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Teen mariachi performers get tips from the pros

May 18, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — More than 100 students from as far away as Victorville came here Saturday for mariachi workshops taught by members of Los Angeles' Mariachi Sol de Mexico.

The Latin Grammy-nominated band led workshops at Calexico High School for kids who were to perform at Saturday night's Mariachi Festival Sin Fronteras at Crummett Park in Calexico. The festival was part of the city's 94th anniversary celebration.

The beginnings of mariachi are similar to jazz as mariachi was the music of the oppressed Mexican people, Mariachi Sol de Mexico band leader Jose Hernandez said.

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Mariachi was born in Jalisco, Mexico around the 1880s or 1890s. Its music is a blend of Indian and Spanish rhythms, Hernandez said.

Originally, band members wore traditional white peasant clothes with red sashes, he said.

But a group from Jalisco was invited to play at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1906. The group wanted to represent more of Mexico than its peasants, Hernandez said.

The directors of big orchestras used to wear the charro suits now traditionally worn by mariachi band members. The charro suit represented a different economic status to which they didn't belong. When the mariachi band members wore charro suits, they were criticized, he said.

Carmen Durazo, chairwoman of Calexico's arts commission and president of Imperial County Arts Council, said the students were thrilled to have Mariachi Sol de Mexico teach the workshops.

The students ranged from advanced to those who first picked up an instrument two days ago, Durazo said.

A local group, Mariachi Mixteco, volunteered free lessons to help students who never had touched an instrument before. The free lessons helped the students be better prepared for the workshops, Durazo said.

Hernandez said there was nothing in the Valley organized for students interested in mariachi when he first started teaching the workshops 11 years ago.

"At my first workshop, we had six or seven kids. Then there were more as schools started mariachi projects," he said. "There are easily 100 here today."

Durazo said money raised from the workshops will go toward a scholarship.

"We hope to have credentialed mariachi music teachers in schools. And then maybe instruments for children who can't afford them," she said.

The final event of Calexico's anniversary celebration will be a mariachi Mass and festival at Rockwood Plaza from 1-7 today.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or lauramitchell9@yahoo.com

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