon which notions of community are actually formed? AmistadlAmbiente/Cariiio/Confianza
In the course of research as a participant, group leader of a university

ensemble, and observer at numerous mariachi conferences and workshops, I have been struck by the clarity of purpose expressed by the many individuals who give so freely of their energies to help produce and maintain these events. It is often a difficult position requiring numerous hours that must be invested throughout most of the year until the next event. In addition to making arrangements for facilities, teachers, promotional materials, music, publicity, accommodations, registration materials, and general scheduling, organizers must contend with considerable financial challenges in mounting these events. An emergent debate about the role of corporate sponsorship is part of an ongoing discussion of how these events can be kept accessible yet garner the financial resources needed to sustain them. Concerns about the "commercialization" of the event take on a particular character marked by caution when critics consider, for example, the number of Latino musical events sponsored by beer or alcohol companies.32 It's difficult to think about letting them [beer company] come in and have their name splashed all over the place. I think it gives the wrong message about what we're trying to do here. With as many students as we have here, it would be totally the wrong thing to do even though having a big sponsorship like that would make our job easier. We wouldn't have to struggle so much every year. .. I like the idea that in order to get this thing through every year, everyone has to go out and get the local businesses and communities involved. That sense of ownership of the event is what I think makes our conference special. We may not be the biggest one [mariachi conference and workshops] but

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you leave here with a sense that people here really care about it enough to really invest in it.
In addition, the fervor over popular culture representations of Mexican culture

remains a central theme in thinking about the relationship between Mexicano culture, issues of representation, and corporate America. The figures of Speedy Gonzales, Frito Bandito, and, more recently, the Taco Bell icon of a small Chihuahua dog all inform current memory. Public denouncements, debates, and calls for boycotts against these companies employing racially loaded iconography remain an active topic at ChicanolLatino community meetings, professional organizations, and of course on-line discussion (web-site and email spaces). Forms such as the sleeping campesino with a large sombrero pulled down over his face with his back against a cactus plant contemporarily persist in everything from animated cartoons to ceramic cookie jars.33 Control of these images is what is very much at issue. Within the confines of a mariachi conference and workshops, a range of contributions are incorporated not so much in presenting a unified view of what Mexicano/Chicano culture is as much as sometimes focusing on what it is not. Most organizers realize that the often thorny issues involved in finalizing a conference schedule require strong diplomatic skills in assessing the boundaries and minimum requirements of participants, educators, and professionals. Points of consensus, in this format, are more easily reached by consciously working towards eliminating what is perceived as the ''worst effects" of negative cultural stereotypes and their resultant imagery. These concerns, it should be noted, also include internal criticisms and misconceptions about mariachi musicians as drunkards, womanizers, lazy, dirty, undisciplined, lower class, and uneducated. For these reasons, the financial support of these mariachi conferences and workshops remain a highly contested topic. Financial concerns in launching these events on a yearly basis remain consistent even for those events marked by an excellent record and the best of relationships with the local business communities and

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city or educational facilities such as public auditoriums. At the largest events, the conference organizers are often focused on the monies that can be generated from the final concert. Some critics have stated that this level of commercialism can actually detract from the purposes of the conference workshops. In those cases, a major source of concern springs from what kinds of images and presentations of Mexican culture are being projected in this public event. The qualitative aspects of such a gathering emerge as the cornerstones in both the perceptions and goals of conference organizers, participants, and professional instructors. The concept of investiture, as mentioned in the previous remarks, is also an important indicator of how approaches reflect those underlying philosophies and interpretations of what Mexican culture is and what it should represent. Many of the smaller events are indeed strongly challenged by simply "breaking even." The financial concerns, in effect, extend to the event's ability to endure, improve, and gather the finest instructors possible in a consistent and professional manner. These key factors depend upon creating a kind of atmosphere that promotes respect, learning, and friendship. Issues of accessibility, as already outlined, also exist as an important indicator of how conference organizers see the importance of the event in the local community. The idea is to bring in as many participants as possible and to give public notice that Mexican cultural arts merit respect and honor. It is also a basis for education in teaching participants and the public in general about a tradition and history not often included in mainstream educational materials. Several participants cited a lack of opportunities to learn more about Mexican cultural history in general and that the knowledge was an important part of a young person's development as a critical thinker. We were taught to be ashamed of being Mexican. In schoo~ if you spoke Spanish, you would be sent to the principal's office for punishment. In those days, they didn't care if they hit you. Now, things are a little different. I tell my children they have a lot to be proud of. Some people

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are still going to treat you like they are better than you because you are Mexican- that's their ignorance-- but now you have choices that we didn't have. It's still a struggle because of [other] people's ignorance and our own ignorance of our history makes it easier for them to say things about us that are not true. You have to know who you are, otherwise you don't know any better. (mother of 2 mariachi high school participants) The idea is that the knowledge gained becomes grounds for actively resisting impositions of cultural stereotypes that continue as a part of daily social life. The ability to show competency through a well-executed musical phrase or the rendition of a particular song becomes a way to present alternative realities than those experienced through imposed ethnicities. It is not insignificant that mariachi musical expression takes on a multifaceted complexity that serves to strengthen images of self-worth and cultural value. Mariachi, as an internationally recognized symbol of Mexican ethnicity, permeates U.S. urban popular culture through such venues as Mexican restaurants, public festivals, and political events. In addition, images of mariachi ensembles remain prevalent as re-contexualized incursions or insertions in U.S. popular culture-- Le. the films Mars Attacks! (1997), Two Much (1995), Naked Gun 2
~

(1992), Chasers (1994),

Johnny Be Good (1988), and Jerry McGuire (1996).34 In each case, the ensemble
makes a "cameo" appearance in which a Mexican national identity is invoked primarily for comic relief. Scholars have concentrated on the long history of stereotypical representations ofChicanolMexicano life and expression in U.S. and international popular films (Fregoso 1993; Keller 1985; and Trevino 1982). Caricatures writ large in broad strokes can certainly include musical representations. In terms of the specific mariachi examples cited above, that level simultaneously appeals to the worst and best aspects of folkloric expression in having some "grain" of truth in the depiction. The music accompanying scenes in the films above are produced by a mariachi group3S; however, the music most assuredly remains secondary to the visual image the ensemble

musical buffoons painfully awkward in their depiction and often not conscious of their contributions to comedic relief. educators are hoping to provide the building blocks for future thought and activities that come from students gaining confidence and trust (confianza) in a given experience that highlights Mexican culture and knowledge in a positive light. Getting them while they're young is important. the musicians onscreen do wear their traditional charro traje. I don't expect all of these students to become professional mariachi musicians . the music played is inspired by the traditional repertoire.. In combating such processes. The joke or humor depends upon the reader making connections with latent racist observations about Mexican descent communities and their roles in mainstream society. The end effect is a reference or visual allusion that contains just enough information to have some apparent basis. In sum. the basis is to provide comic relief through chiefly showing the awkwardness or ill-fit of such a targeted group in relation to an ethnic identity. For that reason. these musical references and the use of mariachi as a nationally identified music are reduced to cariacatures of themselves. 36 In addition. With the notable exception ofMars Attacks!. Heavily accented English. The genuine complexity of it all belies the simplicity of cultural interpretation that guides each of these contexts in their shape in content. They fade into the background as victims of their own innocence and apparent incapacity to fathom the true import of their presence. however. overly wrought visual contexts notable for the abundance of bright colors and items such as zarapes or over-sized sombreros all contribute to the audio/visual cacophony in creating a Mexicano symbolic identity.147 represents in giving a definite presence to Mexican descent people. far from it.. great care is taken by conference educators and organizers to ensure that mariachi conferences and workshops remain spaces where young people in particular can access alternative realities for Mexican culture. complete most times with a sombrero. .

In seeking to create a space dominated by an ambiente of amistad. and participants hope to achieve. organizers.. As their strength and numbers continue to grow. urban ethnic minority group seeks to transform negative imagery and belief systems into positive avenues of cultural expression. Being poor is not a crime-. Most of our pictures look like they came off of the post office!37 Very rarely do I find anything positive written about the barrio and the good things that happen there..unless you happen to be Mexican .. People just want to go on thinking that we're all the same or something that we're not. the citizenry involved in these conferences and workshops become part of a consciousness that addresses issues of cultural representation and people's future as a community. mariachi conferences and workshops are indeed cultural indicators of how a contemporary. You look and see. If they know they're worth something then they'll find other ways to pursue their dreams . things that don't take away from them or hurt them. it's with mucho carino [much love] that I come to these events to be with my gente [people]. I know that's a part of life in our barrio but that's not all we are. They are well aware that positive aspects ofMexicano culture often remain hidden from public view.. they do that because they have no pride in who they are. They have to have something they can work towards. cariiio. We've got a lot of problems in our communities. particularly in regards to the poorest sectors of this population. The stakes are then indeed high for these events in what educators. The conferences are also indicators of how people interpret their historical location and what that means in sustaining as active presence.[newspaper] and all I mostly see are Mexicanos getting into some kind of trouble. (prefers to remain totally anonymous) Participants in general also speak of a carino Oove) for a musical process that can transcend or at least mediate these restrictions and ideologies representing the worst of stereotypcial interpretations ofMexicano/Chicano life. That they even have dreams for some is a big step. otherwise what they see is a pretty bleak future and why should they bother? Some are harder to convince than others.. The complexity of the conference's structure and multiple . The violence is the worst part. For the most part. and confianza.. You have to give them hope.148 As they get a little older and get involved in things like gangs or drugs. I think it is also because there is so much negativity with being Mexican in this country. I pick up the .

149 agendas are reflective of community needs and the diverse participants who are drawn to these venues. If there isn't anyone left who cares. Something's got to sustain it. Music is life. (anonymous mariachi commentator) . The total effect is indeed one of celebration but a celebration that is marked by the hard-won knowledge that: You have to breathe life into a community. especially one that has had and continues to have so many battles to fight. then that community to me is dead or lost.

and guitars. such as mariachi performance festivals held in Chicago and New York. Some schools located near the U. Since the ensemble is very dependent on the guitarron player.lMexico border will sponsor trips to Mexico to purchase instruments at reduced rates. Once these instruments are imported into the U. with significant populations of Mexican decent often include mariachis. Since the hats are quite large and difficult to transport easily. In addition to an excellent sense of rhythm. Since the guitarron and vihuela are regional instruments specific to the mariachi tradition. mariachi school programs were begun as volunteer projects on the part of the music instructors who. this particular Veterans of Foreign Wars is comprised mostly of Mexican descent people. Several years ago. when the dinner/dance was inaugurated.S. gained some institutional support/recognition. for example.S. There are some indications that major professional mariachi productions. may lead to the emergence of annual conferences and workshops on a large scale.. only after some measure of success and parental pressure.F. 4 S The sombrero or charro hat can be made of a variety of materials including the finest felts that include ornate decorations and designs. Urban areas throughout the U. by having the ensemble included in the school curriculum as a class for which students could receive credit. To the best of my knowledge. and guitars at local pawn or thrift shops. the mariachi course offered at one school for credit follows a distant fourth in the priority list of musical ensembles . most directors try to have more than one student learn the instrument in case of illness or scheduling conflicts for performances. Even in these circumstances. violins.'s officers was a mariachi member. Some financially challenged student groups routinely find violins. the purchase price rises considerably. The instruments that are most often purchased are the guitarron and the vihuela. Many directors of school mariachi programs have commented on the challenges in "finding the right kid" to play the guitarron. 2 3 As this director elaborated upon further. trumpets. 6 In numerous instances. most groups also invest in hard or soft-sided hat carriers that protect the hat.150 Notes to Chapter IV 1 Most of my mariachi research has been in the Southwest. It would be extremely unusual to find a guitarron or vihuela in those contexts. Students usually provide their own trumpets. they are often much more difficult to locate for purchase. the student must be interested in taking on a primarily harmonic role rather than a melodic one.S.W. there remains the need full acceptance. the grand daughter of one of the V. This support was illustrated. For example. Midwest venues or other regional areas have not created the kind of mariachi conference and workshop infrastructure currently seen in the Southwest.

For example. In general. the abilities and skills of individuals members varies. those attentions are towards ensuring that the individual can musically achieve a level of proficiency that allows for participation at a comfortable level. the professional or semi-professional groups are selective in their membership and maintain an often demanding practice schedule. Mostly. Among the most well-known is Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan. and choir. Other groups are groups formed primarily for personal enjoyment. especially for those workshops taking place in venues close to the U. orchestra. 7 s Several of the workshops regularly include instructors and performers from Mexico. participants themselves may come from Mexico. but not always. In addition. Arrangers are also known to write as many as four violin parts when dealing with larger ensembles and/or complex harmonies. 10 Some conferences and workshops actually do hold competitions in various categories and feature the winners in a special concert. 9 The trumpet parts are usually divided into 1st and 2nd parts with occasionally a 3rd part. one of the key issues of concern for the younger players is memorizing the required pieces in time for the final concert. 11 12 The Wet-Turkey Buzzard The Rooster's Song The Traveler Jalisciense Dance Jalisciense Serenade The Trumpet Players Song of the Dark One 13 14 IS 16 17 . As with any kind of musical ensemble. The general result is that the semi-professional and professional groups may. Comparatively limited funding for the mariachi and comparatively poor access to rehearsal facilities are but a few indications.S. There is also the inevitable sense of measuring one's self against other conference participants." "professional. The terms "amateur.151 after band.-Mexico border." and "semi-professional" are loosely based on the primary focus and aims of a given ensemble. Some groups aspire to professionalism in that they seek to earn a wage for services rendered on a consistent basis. produce a better quality sound. In addition. participants acknowledge exceptionally fine players and during workshops they are listened to with great care.

152 Since many of these events take place in the Southwest. It should also be mentioned that there are also less successful results with some younger. For heaven's sake!lFor God's sake! 22 An excellent example of how this might be said to be true has come from the interactions with television crews who come to film the events for local evening news segments. the effect is even more pronounced at schools in socio-economically deprived communities. 27 Although some public institutions provide a limited number of school owned instruments for student use. first-time participants who may tire easily or find that they lack a basic technical competency (Le. however. a collection was taken up to help a family who had traveled from Mexico when their van was broken into and many of their possessions (including musical instruments) had been stolen. some organizers pride themselves on the ability of the conference to remain "on schedule". The parents had brought their two young girls to participate. fingering. In an environment of decreasing funding for the arts in general in public education. tone production) that mitigates their enjoyment. A mariachi school program director in East Los Angeles recounted . 18 19 20 Chisme (gossip) covers a whole range of topics. it is often a predominantly Chicano/Mexicano audience with at least a familiarity if not deep knowledge of the tradition. this does not negate the focus on these events as something that can remain flexible to maximize emergent opportunities. Indeed. These days are usually structured around a series of workshops and general meetings. During a Tucson conference. this by no means covers the full need. 2S 26 Participants are known to come from even parts of Mexico for some of the larger conferences and workshops. some crews have expressed dismay that the precise time schedule they had was being followed only in its general contours. Although most seem content to find the "action" in whatever event happens to be taking place at the time. "What's going on? Don't you know when the big group rehearsal will take place?" 23 24 Conference organizers and participants in general are not immune to the frustrations that can follow schedules that depart from announced timetables. Special days that are devoted to teacher training and exposure to such things as emergent technologies and upcoming school district curriculum policies that need to be implemented. 21 There exist several variants of these phrases though they remain remarkably consistent in their meanings as far as the passage of time and its relationship to a given event or series of events.

Given the fact that there are comparatively limited and expensive resources for purchasing these instruments within the U. . present a special problem in that the institution must find a way to purchase these instruments as they are unlikely to have beginning students who have access to them any other way. Especially popular are also the Mexican brand beers that are imported into the U. While traveling in parts of the South. This are but a few examples of a potentially much longer list. The venues where people purchase foods from booths or alcoholic beverage are popular targets for banners and other decorations that prominently feature these logos. general environment..153 how he was "even lucky to get a few music stands each year.near their Southwestern collection of dishes with jalepenos and a chips and salsa dip set. let alone any instruments. special arrangements are often sought to work with instrument importers or fortuitous travel by individuals able to bring back instruments from Mexico. 28 "Hueritos" refers to this family as being white. a colleague recounted astonishment at finding black mammy cookie jars and golliwog figurines being prominently displayed for sale in gift shops. over-all feeling." Instruments that are difficult to come by. friendship trust 29 30 31 32 Many Mexican community celebrations are also filled with the logos and names of beer companies for example.S.S. the music sound is produced by the musicians seen onscreen. 37 The speaker is referring to posters depicting criminals wanted for various crimes. 36 The Mars Attacks! musical selection is the "Star Spangled Banner" in that they are the only musical group seemingly at hand (having survived near planetary destruction) to officiate musically a makeshift congressional medal of honor ceremony for the film's young hero. 33 34 3S As far as I have been able to discern. the vihuela and guitarron. The cookie jar of the sleeping campesino was prominently displayed in a department store housewares department. atmosphere.

mariachis can perform at a wide range of social events in predominantly Mexicano/Chicano contexts. The San Antonio Riverwalk3 area as well as the marketplace with restaurants (see illustrations 5. It is not uncommon in urban contexts in the Southwest and parts of the 7 Midwest to find mariachi groups performing at local restaurants or other public celebrations. In particular. San Antonio. anniversaries. still sometimes fell victim to arrangements where groups from San Antonio were "imported" from outside the area. and family 154 . store openings.1 and 5. Birthdays. Texas has enjoyed a modem professional mariachi community for at least the past 1 thirty-years.jarocho. baptisms. Texas enjoys a more prominent association with mariachi performance. baseball games. By comparison. funerals. in their opinion. It is in these venues that the general public is most familiar with mariachi.4 and trios groups. the mercado (market) area2 where mariachis can be found nearly every evening of the year. weddings.2) and Mexican imported goods are an international destination for tourists and local and state residents. Mariachis maintain a well-noted presence as part of a wider array of Mexicano traditional ensembles such as conjunto. In the less visible contexts.6 They specifically related various public functions in which mariachi groups had been featured hosted by then Governor Anne Richards.CHAPTER V HACIENDO COSAS (OTRA VEZ [ONCE AGAIN]) Very few people from outside the mariachi tradition would know that Austin. Austin musicians noted that local groups were quite busy with their schedules but.

1 Musicians at the San Antonio Mercado (market) .155 nlustration 5.

156 Illustration S.2 Mariachis Inside Mi Tierra Restaurant At the San Antonio Mercado (market) .

and women's entry into the professional ranks. About a year-and-a-halfwas also spent as a member of the University of Texas at Austin mariachi ensemble as a violinist. Texas generously gave of their time in participating in interviews and allowing me the opportunity to visit their workplaces. increased visibility. these changes represent creative goals and the cultural imagination of what was and what could possibly be. Professional Community The professional mariachi community in Austin. In some sense. Given the life cycle underpinning her answer. One musician related a story about an ensemble hired by a Mexicana to play in her lawyer's offices on the occasion of her final divorce decree. It was in the summer of 1995 that many changes were evident in the Austin mariachi community as compared to earlier research experiences during 1991-93. the event was totally appropriate as a life marker of great importance even if the account brings more than a few smiles. The event was indeed memorable. In other words. These three issues. Texas involves four wellestablished groups and one informal "pick-up" group9. as they unfolded within this mariachi community. the woman replied that she thought it would be the best way for her to celebrate the beginning of her new life and the extreme joy she felt at that moment. it seems that there exists hardly any occasion that Mexican descent people may not mark as a special occasion with mariachi music. Over the intermittent course of approximately five years (1991-1995). When later asked why she had chosen to hire a mariachi group. five professional groups8 and audience members in Austin. speak well to some of the larger currents in mariachi expression and its practice as a living tradition drawing upon an historical past as well as looking towards the future. These changes included issues of public presentation.157 reunions are but a few examples. Of the four well-established .

is the sense of community shared by mariachis in Los Angeles (1988:99).10 one is generally considered musically superior and enjoys the longest historical presence. musical performance and proficiency. and personal celebrations that further unite this community and illustrate how musicians relate to one another. it is threaded with a competitive and engaging stance based on personal pride and achievement. Its emergence is indicative of the emerging role of women mariachis (as will be further discussed). Because their membership is comparatively fluid. The fourth group is also a relatively new addition. and of course the repertory . This assessment bears strong resemblance to mariachi relationships in other regional areas. leisure time. It is also known for incorporating more Mexican nationals within its membership as well as its infamous refusal to allow women to become regular members. The third group is a relatively new group that was formed within the last five years. The fifth "pick-up" group plays regularly at a local restaurant primarily for tips and some food. they do not enjoy a strong identity as an ensemble. Younger musicians who had played with other groups and were dissatisfied with the conditions decided to form their own group. two daughters. . immigration patterns. and one son make up the core of the ensemble. despite differences in organization. depending on performance context. although there is variation in that as well. Its emergence has been marked by a particularly entrepreneurial character due to its recent and somewhat complicated history. What binds them together and allows a certain fluency in interaction. While it is true that there remains a good sense of patricl 2 among musicians. As Steven Pearlman notes in his summation of the Los Angeles mariachi community: What both the organized and non-organized [pick-up] groups have in common is the structure and composition of the performing group.158 groups. although there is some variation in size. Pearlman elaborates numerous social networks that take into account things such as family organization. despite competition for work. both at the individual and group levels. 11 A second group is a family based group where a father.

or recreation hours. It is this kind of socialization that also marks the formation of an Austin mariachi community and its relationship to a broader Mexican descent population. this is the opposite of the majority of the general Mexican community. In an illustrative example. One of the consequences of the typical work schedule is that during off time. Pearlman is able to highlight elements of intraethnic diversity among the Los Angeles Mexican descent population by noting how this sub group is distinguished from the population as a whole. Perhaps one of the most telling visual cues to the nature of this fluidity is that in all cases. when musicians would most likely be working (1988:141-3). further cementing the separateness of the mariachi community from the rest of the Mexican population in Los Angeles (1988:82-83). Pearlman recounts how mariachi musicians participate in such sports as soccer where even entire teams in specific league play are composed solely of mariachis. Fluidity The mariachi community in its organizational structure enjoys a fluidity marked by a complex network of socio-musical relationships. Also of interest is that the pattern of work helps distinguish the mariachi community from the rest of the Mexican community. the predominant color for the mariachi traje or suit is black. Games and practices have a tendency to occur in the daytimes hours as opposed to evenings and weekends. mariachis primarily have other mariachis to associate with. Mariachis work primarily in the evening and night time hours. and have daytime hours open. By looking at the mariachi community's fluidity and motivations.159 Interestingly.l3 Musicians explain that black allows members to perform with other groups on relatively short notice as this color easily "blends" in with other . we can gain a deeper understanding how these socio-cultural relationships exist within contemporary practice as expressed by goals and the cultural imagination of what was and could be in musical expression. League playas well as pick-up games function as a social event for mariachis and their families as a whole.

The expectation is that there must be at least one guitarron player. in the best possible case. Interestingly. To be sure financial comparisons are made on a group level but most musicians expressed that all the groups remain relatively financially successfuL In addition. The other financial consideration on this individual level is that highly sought musicians have their choice of working conditions and can earn significant sums of money by "moonlighting" with a number of groups during special holiday seasons. confianza. Musicians tend to separate financial gains as related more to an individual's capacity to play and sing within a group than to the group's financial comparison with other groups. Although a well-seasoned group can manage without its key director. and then 1-2 guitar players. it is only possible because a more experienced person in the ensemble steps forward to fill that role. .160 black trajes. The role of instrumentation to a great extent primarily defines this range of fluidity. As in most mariachi communities. How these intergroup relations develop depends upon instrumentation. especially if the rest of the ensemble is balanced out by at least 2-3 violinists and a few guitar players. [4 and the prevailing larger sense of which direction mariachi expression is moving. financial concerns remain somewhat muted. 1 guitarron player. The flexibility allowed by these professional standards also contributes to the fluidity in intergroup relations. the sentiment prevailed that an excellent musician and performer would be well-paid wherever the individual chose to be. a vihuela player. all are expected to sing. Approximately 7-8 members are considered to be a good balance-.2 trumpets. Ideally two trumpet players are sought because of the second harmony part. Musicians are also expected to play more than one instrument and. an emphasis is placed on having a group leader capable of directing the group. a guitar or vihuela player and one particularly good singer and a trumpet player. leadership. It also allows for a greater range of mobility in that musicians can theoretically join any given group for a single performance or an extended period of time. 3 violinists. Some of the best musicians admitted to having been the objects of "bidding wars" for their services.

in essence. warehouse manager. of course. developing a group identity. self-employed business person. but also in what pieces are most often performed. and illness as mitigating factors in actually "making" professional engagements. hardware store worker. In addition to managing the actual performance dynamics of a given engagement. Within this particular community. some groups maintain a rigorous practice schedule while others meet for fewer hours of group practice in favor of intense individual study. especially as related to the timing of weekday rehearsals and any daytime performance opportunities. only identifiable as a particular group by virtue of who was acting as the ensemble leader. needed rest periods. the make-up of the . For example. musicians cited family concerns. insurance salesperson. group leaders are responsible for creating musical agendas and. school teacher. Some worked rotating shifts and still others would not have a confirmed work schedule with more than a week's advance notice. there was always the proverbial flat tire. Their vision as individuals becomes enormously important regarding the kinds of musical philosophies adhered to in the course of performance. One of the major challenges to advance scheduling was the demands of the work week. And. In addition. The group that was assembled represented not less than three different mariachi groups and was. it is not difficult to imagine that the untimely absence of one or more individuals can create an imbalance that needs to be addressed by bringing in a substitute player. huapangos. this is especially apparent in that all of the musicians involved in mariachi performance have other jobs. The repertoire itself can vary slightly from group to group in not only the specific arrangements used. The occupations represented included city maintenance worker. boleros. in some ways. In perhaps one of the most extreme example of these dynamics was a performance at an early afternoon reception in the capitol building. The majority worked at full-time jobs during the weekdays.161 Given these variabilities. polcas. Since some parts of the repertoire (sones. with the majority clearly falling under the blue collar designation. and valses) are considered more traditional than others. and a range of other positions.

trumpet vibrato. While one group leader urges his singers to produce the loudest volume possible at whatever level they may be capable. I noted these questions only as they illustrated the complex relationships within this community and refrained from answering directly. strumming techniques. While conducting interviews for this project. might decide to relocate for reasons relating to these issues of performance. Not being privy to the sometimes long histories surrounding such inquiries. I was often asked by one individual what another individual had said concerning certain people or a particular group. The case of vocal technique is also very illustrative of this point. Some groups pride themselves on being more ''traditional'' and tend to play primarily those pieces which are well-known standards. The personal musical philosophies of individual musicians may in some cases be discovered over time to be more compatible with another ensemble's general directorship. They also use arrangements based on the historical recordings of such venerable groups as Mariachi Vargas de Tecalithin. The models for musical study can also vary widely in that issues such as vocal timbre. While all five groups also employ what Peiia has referred to as a modified version of the bel canto technique. It was not unheard of that a musician.162 group's repertoire depends on how the director defines the group's primary musical goals. . These relationships are further nuanced by mariachi considerations in which family members often teach other family members or take on the training of younger individuals in a way that reflects filial modes. All five groups emphasize a loud volume as a desired quality in solo and choral singing. IS the qualities of vocal production vary greatly in relation to volume control. Conversely. after playing with another group. the community would long feel the repercussions when a musician and group leader seemed at odds with one another and the musician relocated rather than continue to experience friction. another chooses a comparatively softer volume level in favor of "smooth" timbral qualities and greater attention to pitch control. and overall presentation help define an individual group personality for each ensemble.

One evening. The family ensemble played for a variety of public dances and private functions. This one ensemble was developed as a family enterprise under the direction of a father who had actually been a conjunto musician in his youth. The family had very limited means and the conjunto group was often their only source of income between growing seasons or work shortages. He had played with a family group and learned that repertoire under the tutelage of his older brothers. Far from simply being a formality. A debt to the senior musician was acknowledged and the younger musician undertook assisting a less experienced player who was directed to him by this senior musician. one vihuela player in his early 20s recalled how a senior musician in another group had really taught him some of the finer aspects of vihuela strumming patterns. Their audiences were primarily the lower class migrant farmworkers and other working class Mexicanos. This less experienced player in turn felt a responsibility to not only the younger musician but also the senior musician as well. as the less experienced player expressed to me as he sat in a chair after they departed. the process signaled a clear connection between these individuals and provided a show of respect. The sense of loyalty and trust developed often formed the cornerstone for understanding how these musicians related to one another not only as musicians but as lifelong friends engaged in partnerships. he "hoped to hell" that he had done a good enough job in performing that evening. especially for the senior musician. both the senior and younger musician ventured to a restaurant to hear the less experienced player. Let us take a closer look at one group in particular that is based almost exclusively on filial relations.163 These filial modes depended on the formation of confianza that could only develop over time through many shared experiences. For instance. The most junior of the trio greeted both individuals and introduced them to the rest of the ensemble members. since he was already well-acquainted with everyone. . Mr. And. Z16 grew up in a migrant farmworker family that worked in the fields primarily in Texas. It should be noted that the introductions were unnecessary.

His musical skills were oriented towards accordion playing. In addition to its church duties. they often traveled long distances in order to find work. asked him if he could lead a mariachi to play for the church. the guitar. and some knowledge of the bajo sexto. The priest. 17 Nonetheless." This family-based mariachi ensemble began as a Catholic church group. They became known for their extreme dependability and fine musical practice in following a performance agenda that prioritized audience participation. They became local . knowing of Mr. Z recalled in detail his usual mode in creating a rapport with the audience. medicine. verbally accessing and calling for gritos1 8 by making musical choices that referenced a particular regional identity. At first Mr. and having musicians remain mobile throughout the playing venue so that they were always engaging the audience at close range. He explained that in better years the conjunto group was able to supplement a family income where not only family necessities (Le. arranged performances) requests. purposely launching musical jokes 19 . Among the techniques he cited were: telling jokes at the expense of ensemble members. and his own children eventually included. with a few volunteers from the congregation at large. shelter. Even in the worst economic years. the family was "a little better off" than other families because "as long as you could play you could eat. finding an audience member willing to participate through singing or dancing. Mr. clothing. Z's musical background and performing experience. and "that they knew about their heritage. Z has never forgotten those aspects and even today states that he taught his children to play for two reasons: that ''they would always have something" from which the could earn a living. the group began receiving chamba (individual. transportation) were provided but additional means such as improved housing or an extra pair of shoes were possible. a new mariachi ensemble developed." Mr. Z had been reticent as he was more familiar with conjunto musicianship. food.164 As itinerant musicians. 20 The group also gained greater exposure through community church sponsored events such as volunteering to perform in retirement and convalescent homes.

Z coordinated all outof-town trips and became the designated driver during travel. A professional female mariachi trumpet player is considered unusual. one daughter went on to earn a music degree and become the group's arranger and musical director. maintained that they were wellcapable of fulfilling such roles and encouraged them to ignore comments or criticisms that stated otherwise. general community reputation. they have always welcomed additional members to meet the minimal instrument requirements. and longevity as the primary factors in influencing their decisions to seek membership in the ensemble. Their father. was (one could safely speculate) only possible because of the filial support afforded them at an early age. As will be discussed further when highlighting another ensemble. His son worked full-time in a wellknown industrial hardware site and pursued mariachi as a part-time profession.an equally unusual role for a woman.21 As his children grew older and were able to assume roles with greater responsibilities. Z was turning more and more of the professional scheduling duties to his son. I found they expressed an attraction to the family oriented agenda of the ensemble. During the group's development. From the beginning. women in mariachi in this area are seen primarily as singers or violinists. At the time of the interview.165 favorites and soon had more requests than they could manage. Also of no little importance was the fact that this ensemble tended to reflect . Mr. These dynamics of a filial based ensemble proved extremely helpful when one of the daughters made it known that she wanted to be a mariachi trumpet player. this professional ensemble was a family endeavor. Mrs. Speaking with the non-family members of the ensemble. Mr. Z continued to work in his blue collar service position for the City of Austin. She also assisted by altering mariachi suits or trajes that had been ordered from Mexico so that they would fit individuals in every aspect. combined with the other daughter eventually assuming the musical directorship of the group-. They cited comparatively stable organizational traits. In addition to the children participating as developing musicians. This. the director. Although the ensemble does continue in this way to be a family endeavor.

" The prioritizing of educational goals also means the ensemble takes seriously its religious roots in its genesis as a Catholic church ensemble. In further examining the interactions of this broader mariachi professional community. this is also one of the ensembles that is most likely to perform for children at a reduced or even volunteer rate. it became immediately apparent that. The logic is that doing these things "for the kids" teaches them "about their culture and history" so that they gain a better understanding of ''who they are.166 the director's philosophy that a major role of mariachi performance is educating the general public about the tradition's cultural significance and its history as a mestizo musical tradition. This. For those reasons.22 As many educators in the area know. Family members especially continue in their roles as musicians at the same church venue where the group was founded. Although Mr. this ensemble has been known to place a picture of La Virgen de Guadalupe on their concert stages in publicly acknowledging those cultural and spiritual connections. direct relationship was ever quite established between musicians and audience members. depending upon the event and reason for their inclusion. He also noted that this context did not allow him ample opportunity to communicate the joy of the tradition in that no sustainable. the ensemble continues to enjoy a "squeaky clean"n image among the Austin mariachi community. Because of these religious implications and its strong filial identity. he related that he did not care for that venue because the music became too much a part of the background as people concentrated more on their food or speaking with one another. Not insignificantly. is done to highlight the cultural importance and impact that mariachi can have in all spheres of life. with rare exception. Z acknowledged that the restaurant context was one of the best ways through which to generate additional performance opportunities. musicians in all of . playing for special church related events and fiestas. Z. according to Mr. this is one of the few mariachi ensembles in the area that actively refrains from performing in Mexican restaurants.

the work often involves travel throughout the city and to outlying areas. It was out of these arrangements that certain levels of confianza developed among individual musicians. Performing in an ensemble brings together those elements of trust and respect that develop over time within a distinct musical expression. In the case of a mariachi ensemble. They intervened with their own gestures and additional information. Despite all these characteristics of fluidity. they also communally experience aspects ofracialization from a distinct viewpoint.ensuring that a detailed . Because this is an ethnically defined musical group and the musicians (for the most part) are of Mexican descent. Though the content of this account is extremely relevant. they did not accept the fact that none of the organizers seemed particularly knowledgeable about the mariachi tradition and the need to establish a close rapport with the audience.167 these groups had at one time or another performed with most of the other musicians in town. The other group members gathered around the table when they heard him telling this story. One group member recounted how the ensemble had been included as "window dressing" at a political fund raiser where a white candidate was attempting to court the Mexican vote. it was clear each ensemble enjoyed a core identity due to the fact that each musician had a home ensemble with which he or she primarily identified. The exceptions were individuals who had just begun performing in the area or were still considered relative beginners. The ensemble at times becomes a "road band" in that sense. what happened during its recitation was perhaps even more indicative of the group dynamics the account illustrates. It was also not uncommon that the most experienced individuals had ''traveled'' through most if not all the groups. Though the ensemble knew ahead of time that they would be background music at best. The group was placed in one comer of the room and told to remain stationary and "not be too loud" while people enjoyed the cocktail hour. I had been interviewing this one individual at a restaurant table with a cassette recorder.

In considering the issue of fluidity in relation to these processes. it is not difficult to imagine how these variables can take on distinct characteristics within a given group. these exchanges are shaped by the power relationships in a hierarchical system within an ensemble. It seems. Each ensemble's performative character depends in large part to how the different "elementos. that three primary factors inform the relationships among musicians and various groups: a dedication to improvement and musical excellence. Where individual opinions may differ. there is a common ground over which the musicians can assemble. 24 Given the differences discussed in how group leaders develop different philosophies of mariachi practice. Motivations There are a variety of factors that can be said to influence how mariachis undertake performance. one an exceptional singer. The manner in which these issues are articulated within any given group also speaks to a certain level of tolerance that develops. we have already alluded to the filial and filial-like relations.2S function at the group leveL The largest question is how individual contributions made up the overall character of the ensemble. economic success. and education as far as teaching people about a Mexican musical tradition. another a gifted speaker. as well as the interdependency of individual .. As implicated in our earlier discussion of ensemble leaders and their roles. One person may be an excellent arranger. It was clearly an important event for their group identity and how they presented themselves in public forums. however. In the areas of improvement and musical excellence. it would be rare indeed to find an ensemble with individuals having equal experience and similar standing within the larger mariachi community.168 account was recorded. one an incomparable guitarist. and still another may possess an exceptionally fine ear. Musicians speak of combinations that "jell" and make for a musically satisfying experience.

When further specified. They are sensitized by a particular construction of ethnicity and cultural heritage. their educational goals are not necessarily to produce professional musicians. This ensemble is known for actively recruiting Mexican nationals 27 because of its director's belief(himself a Mexican national) that they are often superior musicians.169 contributions. based groups well-noted for their musical abilities. instrumental timbre. as some musicians who received their mariachi training primarily in the U. and Mexico.S. It is important to understand that while there exist mariachi school programs26 and workshops and conferences (as discussed in Chapter IV). tuning systems. The primary issue at stake for U.S. professional mariachi training depends primarily on arrangements resembling musical apprenticeships. the individual is immediately recruited by this ensemble. however. gives rise to particularly sensitive observations about competency and opportunities for professional development. musical style. By implication. Whenever a particularly fine Mexican national mariachi relocates to the area. musicians make a distinction between mariachi expression in the U. The one Austin group that has had the longest professional presence amply illustrates the dynamics of these considerations in musical practice. This state of mariachi training in the U. While a significant number of professional mariachis cite family training as having been their major form of learning. Mexican . The director maintains that his ensemble "has a true Mexican style" that remains uncompromised. based musicians is one of professional competency.S. and overall presence. the other groups in the area somehow musically suffer by being "compromised" in not having the same capacity. Recognizing mariachi as a transnational phenomenon. There are a few community based programs in the Southwest that provide mariachi instruction.S. These sentiments have not gone unchallenged. these qualities run the gamut of technical facility. which claims it is the "most authentic" of all the mariachis in Austin. argue that there are many fine professional U.S. the majority of the professional population has had to depend on ad hoc arrangements.

This individual's companion commented that Nydia was actually from Los Angeles. she had to be a Mexicana (from Mexico) in order to sing that well. Conversely. the controversies so defined that surround mariachi musical competency resemble debates concerning Chicano linguistic cultural competencies. It is important to note that these cleavages privileging Mexican national mariachis as superior or as more culturally authentic do not always fall along Mexican national vs. vying to be the "real" Chicanas. U. based and trained mariachi speakers. she also has a low estimation of me.S based and trained groups have fine musical abilities. at the same time. based and trained musicians are equally convinced that it is only the Mexican national-based mariachi that can reach the highest levels of musical brilliance. based and trained groups. has a low estimation of my native tongue. however. Even among Chicanas we tend to speak English at parties or conferences. We oppress each other by trying to out-Chicano each other. . to speak like Chicanos .170 nationals sometimes do acknowledge that the U. The other speaker responded that no.S.." Gloria Anzaldua relates: If a person. Yet.S. A colleague recounted how an individual next to him said that she was a true Mexicana singer. we're afraid the other will think we're agringadas because we don't speak Chicano Spanish. In her book Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza in a section entitled "Linguistic Terrorism. Audience members and mariachi aficionados can be similarly at odds with one another. Texas Nydia Rojas was featured as a guest singer in a mariachi festival.S. Chicano Spanish is as diverse linguistically as it is regionally (1987:58-9). they argue those group are missing the sentimiento (feeling) for the music that a ''true Mexican" national can bring in hislher interpretive expression. Neither are these arguments confined to mariachi musicians. In a municipal auditorium in San Antonio. Often with mericanas y /atinas we'll speak English as a neutral language. A Chicana from Michigan or Chicago or Detroit is just as much a Chicana as one from the Southwest. In many ways. some Mexican national mariachis have only the highest levels of respect for U. Chicana or Latina. Some of the U..

Guatemala. based groups must negotiate their performance context in a way that engages these issues. Argentina.S.. and return to Mexico. supplies. Columbia.S. gaining exposure to Mexican national training and experience is usually the higher priority. trajes. boots. The relationship is reciprocated by Mexican national based ensembles. is somehow considered less "authentic" or "competent" and therefore less culturally valid. based mariachi in relation to improvement and musical excellence and. musicians gain the majority of their income from other work-related sources apart from mariachi. The U. In addition. and Peru./Mexico transnational context. in sum. A Mexican national ensemble or individual musicians may take up residence in the U. U. etc.S. brought back by musicians traveling from Mexico into the U. Given the competency question. An internal debate among Chicano practitioners is part of this "linguistic terrorism. music scores.28 Economic success also plays a large role in how mariachis in the Austin community pursue their profession.S. Mariachis can be found in places as far away as Japan.S.S. Is should also be clearly noted that these transnational aspects are not solely confined to a U. Spain (Rivas 1979).S. there is a healthy importation of such things as mariachi instruments.171 The clear implication is that Chicano Spanish. looking for better economic opportunities." in addition to the Latino/Chicano division. The observation is that it would be extremely difficult to earn one's entire living from . Almost without exception. While some do choose to remain. cultural competency and validity. U.S. whether or not they believe Mexican national based mariachi (in their final analysis) to be unequivocally superior. others pursue only sporadic sojourns in the U. based groups routinely seek cross-national relationships with Mexican national groups and musicians. based groups are less motivated by financial concerns as far as traveling to Mexico. for its departure from "standard" Spanish (however one chooses to define that). These are the kinds of tensions then that surround U. Venezuela.

This group is based in a taqueria29 on the East side of Austin. the general perception in the Austin community is that four groups remain the most stable.S. potential patrons are often very careful about screening groups. and cell phones are all considered good investments for generating work opportunities. It is not unusual to find families "auditioning" an ensemble over dinner in preparation to hiring a group for such things as a wedding or birthday celebration. Many of them have been accustomed to pursuing mariachi as their primary work or at least deriving the majority of their income from such work.'' The fifth group is a "pick-up" ensemble with a much looser membership. This is indeed one of the tensions experienced by Mexican national musicians who relocate to the U. at least two groups were considering mounting a web page. As has been mentioned earlier in this chapter. Three of these groups have a main restaurant engagement where they have been hired by the establishment to perform for patrons. At the time of this research.mariachi gone ''wired. The exposure from the restaurant context is significant for its ability to generate charnba arrangements outside the restaurant. when the restaurants do a high volume of business." The other groups are not only critical of their musicianship but also their appearance. The social standing of the fifth "pick-up" group is comparatively low in that musicians see that ensemble as the most poorly trained ensemble.or the "Mexican side. Because of the large financial investment to hire a full mariachi ensemble (approximately $200-400 for the first hour with sometimes a two hour minimum). As had been mentioned earlier. It is sometimes difficult for them to accept the need to find other kinds of employment. These weekly arrangements typically occur over the busiest times and days of the week. Their trajes are sometimes in poor .172 mariachi performance. beepers. the perception is that these four well-established groups enjoy comparatively equal or similar levels of economic success. This usually means evening performances over the weekends (Thursday-Saturday) with Sunday morning brunch and sometimes Sunday evenings as well. Business cards.

and dented in places. This would in turn translate into a greater number of chamba opportunities. Their instruments also tend to be a of a lower quality. social status. One of their trumpeters uses a comet that is quite ol~ in need of refinishing. This perception of comparatively poor financial success remains to be adequately investigated. The other groups were given some compensation by the restaurant supplemented by such things as food and beverage. Members explained that they played for mostly the lower-class or working class Mexicanos who had difficulty managing the higher fees of the more well-established groups. In the greater balance of things. and. . would have a larger clientele base. The overall perception is that this fifth "pick-up" group is financially less successful than the other more well-established groups. Of the two kinds of restaurant contexts. however. The discussion of this fifth pick-up group in intriguing in discerning how their socio-cultural status is constructed by class. however. it would appear that this pick-up group enjoys a much more comparative level of financial success than would initially appear.30 Even though they wear black trajes. financial success. They did not.173 condition. receive payment from patrons for songs performed. it would seem reasonable to assume that the pick-up group. This seems to be borne out by the fact that this ensemble charged approximately 25%-35% less than the other ensembles for individual chambas. This ensemble is also the most poorly compensated by the restaurant establishment when compared with the other groups in more up-scale restaurants. It was discovered during the course of this research that the "pick-up" ensemble seemed to have a significantly greater number of chambas. playing for almost an exclusively Mexicano audience. this pick-up group worked al tal6n31 in the restaurant context so that they received payment for each song performed. the group rarely has coordinated neckties as the other more well-established groups do. finally. Also. it was repeatedly stressed throughout interviews that this group occupied the lowest rungs of the mariachi ladder of both economic success and social standing.

it is apparent that there exist some "rougher" sounding musical phrases and articulations that a discerning listener might find. the musical preferences espoused by conjunto and orquesta musicians. however. There are also a different set of musical skills that must be developed in this pick-up ensemble that are either far less important issues or even . orquesta was for high society") (1985:4). a basic assumption that guided initial research was my early impression (since my early days as an orquesta musician. at one level at least. la orquesta era pa' high society" ("Conjunto was for poor people. la gente de rancho. rural people. they are among the best as even a short stay any evening at the taqueria will illustrate. During the course of interviews. the social class issues relate not to intraethnic cleavages drawn along particular musical genres but to distinct musical practices within a given genre. an early and famous exponent of conjunto music. It was brought up in passing. Because they are dependent on direct engagement of the audience for their wage. the existence of this pick-up group came to light only after several months' work.174 cultural competency as part of Mexicano musical practice. As far as engaging their audience.32 The perception that the ensemble is poorly trained comes primarily from criticism concerning its overall sound.betrayed a certain esthetic cleavage attributable to the social status of their respective clientele. Professional mariachi players in Austin chose to omit discussion of this pick-up group. being conjunto music's rival style among tejanos. not insignificantly. actually) that. The speaker made distinctions between various kinds of mariachi practices and referred to this ensemble as "muy low-class. when a speaker first mentioned this group while defining the total Austin mariachi performance context that I learned of it. In this mariachi context. they have developed a high skill level in maintaining rapport with patrons and being able to "read" an audience as far as musical preferences. To put it in the simple words of Narciso Martinez. "conjunto era pa' la gente pobre.orquesta or orquesta tejana.. Indeed.. Their financial success depends on these skills. Peiia has noted intraethnic cleavages surrounding conjunto and orquesta traditions in relation to social status in the following way: In fact.

On one level. and not many hours are spent in formal rehearsals. it is only by their close association that they are they able to maintain their musical practice as a part of this community.the "bad" side of the tracks. and musical execution are interpreted by other groups in relation to social class.33 In some ways. but by choice. listening abilities emerge as part of anticipating what a singer might do or adjusting ensemble balance. the familiarity with an individual singer is left to performance contexts. Unlike the other groups. They feel it is their best option in pursuing successful mariachi expression in this part of town. as popularly ascribed. This is strengthened by their belief and investiture in the area as a worthy host to such endeavors: . Because they do not have the luxury of practicing together over many hours. Musicians in this group must have a particularly fine ear in adjusting to one another during performance. their expression depends upon how well musicians can adjust through aural and visual cues.175 non-issues in the other ensembles. In sum. unexpected key changes becomes crucial. musicians in this ensemble must be familiar with a whole range of arrangements and able to adapt quickly when it becomes aurally apparent that most musicians are following a specific arrangement. modes of expression. their denigration and low social standing depends on how their location. It should be noted that this ensemble pursues al talon arrangements not by default. Again. it is conceivable that an excellent argument could be launched in favor of seeing this pick-up group as being exceptionally skilled musicians. where musicians learn one specific arrangement. given their unique performance contexts and its demands. They fully realize the economic constraints and therefore the possibilities for success. financial success. AI talon work demands a highly sophisticated understanding of the target audience. It is also well-known among the mariachi community that members of this pick-up ensemble have a tendency to live and work among Mexicanos in East Austin. In the area of vocal performance. for example. There are slight variations in musical arrangements so that the ability to adjust quickly to.

The strength of those observations is further heightened when it is realized that. But that's not all we are. to discern the hidden messages inscribed in code on the glossy surfaces of style. As such. Its transformations go 'against nature'. movements towards a speech which offends the 'silent majority'. with the exception of the well-established group previously mentioned as seeking Mexican nationals. like that. pregnant with significance. The import of this dialectic where subcultures are concerned and the meaning of style or. Our task becomes. musical style/expression is well documented by Dick Hebdige who writes: Style in subculture is. this pickup ensemble has the most Mexican national members. You see people think that if we're not a part of the other side [of the city] that we don't have something to contribute.176 People think of this place [East Austin] as the bad side of town.you know our heritage. Mariachi practice in this East Austin context then is interpreted as less socially significant and therefore less culturally valid because of social class issues. No one's going to tell me that mariachi doesn't belong here. It's part of the cultura and everything. like Barthes'. in this case. It actually becomes a subculture of a subculture on multiple transformative levels. but their own social connections as members of this community are equally reflected in those assessments. interrupting the process of 'normalization' . Not only do assessments of their musical expression suffer by their close association with a primarily working-class audience. East Austin mariachi practice is a subculture of the Austin mariachi community. to trace them as 'maps of meaning' which obscurely re-present the very contradictions they are designed to resolve or conceal (1988:18). which challenges the principle of unity and cohesion. they are gestures. We have problems with crime and theft. then. it also has the capacity to be equally self-serving in its own internal dialectic. While mariachi (recall in particular the specific discussion on racialization) can be interpreted as a subculture of Austin area majority culture. In effect. I could go play over there but no because this is home (vihuela player often found in the pick-up ensemble). I look at mariachi as a way to say something good about the Mexican people. any prestige that may be accorded Mexican national musicians is effectively erased by overarching social class considerations. which contradicts the myth of consensus. . In some sense.

education in teaching people about a Mexican musical tradition. The "muy low-class" mariachi is socially defined as an undesireable mariachi and a lesser version of this musical practice. The appearance is that there is a unity concerning this music as an ethnically defined expression. They [non Mexican descent people] get very surprised by what we do.that mariachis essentially follow a shared practice within a given region or. status. the sharp divisions occur over internal contradictions of social class. not "old fogey" music. mariachi itself is seeking to address unequal power relations between Mexican descent communities and dominant. and 17 year-old).. these beliefs are not confined solely to the education of Mexican descent people. Moreover. there is far from consensus over how mariachi occupies a public space in its sound and presentation in actual practice. rock and roll . the sentiments expressed here reflect a belief in mariachi's capacity to educate audiences. and ultimately cultural validity. To me it's sad and I think I didn't teach them well enough about their own culture so that they would appreciate it. There is something very appealing and exciting about . My kids hate this music [mariachi].177 In regards to the Austin mariachi community. in doing so. however. They'll listen to it [mariachi] when it's live and it keeps their interest because it's way different than just listening to it on a record. When I or their mother puts on a record they roll their eyes and leave the room. When musicians and audience members spoke of mariachi and its larger purposes. They're into their own music.jazz. in this case. The implications of seeing mariachi as a public practice representing a specific ethnic identity leads discussion to the final motivation issue-. a specific city. majority culture. it contradicts itself by reproducing (in part) the alienation of socially subordinating a particular group. hip-hop. As will become clearer in the following discussion. Maybe with time they'll look back on this and think they learned something about their family (father of a 12. education of the audience was one of the primary concerns.up close. Sometimes you can just tell when it is the first time they have seen a mariachi. In this example. Clearly. 14. So I bring them in here [Mexican restaurant] as a fun family outing..

Since they were both individuals who were particularly interested in my work. poor. It has a long history. This speaker went on further to elaborate that he thought some of the stereotypical interpretations of Mexican people (Le. The contemporary and historical pictures of this dialectic as competing ideologies in the social construction of Mexican descent people and their cultural value concern their contributions as a U. For the most part. It can be very exciting music.deep roots. group. have long documented the import of these ''wrongs ways of thinking" in cultural expression for this specific Tejano context. If they can hear the music as it was intended to be played and see us showing our skills then I think that's good for how they see us [Mexican descent people] (mariachi group leader).178 mariachis that people are drawn to.. Paredes.4). dumb. took the lead in mounting the festival. Mariachi was a way to address those ''wrong ways ofthinking. As the local mariachi academic researcher.) by majority Americans were detrimental to the aspirations of Mexican people as a whole. they immediately saw me as a potential resource in helping realize this event. Limon. dirty. The two mariachi musicians who had formed their own management company for Mexican based cultural expression. lazy.34 Scholars Anzaldua. etc. which is something else people don't necessarily understand very well.. Public Presentation and Increased Visibility The most prominent event that occurred during the periods of research and that highlighted attitudes and expectations of the public presentation of mariachi was the initiation of a mariachi festival. and Peiia. I had become very familiar with the two Austin mariachi groups involved with this venture.S.3 and 5. my direct participation . One of the critical places where these dynamics unfold was in the area of public presentation and in the overall sense of increased visibility. The first annual Austin Mariachi Espectacular was held during the summer of 1995 in the venerable downtown Paramount Theater (see Illustrations 5. I think just by playing these pieces we expose people to so much.

3 Downtown Austin with Paramount Theater on the Right-hand Side .179 Illustration 5.

4 Paramount Theater in Downtown Austin. Texas .180 Illustration 5.

quality of advance publicity. a time pertaining to social actions that would be inconceivable outside the boundaries offestival (for example. made it hardly worth the effort. one of the principal organizers informally consulted with me for opinions concerning presentation and choice of speakers.181 was limited to assisting backstage and photographing the event during the performance. and it would have. in his opinion. musicianship of groups contracted. He concluded. a time that is qualitatively different and perceived as different and perceived as separate. The whole launching of a festival and the motivations behind that were not unrelated to some of the observations made by scholars on the role of festivals in general for contemporary urban life: Whether the concept of "festival time" is placed in the first or second societal model [social or urbanized]. A Mexicano/Chicano owned and directed management business in its infancy that focuses on Mexicano/Chicano cultural arts has little economic. To realize the import of this organization in the planning stages. etc. One of the business owners admitted to contemplating a much smaller event as a trial to prove the feasibility of the proposed larger event and therefore answer the project's most severe critics. These two major obstacles proved daunting to this arts management company in what had been several years of planning. two things need to be understood: 1. quality of lights and sound equipment. or political influence among art management organizations. No one believed that a mariachi festival based in Austin. Part of his motivation for launching a major festival was his discontent with what he felt had been substandard public presentations of the mariachi tradition. it implies the same event: a break with everyday life. Indirectly. 2. Texas would be a financial success. social. that to do so would have compromised certain professional standards (venue.). however. Members of the company admitted that they had almost given up many times trying to gain the necessary support from the business community and various public institutions. and the managers of public facilities. business. .

official invitations were extended to various political figures and prominent citizens from throughout the greater . An invitation was extended and accepted by "Little Joe" of "Little Joe y la Familia. This historical theater is located on Congress Street in downtown Austin. Ray Charles. to the right you will find the State Capitol building. The event was proposed to communicate.).182 inversion of rules and roles. etc. As you step out from the front doors. Organizers were dedicated to choosing someone whom they felt represented a high level of achievement and maturity not only in the mariachi tradition but for Mexicano/Chicano musical arts in general. The organizers felt that his community standing and musical accomplishments would further mark this as an auspicious occasion through his presence. that mariachi "had arrived" in Austin in not only reaching a certain standard of performance but also in having maintained that level over the course of many years. Furthermore. The Paramount Theater was selected as the most appropriate venue. This was indeed an event perceived by its progenitors as unique and having the historymaking potential to affrrm Mexicano cultural identity for its positive aspects against negative cultural stereotypes." His role in the Chicano movement and longevity as a successful Chicano musician proved to be the key aspects of why he was chosen. having played host to a range of activities (Le. For similar reasons. for example) or it can reinforce the cohesion of the institutional system (as in the traditional rural community) (MesniI1987:189). among other things. The reaffirmation can be of an oppositional nature (folk culture in the Middle Ages. the negation of certain values. All aspects of the planning of the event reflected those beliefs. it has a universal and cosmic aspect insofar as it allows a "revitalization" expressed through the "birth-death-resurrection" theme seen in the analyses by Bakhtin and Eliade. the Tibetan monks). Many of the musicians involved expressed that mariachi had for so long been a part of the cultural arts in Austin that it was past time for its importance to be acknowledged in a public setting. The choice of the main speaker and MC for the evening was especially critical. The Paramount functions as one of the culturally elite nerve centers for the area.

S. I noted that approximately fifteen people were turned away within a half hour observation. especially in Spanish language journals and periodicals as well as promotionals through Spanish language radio and television. at times (in the opinions of some mariachi observers) bordered on the ridiculous for their enthusiasm. They enjoy the finest complement of musicians. people who had not known tickets were not available were turned away at the box office. The performance was sold out within days of tickets becoming available. and been accorded national honors. However. critics conceded that their inclusion also signaled that Austin mariachi had indeed arrived if it could hold the stage with such a world class ensemble. The San Antonio group chosen is one of the approximately five U. leadership. elite show groups that have been internationally recognized for their achievements.183 Austin area. and routinely exhibit the highest levels of musicianship. On the evening of the performance. These elite groups are the rare exceptions who pursue mariachi as a full-time profession. . Their return to the state marked an important event and the coverage for the festival benefited greatly because of their participation. instruments. In addition. therefore. was doing comparatively little performing within Tejas. This orientation also clearly explains why the organizers made a somewhat controversial decision in highlighting not only two local Austin mariachi groups but one San Antonio group. The decision was to prove extremely successful. The reviews in the major English language newspapers were highly favorable and. Many of the groups have performed for various presidents. especially given that the ensemble (with its performance demands) had been increasingly out of residence and. The festival was indeed a far greater financial and cultural success than even the principal organizers had anticipated. It was difficult to ascertain an accurate number. royalty. The organizers made the decision to "hedge their financial bets" in bringing in an ensemble that they knew could unequivocally generate a large audience. while standing outside of the venue3S about an hour and a halfbefore performance time.

During the summer of 1994 at Plaza Garabaldi in Mexico City. Current trends in the United States reflect an emergent position for women as they become increasingly represented not only as instrumentalists.S. despite excellent musicianship. is still regarded as a kind of novelty group. It is difficult to speak of exact figures. From past work with Southwestern mariachi school programs. Women's Entry into the Professional Ranks One of the most noticeable aspects regarding recent changes in professional. has been the emergence of women. In general.Mariachi Reyna (the queens) that was recently founded and. but it seems that these perceptions for professional U. the writers clearly showed their naivete about some finer aspects of mariachi performance. among the largest. but as composers and directors as well. I worked closely with the permanent singer and only female member of the Mariachi de Marina. conferences and workshops.184 As several musicians noted. They expressed that performance opportunities for women held greater potential in all aspects of mariachi performance. however.S. groups frequently included women instrumentalists on a permanent basis.the main exception being an all-women's group based in Southern California.S. sometimes referred to as show mariachis. most financially successful groups. as the female singer or cantante. In . these musicians maintained that one of the primary differences between U. contemporary mariachi expression in the U. including even that of the woman's most traditional role in mariachi. male musicians dominate the ranks to the almost total exclusion of women.S mariachi expression have some basis. I have found women and young girls well-represented among these amateur or semi-professional musicians. and Mexican mariachi was that U. though with some very important qualifiers.

but we have already seen how lyrical content (Chapter ill) can provide the departure point for a mariachi performance practice that is exceedingly context-sensitive in how people are relating to one another as they produce mariachi's social meaning in actual lived practice. . but rather as two points along a continuum that can perhaps be partially magnetized to pull social expression and practice to one side or another in a given moment. It is on the basis of these observations and views expressed to me by musicians (both male and female) that I have begun to understand how women's presence in mariachi is created. the number of female participants decreases the farther one travels up the comparative rankings of the semi-professional and professional groups. The binaries do not function as mutually exclusive relationships. In this sense. defined. the polarities and dualities are never clear. it has been noted that specific sessions at some mariachi conferences and workshops have been initiated by senior women mariachis in part as a mentorship process for younger women professionals. It requires little effort to uncover the patriarchal strictures that these apparent gender ideologies imbue. This conception also centralizes how expressions can simultaneously engender elements of seemingly contradictory polarities. This is particularly true in figuring out how women's presence as musicians in mariachi is socially constructed. maintained and changed on the grounds of conflicting ideologies. The duality may exist on the level of lyrical content. But what exactly can be done beyond constructing women's patriarchal oppression as a kind of artificial binary opposition (Solie 1993: 1-20)? Materials presented thus far might be interpreted as validating a binary oppositional relationship between men and women as socially constructed beings. In addition.185 addition.

Austin mariachi groups frequently borrow musicians from other groups to meet the personnel needs for a certain playing opportunity." While these statements are clearly meant to validate women's presence in mariachi. During the course offield research. the first Austin Mariachi Espectacular concert sold-out the venerable down-town Paramount Theater. A mariachi newsletter for the Southwest was founded and. as has been previously mentioned. For example: "Well. both as a practice and as a perceived art form. it was not unusual to learn that from week to week certain groups had re-formed or that particular musicians had left one group for another. "we have had some good women musicians on the violin". Recall in the discussion of the filial base ensemble that the daughter trumpet player needed special encouragement and support in order to be successful. the language portrays the nuances of these highly gendered spaces.no matter man or woman". of only playing guitar when an ensemble is "short a player" is also equally illuminating. one group in particular is important for .186 Even among male musicians who are willing to accept women as instrumentalists. The limited opportunities a woman faces. Within the Austin mariachi community. This general time of change was marked by younger musicians who wanted to improve the state of mariachi performance. "she sings mostly though sometimes she'll play guitar when we're short a player. In addition. they also simultaneously and contrarily illustrate unequal acceptance of women in all spheres ofmusicianship?6 Their value-laden expression reveals the contours over the expectations of what roles they may occupy. of course a good violinist or singer is good. there have oflate been many changes in the mariachi community. for example. Within Austin. of course.

187 noting the changing role of women. Carmen's participation in mariachi symbolized this cultural pride through involvement with a long standing tradition. Elida stated that she felt the school orchestra program was not able to address her daughter's musical needs. Her daughter Carmen became interested in music and learned the violin beginning in school orchestra programs. deemed by the others as the best and certainly the longest in existence (as previously discussed). By the time Carmen reached high school age. she had become interested in learning how to play some kind of Mexican music. Each mariachi has one main manager or leader and may keep as many as ten players on call. she even had difficulties assuming what should have been one of her most accepted roles. This particular mariachi is unique in that it is the only group under a woman's management leadership. when Carmen . that of a singer. Because Carmen was not openly accepted. Elida emphasized that she felt she had taught her children that they had a great deal to be proud of as Mexican-descent people. For Elida. One of the important considerations for moving the family from one part oftown to another was that Carmen would be able to participate in a local high school mariachi program. One group." The other three groups have women instrumentalists and one ensemble has a female music director and composer. This inconsistency was laid bare during the first taping session. immigrated to the United States as a young woman. is resistant to accepting women on a permanent basis. Her director encouraged her to improve her violin skills and begin expanding her singing capabilities. EIida37. The problems began when Carmen sought to continue mariachi performance within the local professional ranks. this mariachi's director and manager. The leader clearly states that "it's traditional that only men play.

She does not really sing or play an instrument. many audience members wait expectantly for her to burst into song sometime during the evening. indeed its very existence.188 exhibited skill and poise as a particularly fine ranchera singer. Consequently. traditionalism."It's traditional that only men play. The position of this mariachi. In a telling analysis of the assumptions connected with women's roles in mariachi. it wasn't long before she decided to seize the earliest possible opportunity to begin their own mariachi group.38 As Elida revealed. public presentation. she can often be found standing in the middle of a mariachi ensemble directing with her body. women's entry into the professional mariachi ranks. By locating the discussion within issues of professional community. They negotiate tradition-bound strictures that are naturalized in an appeal to an historical past that makes them appear timeless and enduring. a nod to the side and a continual monitoring of the performance situation in making repertoire selections that seem most appropriate. I have tried to show that intersecting issues of nationalism. ethnicity and gender are ." We have viewed mariachi as a social practice in its performative expression involving musicians and audience participants. Acceptance for this mariachi within the broader mariachi community has been strained at times.hand motions to the rhythm and melody sections. motivations. points to the inequitable power relationships that exist for women as they seek to control their own cultural production as musicians. even among the male managed groups. in the performance context. race. increased visibility. The competitive edge for a finite number of engagements leaves little room for even-handed acceptance. Elida's direction of the group is seen in local circles as somewhat unusual.

The internal contradictions explored are not social puzzles in need of solutions. mariachis have included musical arrangements of every thing from musica clasica (overture to Franz Von Suppe's [1819-1895] The Poet and the Peasant).. In recent commercial productions. rather. The question is not whether women experience these strictures. She regularly performs as a solo singer while accompanying herself on guitar at a local Mexican restaurant. having learned this general approach. their responses are unique. In addition to the traditional boleros. She is particularly well-known for her renditions of Loretta Lynn (Le. takes no small delight in referencing . Maria. has chosen to circumvent some of the difficulties faced by female mariachi performers by inventing a different performative context. but rather how they create within them and become active agents." "You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man") and Patsy Cline songs. they highlight how as a whole they collective define a performative plane that forms a coherency in the act of a performative statement in daily practice. herself a product of the Austin mariachi high school program (her father teaches the classes). sones. As such. she is able to perform within the mariachi tradition with a greater degree of control over her own musical expression. huapangos.189 mutually constitutive. Maria. She states that she enjoys performing those songs and identifies with these women solo singers as strong performance figures. While the experiences of women who inhabit this performative plane within the Austin mariachi community may be similar. "Honky Tonk Girl. Mariachis frequently cite the genre's flexibility and long-standing tradition of incorporating different musics. she regularly includes her own compositions as well as drawing upon other musical sources. to renditions of Glenn Miller and Beach Boys standards (Mariachi Sol de Mexico). etc.

190 the fact that she enjoys drawing upon Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline to "poke" at mariachi traditionalism that constructs it as a male dominated sphere. and a relaxed atmosphere predominate. I cannot help but think that musical theoretical analysis that seeks to explain multi-layered meanings in social practice has a bit of catching up to do with the Maria Castros of the world-. During an evening in a local Mexican restaurant. this restaurant is of the kind where day workers will frequently take their meals and where families on a restricted budget will dine.her dress evokes the appearance of La Cantante in its bright colors. another predominantly Mexican neighborhood with only a slightly better reputation than East Austin. . Located in South Austin. Spanish flair and bits of lace. A flower draws up her hair and her bouncing steps click the ends of two-inch heels as she sings it "will be over my dead body" that another woman will take her man. she is the featured musician. Good food in generous quantities. reasonable prices.

The area is also host to many community events and celebrations. whose popularity soared on both sides of the border among Mexican descent and Spanish speaking populations during the 1940s and 50s. Access can also be gained by buildings on the Riverwalk that can be entered and exited at street or river level. The narrative offers rich testimony to the musical life to be found (Strachwitz 1993). The waterways are accessible by entryways from the street with footpaths alongside most of the water edges. clave). It was these missed opportunities that seemed to draw the . They could not agree upon the exact year when mariachi emerged in this form in Austin as a strong. Lydia Mendoza recounts how in the early 1930's her family came into the San Antonio area and immediately began performing as a musical group in the La Plaza de Zacate (Haymarket Plaza) as the mercado was then known as an open air affair. 3 4 Mexican mestizo musical ensemble group associated with the Jarocho region. group directors. The area remains a popular tourist attraction with its many shops. My mother recounts how the group traveled to the Central California Valley playing for large dances and concerts where "everyone" would go. One of the ensembles was even awarded a National Endowment for the Arts music heritage grant. local force. Boats cruise the waterways with tours and evening dinner packages. and aficionados interviewed defined modern. 6 Since Austin is the state capital. An example of these groups would be the trio Los Panchos. She was referring primarily to the Mexican migrant farmworker population of that time period. However. there was agreement that the contemporary expression of local. the evening Serenata (serenade) given by groups participating in the annual mariachi conference and workshops in the San Antonio municipal auditorium is a favorite event. professional mariachi as a fairly recent phenomenon. 2 The Riverwalk is the series of waterways that exist underneath the city streets and are open to the sky through a network of bridges. Some of the distinguishing hallmarks cited were the formation of professional organizations and social networks wherein the ensemble was approached as a business venture. urban. professional groups is well-known and respected in the state and the region for its professionalism and musicianship. This string group usually includes regional guitar-like instruments and harp. there are often opportunities for state sponsored performance opportunities. They are often clearly distinguished by their regional dress of white shirt and pants with a woven hat. S Mexican trios of the kind where there are usually 2-3 guitarists who sing in close harmonies.191 Notes to Chapter V 1 The individual mariachi musicians. congas. mall and even hotel connected to it. The groups can be augmented by Cuban style percussion (Le. Groups strategically placed all along the Riverwalk play throughout the evening. restaurant. gUiro. In terms of mariachi.

In much the same way. Implied in the "pick-up" phrase is some valuative judgment as to the ensemble's musical ability and execution. East Coast.192 harshest criticism in that the public exposure was especially notable. when a new musician comes to town or is perhaps thinking of visiting another city. and most probable. the majority of the person's mariachi training has been in Mexico. I've chosen to refer to them anonymously in the interest of preserving some confidentiality. that there are mariachi ensembles active in parts of the South. I have preserved some confidentiality for ethical considerations.especially for those instances where comments of a sensitive nature are communicated. Because the ensemble does not sustain a fixed membership. It has a regular standing arrangement for tips and food at a local taqueria (taco) place. press coverage in Austin and state newspapers. greens. groups and individuals are not referred to by their real names. anyone familiar with the mariachi community within Austin can easily identify these groups. 7 Throughout this chapter. For example. Florida. In particular. traverses state and international boundaries. they do not pursue a rigorous rehearsal schedule and depend upon the ability of the given members to learn quickly and be very familiar with a large repertoire. 10 11 In this context. Mexican national refers to an individual born and primarily raised in Mexico. and Northwest. Mexico. Sometimes the individuals involved will only know one another through an intermediary or even not at all. in many cases. employs Mariachi Cobre as a permanent component of their world cultures area. the first contacts most likely made to ease the transition will be other mariachis in the area. 9 From the descriptions that follow. mariachis consider themselves a community that. and blues are for the most part also considered 13 . Walt Disney World in Orlando. 8 The local parlance calls this ensemble a "pick-up" group because its membership is continually in flux. Olga Najera-Ramierez spoke extensively on the patria (social relations acknowledging a common home country and heritage) at the 1996 Seventh International Conference on Latino Cultures in the United States in Taxco. riding. and other ranch skills). VIrtually any urban area with Mexican decent people and/or a Latino population would be a possible home to these groups. It is possible. Browns. My research has focused on groups in the Southwest and the Midwest. grays. The group is led by two individuals who are the consistent members.Le. Although all the individuals involved welcomed the opportunity to be identified. formed between people involved in charra (a Mexican tradition of roping. 12 Many musicians and audience members consider black to be the most traditional color for the traje.

20 Mr. . 18 A high-pitched cry that. 14 In this case. encouragement. especially associated with some of the larger show groups. that are considered unusual. He noticed that one of the women seemed particularly moved by a bolero he was singing at the time and could see her "come to life" as she sung along. fictitious names are used for issues of privacy. Pena later elaborated that his comments recognized a long and prominent history of Western classical music on Mexican culture. he would have the ensemble break into a version of some dance piece like ''EI Jarabe Tapatio" to catch the couple "off guard.193 somewhat common. The bajo sexto was the bass instrument in his family's conjunto ensemble. the emphasis is on "beautiful singing. Z had recently retired from his job and had been devoting more time to the development of the group in preparation to handing it over to the leadership of his children. the mariachi ensemble is 22 required to move around the venue ensuring that all patrons are equally exposed to the music. in this context." He laughed as he recalled that some of the young women who knew how to dance to that kind of fast paced music would pick up their skirts and begin zapateado steps (intricate stamping dance patterns). In addition. or some other strong emotion relating to the dynamics of performance. praise. It should be explained that in restaurant contexts of this kind. Z recounted a favorite technique he had for wedding receptions in particular. in a rotating fashion. Mr. 19 Mr. Z further elaborated by recounting a time when they were performing in a retirement home. went to her on bended knee and remained there for the rest of the song as he saw her tears begin to flow. Mr. signifies extreme delight." IS 16 17 Again. CA. It is a 12 string guitar-like instrument with six double courses. in the mariachi performance context. 1997. it is worth noting that this styles incorporates such technical stylistic expressions as vibrato and falsetto as part of that influence. The adoption of such a vocal style for a traditional music is related to that fact. At an opportune moment. 21 At the time of this interview. Personal communication during a mariachi rehearsal in Fresno. Z. he would have the ensemble play the expected vals (waltz). At the traditional first dance for the bride and groom. Indeed. confianza is a sense of mutual trust developed in reciprocal relations marked by a deep sense of loyalty and generosity. like pink: or bright reds or oranges. at a series of tables. while playing the guitar. a word or phrase may immediately precede or follow further expressing sentiments behind this expression. There are a few colors. They pause only briefly in stopping. Besides this vocalization.

31 The phrase literally means "on the heel. The speaker further elaborated that such behaviors as drinking or smoking while working was especially not permitted in that group. 26 Inclusive of university. In the case of this specific establishment. An informal restaurant whose main food is tacos made out of various kinds of meat. I was told to avoid that area of the city at all costs. I do recall that one of his closing points was that these . 23 It is well worth noting that many musicians stressed this point in interviews as a way to garner respect for Mexican culture and people of Mexican descent in general. patrons are primarily from working class or lower-middle class backgrounds. 32 33 "very low-class" An illustrative point of how this predominantly Mexicano area of Austin is constructed was the concern expressed by colleagues when they learned I was considering renting a home in this area. Several individuals specifically cited the ability of mariachi to work against cultural stereotypes where Mexicans are portrayed as ill-educated. high school. and even elementary school programs. a musician referred to what he had seen as far as more than one of this ensemble's members were missing parts of the decorations worn on the pants. the Spanish word elementos was used to refer not only to individuals as musicians but also to their broader roles within the ensemble. He also communicated to me that a young man from Peru had come to Plaza Garabaldi to study guitarron. 29 30 During an interview." It is a mariachi term in common usage for groups who wander from establishment to establishment and are paid by the piece. college. 24 2S In the language used to describe these relationships. and lazy. The price of an average plate is comparatively inexpensive to most sit-down restaurants. I interviewed a mariachi leader whose group had recently returned from a two year stay in Peru. the term "Mexican national" refers to someone born and primarily raised in Mexico. oflow intelligence. 34 Due to technical difficulties during this interview (ran out of tape). 27 For the purposes of this context. middle school. the speaker's final assessments were lost. 28 While conducting research at Plaza Garabaldi in Mexico City. Patrons make specific requests and pay an agreed upon price for each song performed.194 A musician from another group used that phrase to characterize this group during an interview.

the saddest part of these stereo-types was the degree to which "our own people" had learned to believe them. Again. 36 37 38 Ranchera refers to a song type that invokes a particular singing style where the meaning and emotion of the lyrics take precedence over allover musical considerations in its declamatory approach. Singers speak of good ranchera singing as the hallmark of a mature singer of traditional Mexicano musics (see Peiia 1999b for an in-depth discussion of the ranchera). the names used do not reflect the true identity of these women. See Peiia 1999a for similar examples in orquesta and conjunto musics. . 3S I had been sent across the street by the organizers to photograph the theater's outdoor marquee that announced the event.195 stereotypical interpretations of Mexican people were by no means only a part of social expression within primarily non-Mexican majority groups but also among some Mexican descent people as welL In his estimation.

charro trajes for the young men. these chapters have sought to show the diversity reflected in musical expression as a critical engagement of ethnic identity. not unexpectedly. The thoughts and emotions shared with me throughout the course of this research have not been limited to viewing mariachi as a fully welcomed source of knowledge. commercial 196 .CHAPTER VI POR LO MENOS (AT THE VERY LEAST) Far from presenting a picture of how mariachi is pursued as a unified social practice. These non-supportive sentiments are indeed in the minority but they also provide a distinct perspective and collection of ideas relevant to our current study. Their dress does include regional dresses for the women. organicl folkloric expressions within an urban context engender elements of both organic use and commodified forms. and history within an urban context. These may seem harsh critiques but they are as much part of mariachi practice as those views that uphold it as a vital part of Mexican descent culture.Le. there have been individuals equally concerned that mariachi makes a statement (a negative statement) that illustrates how far removed Mexican descent communities are from having the ability to leave behind seemingly anachronistic expressions based on romantic ideals of an historical past. traditionalism. and. Texas. mariachi as the musical accompaniment. On the contrary. society is not forced to deal with the neo-colonial socioeconomic realities of contemporary life. Their very existence support the issue of intra-ethnic diversity and the subtext that potent. The narrator in the Jeremy Marre film about the Southern Texas borderlands makes note of an annual parade in San Antonio. The observation is that by relying on these "comfortable" folkloric images of Mexican descent people. where Mexican descent people show themselves in "safe" ways.

The varied critical responses to mariachi cover a wide spectrum that varies from total rejection to a modified engagement where mariachi problemataics are addressed as an invitation to create solutions and adapt it to a changing social aesthetic.that's what they are. these are indeed some of the negative stereotypes against which contemporary practitioners must work. they exist as highly mediated folkloric expressions that are then subject to the ideologies competing with one another to define their character and social meaning." His comments were not unique in referring to some of the negative qualities associated with mariachis. etc. As already amply discussed in previous chapters.talavera. 2 As he was later to admit. One of his female shop workers rolled her eyes and shrugged somewhat helplessly while the gentleman continued to outline the shortcomings of mariachi as a profession. They look ridiculous with those pants. large scale mariachi concert shows. He went on to recount how he thought mariachis were some of the worst representatives of Mexican culture because they were "drunkards" and "chased women. with the silver all down their [pant] legs." The speaker in an artisan's market in Puebla. As a shopkeeper in the artisan market. he deals with all kinds of tourists who come to the region specifically to see the talavera works and purchase examples from many shops throughout the artisan market and other parts of the city. Mexico. What was perhaps somewhat surprising about this speaker was that he was a shop owner specializing in Puebla style ceramics-. As such. They have lost his respect as a traditional cultural expression because they cater to foreign . The market in which he was located is wholly dedicated to what are considered Mexican folk arts traditions. Criticisms of the Tradition "Ridiculous-. looked incredulous as I revealed that my current trip to Mexico was to study mariachis. many of his perceptions about mariachis had to do with they ways in which musicians engage people who are primarily tourists.197 recordings.

This has everything to do with the context in which it is displayed. . mariachi performance is sometimes rejected on the basis that it gives too public an ethnic identity. 4 In a related manner. Even the most financially successful can be seen as only aspiring to middle class. It was completely unexpected and I was pretty embarrassed.198 ideas of Mexican culture so that they're mostly "for show. They came to my school and they came up to serenade me as I was leaving school with my friends. (52 year old beautician born and raised in Southern California and mother of three children) This speaker went on to relate how she felt at that time that the music was "old fashioned" music that her parents listened to or that "Spanish stuff' they played around the house. She had been more interested in Motown music and rock and roll music. I went to a mostly white high school and I was so embarrassed! Looking back at it now I know it wasn't good to be ashamed of who I am but at the time I went home and cried because it made me different in front of all my peers at a time when being Mexican was something that I didn't want people to know because in those days Mexicans weren't thought very much of. Part of his animosity was based on a class interpretation of them being ill mannered and somewhat undependable. 3 The shopkeeper (from other comments) clearly saw himself from a "better" social class than mariachi musicians." It is true that most tourists I met readily identified mariachi music as a Mexican tradition while knowing very little else about the arts in Mexico. The shopkeeper's objections had more to do with the fact that he believed the images presented had less to do with what Mexicans defined as their culture as what had been developed in relation to the tourist trade. It should also be mentioned that within Mexico mariachi professionals are primarily working class.s Other speakers recounted ambivalent relationships with the tradition due to such things as linguistic considerations. My parents hired this [mariachi] group. It's not as enjoyable to me. She has since then come to appreciate mariachi music but still feels it's not a part of her own musical upbringing or history. I like the music but because I don't understand Spanish very well I don't really understand much of what they're saying.

but a shared cultural space enlivened by cultural investments in mariachi musical expression. these speakers challenge how we incorporate broad experiences in even anything that seems so narrowly defined as U.S. I would sometimes hear mariachi in restaurants or when a cousin of mine was married.199 And sometimes when I hear it . Cultural issues concerning . racialized class distinctions depend upon the maintenance of power. or the politics of language. it reminds me of my grandpa. I really don't seek it out. Whether it is issues of international identity. We really didn't have much music around the house. Even within populations that can be said to be supportive of mariachi. social peer pressure. Presenting negative responses and juxtaposing them against some of the more prevalent attitudes contained in the whole of this work illustrates not a contradictory or spurious relationship between ethnic identity. His parents had come to Michigan looking for better working conditions. Perhaps one of the areas for which this is most critical is machismo and its relationship to mariachi performance. Though linguistic considerations are the first mitigating circumstances the speaker cites. and history. When I hear it. it is not the sole reason for his ambivalence. diverse engagement that sees discrepancies between what is presented and what is actually fully engaged. It is equally a matter of personal associations with difficult memories in how he was enculturated as a mariachi listener. I know what it is but I really don't know much about it. He grew up in a middle class neighborhood with primarily white families. wealth. Yet another perspective offered is from someone who simply has limited knowledge. traditionalism. and full participation (or lack thereot) within a given society. it makes me a little sad. much less Mexican music. He loved this music always listening to it and singing at the top of his voice so that we heard him allover [the house]. there still remains active. (paralegal in Michigan) This speaker went on to express some regret over how much he hadn't been exposed to as far as his Mexican heritage. The U. based speakers also delineate the politics of representation where traditionally underrepresented groups share neocolonial positions of disenfranchisement. based urban mariachi.S. They majority of his relatives are still located in Texas. In all cases.

the role of women mariachis has its own contentions among mariachi professionals and women's general treatment in the profession. easy access to gender issues on this level can make for poor social analysis. I enjoy performing. While most male mariachis will openly identify a distinct . One has also only to recall popular portrayals of Latin "hotness" or "spiciness" in things like Latin music dance forms such as salsa or merengue.i. maybe hold her hand but that's it. I'm very proud of what I do and for a love song I'll pick a pretty girl in the audience and focus on her.. I'm careful to be respectful..e... Getting into that singing role of being almost like this super male is kind ofan ego boost . the Latin lover and embodied hypersexualities (Le. mariachi contributes what can be referred to as silent or opaque narratives. We [mariachis] already have this reputation of getting around with the ladies . Musicians and aficionados are well acquainted with gendered spaces that shape musical expression. this young speaker specifically identifies key tensions that inform male performance practices. Charro. I keep respectful of who she is . Mariachi does articulate "out loud" gendered ideologies through such things as lyrical content and dress.200 machismo and Mexican descent culture are replete with popular images expressed through a variety of ethnic stereotypes. and Ricky Martin) for both men and women. especially if she is with her family or maybe a boyfriend..than-life imageries easily mask underlying gendered spaces that articulate what is critically at stake in mariachi as a social practice. Machismo in Performance As was briefly explored in the previous chapter. In one sense. never do anything to embarrass her or touch her inappropriately or anything like that. Within these gender ideologies. There is yet another aspect to these dynamics in how gendered relationships shape mariachi practice for both men and women. Antonio Banderas. if my own girlfriend is in the audience then I make sure I sing to her first! (19 year old male college student and mariachi professional) Interestingly.. The difficulty is that these larger.

"sang me under the table. sisters.our mujeres [wives. Sometimes I do feel like I go "over the top. Though retired for over twenty years she. " You can take that macho stuff too far." Of particular issue was that the woman had clearly out sung him in the matter of the falsetto notes held for extended lengths. When this speaker "lost" this musical standoff. they equally point out how limiting those roles can be. We play with those images. this was something of an acute loss since musical skill is often a source of great pride. The hallmark of the masculine rendition is both the strength and quality in how the male voice executes the falsetto. the "tables were turned" on him. He recounted that he picked a woman in her early 50s who. You have to have that confidence. The assumption is that unless a musician is somehow . girlfriends] wouldn't let us get away with it! (36 year old male hardware worker and mariachi professional) This speaker also related how during a rendition of "La Malagueiia" (The Woman from Malaga. in his words. Mariachis will frequently choose a female audience member to sing this song to as the lyrics speak of various feminine attributes. had been a former singer in the ranchera tradition. The meaning of the jokes centered on the fact that the roles in the song had been "reversed. You have to to get the style right. mothers. Spain). Faithfully executing a performance depends upon proper musical style and overall musical technique." He was then subject to continuous teasing from ensemble members the rest of the evening and almost every time he would sing this piece for some time afterwards. he lost some of his male prominence for the evening. I don't believe that a lot of those things you know where the man's word is law or you drown your sorrows [in alcohol] because you've lost the love of a good woman or this woman has betrayed you are really as much a big part of mariachi as some compaiieros [companions/friends] make it. It's not like most of us believe those ideas.201 empowerment in both the performing style and the lyrical content (which reinforce one another). In the mariachi realm. ''La Malagueiia" is typically sung by a man. She had sung with mariachis in a professional setting for many years. as it turned out. The gendered expectation had been "disturbed" and it was lost on the basis of his skills not meeting this test.

While conducting video research with her ensemble at an Austin. she observes the audience and makes small body gestures to regulate such things as tempo. and in/sub version of power relations. Typically.7 double entendre. repetition. women contend with a much different performance dynamic. Her male counterparts in the local area have noted her non-participation as a musician and sometimes use this as a criticism against her prominence as a mariachi leader. dress in a full traje as she frequently appears alongside the ensemble. as she seemed poised to begin singing. mariachi directors are instrumentalists and singers as well as music directors who select repertoire and oversee rehearsals.202 indicated as fulfilling an apprenticeship role. The criticisms highlight her role within the performance context. Several people who have viewed this and other tapes have had similar expectations. It is one based on the cultural rewriting oftexts. Her presentation conflicts with a number of mariachi identified performance concepts. In addition to being not fully accepted as musicians or in roles of musical leadership. more an exception than the rule. A telling example is that of a female mariachi director. I initially focused the camera on her. The difficulty is that she is creating a new performance role that is not generally accepted in contemporary practice. No one is ready to dispute that mariachi is a male dominated realm (yet)8. restaurant. they are not the major determinants of its basis. Texas. This is especially true for female musicians since they must prove they have the musical talent to merit inclusion. Her musical participation is limited to an occasional chorus. She does. Though these particular elements can be understood to influence male performance. and volume. however. 6 he/she must perform with a high degree of skill. She does take an active role in determining repertoire choice in the performance context in reading the audience and determining what repertoire will be most welcomed. One concept is that each musician standing with the ensemble in performance . Instead of participating in a singing role. This female director does not play an instrument or participate consistently as a vocalist.

Her ensemble is in direct competition with other ensembles in the area and is one of the most consistently employed within the community. 9 The male directors know one another and though they admit a certain level of competition between themselves. It has also not escaped local review that she runs one of the most financially successful ensembles. This is especially critical in the Austin. she has no previous performance experience as a musician. Under these concepts. Though this can similarly be said for networks of women in other contexts for comadre relationships. they also stand together over such issues as working conditions. getting families together for celebrations. or holiday fiestas. i. her directorship position appears questionable. in this context. A third concept in direct conflict with her directorship is the general invocation of compadrazo. These can also have certain social implications as well for time spent outside professional venues.e.203 be an active participant through at least one instrumental role and some singing. In what musicians speak of in the most desirable terms. this is critical to fulfilling basic instrumentation when a job becomes available at a time not possible for everyone in the ensemble. . Another concept is that the directorship position is generally earned through seasoning in a variety of ensembles and performance contexts. TX. Within a working ensemble. community where members pursue other full-time work positions. comadre networks are not part of mariachi contemporary practice in the same way. The stakes are indeed high where Austin groups not only compete with one another but also with some of the many groups based in San Antonio. These relationships are complexly intertwined with professional relationships that emerge during the practice of mariachi. Her entrepreneurial skills are by far her strength in the directorship position. they have more to do with reciprocal relations built between male directors. These compa or "cousin" relationships can have blood relation implications but. barbecues. Although this female director has a long history as a mariachi aficionada as a listener. performance participants should have the ability to handle a variety of instruments within the ensemble.

Lucha Moreno) that echo through emergent vocalists like Tatiana Bolanos and Nydia Rojas ll where women's roles and participation are affirmed. "to speaking her mind. In a related aspect. She hopes that her continued success will open more opportunities for women in mariachi performance and directorships. In the current mariachi community. she has recreated the position as one based primarily on entrepreneurial acumen and familiarity with the tradition as a female listener. Her skills as an active listener allow her to identify parts that aren't "quite right" and defer to her music director to address the problem. Within these dynamics. her ensemble enjoys comparatively excellent financial success and is. her directorship style is objectionable for its departure from the norm but also the success she has enjoyed as a female director. though sometimes grudgingly." She has been especially vocal about highlighting how the majority of local groups employ primarily men when there are not insubstantial numbers of talented young women capable of assuming professional roles. In other words. it is primarily through the voices of legendary cantantes lO (Le. regarded as one of the more dependable groups. The expectation is that a female taking a prominent role in professional mariachi will. This female director has been excluded from these networks by virtue of her gender and her dedication. These professional networks among male directors also provide access to information for everything from potential joint performances to the best vendors for acquiring instruments and mariachi supplies. She is the only female mariachi director in the area and sees her gender as the issue that raises the sharpest criticism. The rationale is that she cannot possibly handle directorship duties without first proving her musical competency in the tradition. young. Even then. almost by definition. female singing sensation as the next prodigy. Aficionados are constantly looking for the next new. and an overall belief that mariachi is an important part of Mexican culture. the gendered voices that do find their ways into mariachi performance only occasionally acquiesce to the mode of centralized female representation where women control both content and meaning.204 professionalism. . Lucha Villa. Lola Beltran. as she states.

the award was given to a vocalist. critics have noted that these young women must negotiate powerful media corporations through which marketing. she was presented as having sung on national Mexican radio from age eleven and having been the recipient of numerous awards. Not insignificantly. college or university levels consistently include significant numbers of talented female instrumentalists. As the featured singer. The dedication included in the liner notes amply testifies to the critical role he played in her initial professional recording debut.205 do so as a vocalist. a competition evaluates groups in a variety of categories based on age and experience. females at the professional level . She was eventually discovered by Vicente and Alejandro Fernandez and has remained under their collective mentorship. As has been previously discussed. The San Antonio conference and workshops context also illustrates some inconsistencies in regards to female mariachi participation. and post-production remain a male centered industry. Not surprisingly. as her mentor for her first album released through Sony Discos. gaining a record contract with Sony Discos at age seventeen. however. especially at their relatively young ages. Nydia Rojas cites Jose Hernandez. a young woman from Jalisco was presented as "Azucena"12 in the final concert. As part of the conference. The emphasis on females as vocalists is striking when noting that participating groups at the elementary. publicity. Texas. contracts. A Best of Show was awarded to a female mariachi at the college or university level. middle/junior. Audiences focus on these young singers for their abilities to be musically wise beyond their years. support. At the fifth annual 1999 FordlLincoln Mercury Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza conference and workshops held in San Antonio. that they would indeed be subject to a variety of social and professional pressures within the recording industry. director of Mariachi Sol de Mexico. Selected winners participate in the final concert given by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan. It's not difficult to ascertain. Vocal quality (unique but powerful) and expressiveness (ability to promot~ lyrical content in nuanced ways) form a central part of these evaluations.

C. Her ensemble has become legendary for its musical execution. department of music chairperson. they were included in the final concert and given the honor of accompanying Azucena. Canada. It had won the college or university levels division so many times that their success had been taken as a forgone conclusion. Even though they had removed themselves from open competition. Female mariachi performance and participation are indeed marked by cultural rewriting of texts. Her work is consistently honored as among the very best for any mariachi educational endeavor. it is indeed a compliment to the UT Pan Am ensemble that they were so included.206 remain relatively few in numbers. She is reputed to be the director's model for university or college ensembles and is consulted for her expertise as well as experience. and Washington D. The continued success of her program means even higher goals that are consistently met so that many individuals regard the UT Pan American ensemble as a professional ensemble. The ensemble is internationally recognized as the best university or college level mariachi ensemble. it seems unlikely that this part can continue to be totally . They've performed in Mexico. Given that one of the major markers of an excellent professional ensemble is its ability to accompany and highlight guest vocalists at their best. An added irony is that this year the University of Texas. Though mariachi has yet to take full account and welcome into its history women's participation. double entendre.Pan American mariachi ensemble removed itself from open competition. and have produced a professional level CD recording. Dahlia Guerra. these examples show the multiple levels on which female participants have been successful. Despite adverse circumstances. It focuses its energies on how to rework these inequities so that they become partially diffused of their power to mitigate female participation. Their director and founder is Dr. The blossoming and political dimensions of their successes give ample evidence to what the future might hold. and caliber of talent attracted to the program and its mariachi scholarships. and in!sub version of power relations. overall style. This is borne out in the San Antonio context in that Mariachi Vargas has only male musicians.

Similartothesitesdonebyfemalemariachis. Their sites were used as prototypes for sites created after their initial work.com/and)thatincludeswomen. For the moment it seems. At the time of this writing. Women Mariachis and the Web Laura Sobrino and Xochitl Perez are two female mariachi professionals. 13 The site itself is known for highlighting not just singers .C. Supporting this view is the fact that women mariachi professionals are increasingly turning towards mediums that lend themselves well to addressing women's mariachi participation. The commercial aspects of this website are what separate it from the sites done by female mariachi professionals.201 denied from its place of prominence.A. Among these sites. In general.L. As previously mentioned. and musician. Mariachi groups affiliated with educational institutions are strongly featured as well as a variety of commercial sites dedicated to advertisement of professional ensembles. lecturer. which highlight more general information and a rewriting of mariachi history to include women's roles.mariachimusic.mariachi-publishing. it is the only site dedicated to women mariachis. Laura pursues a professional career as teacher. the work done by women mariachi professionals is recognized as making significant contributions to resources and general information. there can be found no small numbers of mariachi web sites. One of the most prominent venues has been the internet. One of more recent developments has been http://www. businessperson. Xochitl is pursuing graduate studies in education at D. the continued increasing participation of women and their professional abilities can only lead to a larger professional presence.shistory in mariachi and highlights Laura's Mariachi Publication Company as well as her historical role as a pioneering female mariachi professional.this site features updates on ensembles with the added categories ofa chat room and CDs for sale.com. They have combined their resources to create an on-line website (http://www. educator.

faces. The site emphasizes women as full participants and part of a longer historical narrative than that which is often told. one may custom order music scores and individual parts from a not insignificant library. This is one of the few times when photographs of all female Mexican mariachi groups prior to the 1940s are featured. and groups become part of the historical narrative The site also offers in memoriam a photo of the first known all women's U. the founding of the first mariachi and conference workshop in the U. she uses the Finale musical transcription program to make the best possible . Young women in the U. The site links to a section with more autobiographical information about Sobrino' s career and professional life. Also of no little significance is Laura Sobrino' s choice of regional wear during her pregnancy in lieu of a charro traje. the vast majority of women mariachis wear long skirts almost touching the ground with gala (silver decorations) running the length of each skirt side. Texas.S. Contemporarily. The recounting of women's participation in. in San Antonio. The names. and instrumentation from an informal interview with the person ordering the materials. The group died when part of the hotel in which they were performing collapsed. In this way. The overall effect is a multi-dimensional look at mariachi women professionals through the issue of dress. It is not generally known that U.S.S. The site shows women also wearing the regular traje pants with silver decorations. among other events. An historical retrospective of mariachi dress for women is also included. is well documented. She continued to perform well into her pregnancy. context. level of difficulty. professional mariachi group founded in Topeka Kansas. The Mariachi Publishing section is an integral part of Sobrino's work. Sobrino typically determines range.208 but many instrumentalists and all-women mariachi groups both in the U. and Mexico.S. From this site. groups went through several dramatic style shifts in traje de charro (charro suit) for women. Several photos show how skirt lengths changed and how there even developed modified mariachi "shorts" or hot pants worn by one woman. in particular are surprised to learn that their legacy goes much further back than the all female groups founded in a U.S.S.

a trained instrumentalist (violin). Of particular interest are a list of carefully selected mariachi reading resources. there is a section dedicated to mariachi education resources as well as an opportunity to register your group and get on the internet. She can be found regularly attending major mariachi conferences and workshops. Her site is known for its many links and attention to detail in keeping information current. Besides this open invitation to the mariachi community as a whole. In each . The sections outlined so far are perhaps not exceedingly remarkable. Similarly. In addition to an on-line ordering system and on-line catalog. The website includes photographs of her with respected mariachi professionals. The emphasis on conferences and workshops is clear and the intimate photographic portraits of professional participants makes for an almost virtual tour of what it might be like to attend an actual conference and workshop. especially for young people.mariachLorg) that is a clearinghouse for other on-line mariachi resources and credible historical resources.209 scores fitted to individual ensembles. A listing of mariachi classes and workshops and selected articles round out the information provided. there is a section dedicated to discussing the purposes behind mariachi transcriptions and their uses and why it matters who prepares them. She is a web "jefe. it's unlikely a person would have the financial resources to attend more than a few events on a yearly basis (if at all). Sylvia Rodriguez maintains the "Puro Mariachi" website (http://www. This is critical given that even if individuals do attend conferences and workshops.14 and computer systems manager with the Mattei corporation and has long been a dedicated mariachi aficionada and. the site is something of a pulse for contemporary practice and its major concerns. the site also reaches specifically to "mujeres mariachis" by linking to a chat room. The sight is designed with education in mind. both academic and more general newspaper and magazine articles. In this sense. IS Website visitors may access an international list of mariachi conferences and workshops. more recently.. What makes Sobrino's site unique is the degree to which she engages mariachi issues.

Le. The eclectic mix gives her page a personal quality that provides a kind of intimacy not often felt at such larger sites. The community created on these internet sources is a practical solution to minimal numbers offemale mariachi professionals who might not otherwise be as informed about one another and each other's activities. Networking potential is an asset that has only just begun to be explored. Rodriguez has selected a set of eclectic links suited to her own interests-. she closes the site by invoking a quote made famous by Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. How they respond to these situations in both performative and historical planes says much about their talents and capacity to create viable contexts for their own active participation. The cultural links section is more broadly defined. The music links focus on key figures and their recording activity and some general Latin music sources. It also allowed more senior members of the profession to openly .210 case. and the BMW Compass Start automobile. than to live on your knees . 16 A final section entitled "Other Links" is just that. It brought to the fore in an international forum some of the difficulties associated with female participation. "It is better to die on your feet. The interaction created by these websites was chiefly responsible for creating a special panel on women in mariachi at the Tucson." The website work by Sobrino and Rodriguez helps educate people about the tradition but also provides strong female perspectives from positions of authority. There are also a number of links to prominent mariachi figures and various mariachi ensembles with a U. the material is thoroughly reviewed before it is offered as a reputable source of information. Arizona.S. In case someone should forget her role and dedication in this kind of project.. The fact that these kinds of web sites exist help explain the mitigating circumstances female mariachi participants must address. California Lotto.. emphasis. the Kayak Store. These topics include everything from the website for the airlines Mexicana to a site concerning the folkloric figure la chupacabra. The overall effect is a site designed by a true aficionada who remains dedicated to mariachi's performance. mariachi conference and workshops. There are also music links and cultural links sections.

respected example from within the tradition. Some of the more intriguing aspects of the Sobrino website are updates detailing what women previously involved in mariachi are now doing. The panel also encouraged women in their efforts and confirmed that. altering the tradition. This promoted frank dialogue and practical advice for negotiating professional venues. memories. Anyone of the women involved in the creation of these web sites could be cited as a professional. photos and observations about mariachi and its impact on daily life. In creating on-line resources. even though they might be isolated in their own contexts on the individual level. These narratives also. It also reiterates their accomplishments and gives a perspective that allows review of how women's roles have changed. While each has distinct strengths and varying perspectives to share. women still suffer from persistent exclusion and lack of exposure. these women have connected with other women who have shared their stories. It's a narrative edged both by a sense of loss for those who have left the profession and hope for those who have continued over several decades. Although these narratives form an integral part of how people indeed identify the tradition.211 address young women at a variety of levels and ages. These two key elements are excluded from dominant mariachi narratives that trace musical dynasties based on all male Mexican ensembles and musical lineages through male filial relationships. more pervasively. from a less antagonistic perspective. Women's active participation and resources such as the web sites make clear . Some of the more sensitive issues such as how to handle sexual advances were openly discussed as well as more general issues concerning the lack of mariachi retirement plans or unions. they know and support each other realizing what they undertake may be seen as a threat by some while welcomed by others as a link in a long history that has been excluded from the mariachi historical narrative. provide the cultural basis for arguments that see women's participation as compromising or. The connection to a performative past gives a powerful link for contemporary female practitioners as it provides a legacy between themselves and those who came before them. they were not alone.

and institutional resources for newly founded projects. Though there may be more than few arguments between mariachi aficionados. East Chicago in Northwest Indiana and the University of Notre Dame both field respected ensembles in what people . it was not uncommon to learn of ensembles being founded or new educational programs and conferences and workshops being developed. Far from a comprehensive study. The complexities in claiming a Mexican ethnicity through a musical tradition in an urban context are highly mediated through such issues as gender. musicians.212 that the mantle of professional mariachi women's performance is being passed on to younger generations in the strong belief that their pathways will be less narrow and more open to what they may accomplish. however. urban contexts. community support. there can be little doubt as to the tradition's role as a highly visible performative expression in U.S. comparatively smaller communities in places like the Midwest support ensembles in growing numbers. means that it enjoys a high degree of visibility that will only increase in the immediate future. Its popularization as a symbol of Mexican national identity within the U.S. Throughout the course of research. the project presented several different contexts where mariachi plays significant roles in daily. Many readers of this work will likely be able to conjure images of mariachi performance based on experience. This is not surprising given that the thriving educational models in place make strong cases from which to argue for funding. Reconnecting them with their musical legacy is an important step in affirming their presence and encouraging their talents. race. and its critics as to the definition of mariachi and its social significance. and class. The Tradition Revisited These chapters have given but a brief glimpse of prominent venues where mariachi is pursued as a contemporary tradition. The majority of mariachi activity is centered in the Southwest and larger urban Latino communities. urban social life.

One . newspapers. It is a cultural citizenship complicated by the fact the Mexican descent people in U. actively suppressed. television.books. create a significant presence of which increasing account must be taken. focus on increasing numbers.S. mariachi performance addresses concepts of home. In creating alternative narratives and invoking other sources or bases of knowledge. the subtexts can cultivate both fear and fascination in relation to cultural production. The control of that narrative is the issue in considering how mariachi makes its contributions in light of these popular culture influences. in some respects.. traditionalism. ethnic identity. As millennial conversations about the emergence of Latino populations in the U. The role of the chalupa l7 chomping chihuahua of Taco Bell fame ("Drop the chalupa!") mayor may not be argued as detrimental to Mexican ethnicity from a variety ofperspectives.213 sometimes consider as unusual contexts by virtue of their location in a non-Southwest context. nationalism. ethnic identity. Mariachi's high degree ofvisibility coupled with strong cultural investment make it a critical place for historical and cultural linkages not easily made elsewhere or.S. and history that may not be similarly well addressed in mainstream sources of knowledge. films. Control over representations of Mexican cultural identities becomes a critical issue when faced with popular narratives that engage Mexican culture on the basis of cultural stereotypes. while not welcomed as full participants. and cultural roots in creating a sense of community and validating cultural citizenship. It's a role that can be marked as a painful process. gives a stronger presence to Latino identities and thus force issues into a more prominent community role. IN. Mariachi openly engages issues of Mexican nationalism. l8 What remains clear is that the pervasiveness of the image means that it has a place in the popular imagination ofMexicaness and the creation of a cultural narrative. The increased immigration of Mexican nationals into places like Bloomington. The founding of the Bloomington Latino Network this year is but one example of emergent community resources responding to perceived needs among this growing population. etc.

The organization also focuses on gaining legal status for these individuals as well. Though few details were provided in the local Herald Times newspaper. Ironically. Employees are normally encouraged to dress-up on the last day of work before Halloween. Management had learned a small number of employees had plans to come dressed as Mexicans. racist . Immigration laws are at the heart of these difficulties. it was clear that the renderings were of course going to be less than flattering. A frequently sited statistic is that the gap is too large between the $2 an hour labor cost in Mexico versus the $24 hour (including benefits) wage scale in Bloomington to satisfy company savings requirements (Werth 1999b). The results are community tensions that make their way into such recent incidents as the Halloween dress-up day at the General Electric factory. The restaurant owner realizes that undocumented workers feel "trapped" by their lack of resources to ensure payment and therefore takes advantage of this labor pool and its vulnerabilities. the increased visibility of Latinos has been coupled with the recent loss of jobs in a General Electric refrigerator manufacturing plant that will relocate jobs to Mexico to take advantage of cheap labor. Negotiations are in progress but GE's statement that over 65 million in savings is needed to save these Bloomington jobs has even the most optimistic residents seeing the loss as inevitable. This year's plans were cancelled. The difficulties are apparent in how Latinos pursue a presence in light of local economies and a pervasive sense of anger and loss on the part of working class predominantly white communities. Rather than face the fall-out from such activities. among other things. GE elected to cancel the activity. Approximately 1400 jobs of the plant 3200 total are slated to be lost in relocation to Mexico by July 2001 (Werth 1999a). GE took the opportunity to restate their position of not tolerating. English language courses and cultural events for children also form the core of their current activities. This is the second such move on the part of a major manufacturing plant in the area.214 of the current primary projects for this newly founded organization is focusing legal pro bono work on the problem of Mexican nationals not receiving payment for their labor in a Bloomington area restaurant.

and congestion were all cited by opponents. Priorto this. Complicating matters were local elections that saw the re-election of Mayor John Fernandez who has gone on record as favoring a veto of any resolution that falls in favor of interstate construction. however. One current hotly contested topic is the proposed interstate 69 construction through Bloomington. It does. however. issues of public access and multi-cultural education shape presentation dynamics. A recent conversation overhead in a local Wal-Mart tellingly called Mayor Fernandez "that Mexican" in expressing dissatisfaction with his efforts as mayor to preserve those jobs. The observation ofDia de Los Muertos (Day of the Deadio was celebrated in Indianapolis as a recognized feature of Indiana culture. it was the remarks attributed to several city council members stating that the thoroughfare would only bring Mexican drug trade into Bloomington that were highlighted in the local newspaper (Stinson 1999). In a pertinent example. in the upper Northwest region of the state. the public perception of his role in these local. bring to mind some questions about the overall atmosphere that would foster such possibilities. 19 It also within these racializing contexts that cultural production plays a critical role in redefining these images ofMexicaness. other civic issues (not unexpectedly) have become inflected with this overarching racial narrative. racialized politics is also telling.215 conditions in the workplace and emphasizing that they're an equal opportunity employer (Scheckler 1999). Mariachi Acero does indeed travel throughout most parts of the state and nearby states as well since they enjoy a fine . Environmental issues. Regional papers also highlighted how some opponents argued that such a thoroughfare would only hasten the loss of jobs to Mexico (editorial 1999). As is often the case in celebrations with ethnic emphasis publicly highlighted in this metropolitan area. Normally. urban sprawl. based in East Chicago. Although Fernandez openly acknowledges a Spanish European heritage. IN. the nearest ensemble was Mariachi Acero. Organizers discovered that a mariachi ensemble had recently relocated from Mexico to Indianapolis.

216 reputation and there remain relatively few ensembles in the broader region until such places as Chicago. Mexican descent communities. history. The strength and creativity with which it is approached gives strong proof that it will remain an integral part of U." . Mexican descent communities for some time to come. Given the popularity of mariachi and its high visibility. unfortunately.S . From several accounts.S. Given the complexities involved with the urban politics ofMexicaness. urban. the end result was that the ensemble had no recourse and will recall this experience as part of multicultural politics. Though there could be a considerable range of explanation for what occurred. the event was dubbed a success and the mariachis in particular contributed four hours of strolling music. there is indeed a great deal at stake in controlling images ofMexicaness and what that means in terms of actual socia-economic status. a common occurrence in urban professional mariachi performance. What has hopefully been most evident throughout these chapter is that mariachi is very much a living tradition. The leader had contracted nine players. These general complexities in how mariachi urban performance is situated within broader social life illustrate what is at stake for U. It is then with some optimism that we can recall the words on the November 20."que siga la tradicion. 1999 San Antonio Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza concert program cover that proclaimed. given the pay scale. 21 The spokesperson for the group had made an oral contract with organizers for what he had understood to be $400 an hour?2 Event organizers maintained that the agreement had been for four hours for $400. and then was faced with the unenviable task of informing the rest of the ensemble. Mariachi resonates with community needs to find expression for active contributions to discussions of ethnicity. What transpired outside of public knowledge is. it seemed the logical choice for organizers to pursue in seeking a musical expression to represent Mexican culture. and traditionalism.

217 .

1 Austin. Texas Armadillo Institute Members Where Adults Learn to Play Mariachi Music in Community Classes for a Modest Fee .218 Illustration 6.

219 U1ustration 6. Texas Mariachi Women ProCessionals .2 Austin.

In addition.220 Notes to Chapter VI Manuel Pena focuses examines the organic and inorganic expressions for the Texas Mexican orquesta (as Pena defines orquesta as a "multi-styled wind ensemble patterned after the American swing band" [peiia 1999b:xi). In addition. leather belts. cornflowers. bookings. S This speaker went on to explain although she didn't think mariachi was a part of her own personal history she definitely considered it part of her heritage as a Mexicana. These places frequently include a variety of items associated with souvenir shops. etc. pinatas. that did not have women in active roles. they are perceived to be quite wealthy. organized professionals I met. 3 4 In some parts of Mexico. they receive much more than the normal compensation for their services. Once a musician becomes a "regular" performer. she sang "la perdicion de los hombres son las benditas mujeres" (the perdition of men are the blessed women). The exception to this is of course Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan. With what may be seen as remarkable consistency. Though this relates primarily to a use value interpretation in the relationship to society's mode of production. often at the discretion of the director.e.S. 8 9 This is partially explained by the fact that there is simply not a critical mass of women directors. ponchos. 6 7 In her Canciones de Mi Padre (Songs of My Father) release. many of the all-male groups relied substantially on female support in marketing strategies. A musician being trained and supported is usually provided particularly performance opportunities. notions of authenticity and preserving a tradition in the face of mass media productions. Many female singers and instrumentalists. there was no substantial urban mariachi community in the u.zarapes. huaraches (sandals). however. a novice singer may take a solo in a context where the audience is especially supportive or relatively small. do form networks where . Linda Ronstadt rewrote the closing lines of the ranchera "Los Laureles" (The Laurels). Instead of recording the closing lines as "Ia perdicion de los hombres son las malditas mujeres" (the perdition of men are the wicked women). Though I'm unaware of their exact financial status. the word "mariachero" is used loosely to describe (usually negatively) aspects of what is interpreted as a mariachi lifestyle. These individuals also tended to be some of the most vocal. 1 2 These traditions include things associated with regional arts. For example. he or she is expected to main a high level of skill at all time in the public setting. and public relations. his work reflects well on the kinds of issues speakers identify as critical to mariachi's continued presencei.

S. she was listed with this professional name. At a recent mariachi conference and workshop final concert. through personal communication. based groups that are turning to the internet. Raised in Los Angeles. 11 In both her stage introduction and the accompanying program.web "boss"). Even if the conference and workshops take place in an area that is local to an individual or group.221 they share similar type of information. 10 singers Tatiana Bolanos is the ''wunderkind'' of the mariachi world having emerged as a polished singer with formidable stage presence at the age of seven. etc." In this case. Though opinions were divided on how serious 18 . it is no small expense to bring an ensemble to participate in mariachi conferences and workshops (transportation. Azucena is a common enough Spanish name to be accepted as a Mexican name without a specific reference to this Verdi character. the figure of La Chuapacabra appears with the death of several people. Madonna. 17 Mexican food item Several Mexicano/Chicano email lists launched into animated discussion over the cultural relevance of the chihuahua figure. Nydia Rojas emerged at seventeen as one of the finest female mariachi talents in recent memory with her own recording contract with Sony Discos. that Azucena is a main character in Verdi's II Trovatore (1853). It seems a similar presentation to that of presenting singers by a one word name. remarking that it was just "too bad" for those who didn't understand the language. IS 16 La Chupacabra is a figure that may be most recognized by many readers for its inclusion in a recent X-Files episode. La Chupacabra is portrayed as a death figure and is known as a goat-sucker. She describes Azucena as "a Spanish gypsy who wanders the countryside and sings. food. The song has been long considered one of the most difficult in the repertoire. Le.). Verdi scholar Naomi Andre noted. Among her most touted accomplishments is her recording of the song "Cucurucucu" (the sound ofa dove) in one studio take. As in the episode. In the Mexican popular press. particularly strategies for how to deal with a predominantly male profession. lodging. 14 As was previously mentioned. their purposes are to advertise their group and something about their history as an ensemble. Mostly. 12 13 There are an increasing number of both Mexican and U. etc. she is an outspoken advocate of Mexican American culture and known for her spirited public addresses. One of the popular linguistic idioms that have emerged among cyber-space Latinos is the term web jefe (literal translation. she refused to address the audience in anything in Spanish. registration fees (over $100 in some cases) as well as time off from work or school take their toll.

The 4th of July town parade includes public office holders who distribute political literature. 21 Given the relatively few professional ensembles in this area. rest breaks. Fernandez is a regular participant as town mayor. Comparing the rate to those in the greater Los Angeles area. it's difficult to comment on the rate. several remarks were made that attributed a Mexican American heritage to him. They also similarly often work by oral contract as opposed to written contract. use of facilities for preparing or resting). 19 The Day of the Dead marks the passing ofloved ones that return to be welcomed by their families. they are vulnerable to whatever irregularities might occur. it is definitely in the modest range for a full professional ensemble of comparable scale. There is a slight elongation of the quarter note on the second beat of the first measure. there was agreement on how the pervasive quality of this representation had a definite impact on social thought. Difficulties include method of payment (Le. Trumpets and/or violins play it with the guitar and vihuela rhythm section playing at least a downbeat strum on the first measure followed by two eighth-note strums on the downbeat of the second measure. Unlike the Indianapolis observance. and fringe benefits (meal considerations.222 these images figured in the popular imagination. Although most people not familiar with the tradition see the skull and skeleton motifs as motifs of death it is more a celebration of life in remembering the dead. timing of payment (payment at the end of performance versus submitting a bill or receiving a check by mail). 23 . 22 This is the typical musical tag ending for a son Jalisciense. cash requested but being given a check). In the July 1997 parade sidelines. it was not an event highly advertised and therefore remained almost exclusive to the ill Latino population. 20 Because mariachi ensembles don't often have the power to demand payment in advance of services rendered. John Fernandez's background has also been interpreted as Mexican or Mexican American in variety of other public contexts. The occasion was marked on the Bloomington ill campus by skull decorating and a general gathering at the La Casa Latino cultural center.

223 APPENDICES .

referring to the cultural hybrities inflected by the mestizo process polca.outfit worn by mariachi musicians that has decorative plata or silver ornaments and is typified by close-fitting pants and a short waisted jacket trompeta. Mexico minico. Mexican string musics mestizo.small. bread-like Mexican food item usually made of com or flour traje de charro.224 APPENDIX A GLOSSARY OF SELECTED TERMS al talon.waltz vihuela.mariachi job that is arranged for a consistent basis over an extended period of time son.a strum technique where the flat of the hand makes a percussive stop on the strings of the vihuela or guitar guitarron.of or coming from the region of Jalisco.trumpet vals. flat. guitar-like.round.literally meaning "on the heel" anglo. bass instrument of the mariachi ensemble huapango.polka planta.mariachi performance or job that has bee arranged golpe.the generic term for the strumming pattern in mestizo.person considered ''white'' chamba. and (often) African cultural influences mestizaje.the large. European. guitar-like instrument used in the mariachi ensemble .a song type that is organized around a six beat pattern jalisciense.song tortilla.referring in terms of race and ethnicity to the combination of indigenous.

BmLIOGRAPHY 225 .

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