All-female group celebrates traditional Mexican culture in a new way
Mexico is home to many traditions, culture and music.
The infamous Sones de Mariachi date back to the 1800s. Mariachi music was a way to celebrate the struggles and triumphs of a person’s life.
Mariachi groups remain an integral part of celebrating important occasions in Mexico, such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
Mariachi has generally been a male-dominated genre, but there are some notable exceptions.
Founded in 2007 by Maricela Martinez in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, Mariachi Lindas Mexicanas is an all-female mariachi group. They have performed in LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the Museum of Latin American Arts and will be featured on season three of the Starz network show Vida.
Martinez fell in love with the music style because her father was in a mariachi group, but she never imagined herself becoming a director of one.
“I saw my father serenade the ‘mananitas’ to my mom on her birthday every year,” Martinez said. “I never saw a girl in the group with my dad, and I never thought it was possible.”
After attending an all-female mariachi concert with her sister, Martinez was amazed by their performance.
“We were like ‘Oh, is that possible?’ After my sister wanted to play [in a mariachi group], she said to me, ‘Come on, let’s do it,’ and so I started playing the trumpet at 16,” Martinez said.
When Martinez turned 17 she had become a director for a juvenile group and believed she was a natural-born leader. After working with many different groups she realized how much they took advantage of women.
“I noticed how the directors of female groups would take a lot of money from the girls and give them a small amount,” she said. “I wanted to spread the love with mariachi and represent our culture and women.”
On Nov. 2, 2007, she went to La Plazita Olvera with Guadalupe Cortez, a vihuela player, and together they found they had potential.
“We had Dia de Los Muertos makeup on,” she said. “We laid our case out and people started to put money for us. Then we had gig after gig, and everything’s been escalating to better and greater things.”
Martinez decided she wanted her group to be all-female, because she believed it would give her a place where she felt supported and her voice would be heard.
A musician spends a lot of their time with group members, but the closest relationship is with her instrument.
“My relationship with my trumpet is so special. Every time I play it I teleport to another world and I forget all my worries and anxieties and I concentrate on just playing,” Martinez said.
Martha Flores, a guitarron player for the Mariachi Lindas Mexicanas, said it took her time to fall in love with her instrument.
“My brother made me play the guitarron, so I did, but I learned to love it, and right after high school I came here and that’s why I am here today,” Flores said.
Olga Casillas, a violinist for the group, found interest in her instrument after hearing it play.
“I play the violin, and what inspired me was seeing women play instruments in this genre of music. I love seeing women included in a male-dominated field,” Castillas said.
Mariachi Lindas Mexicanas typically work 12 hour days but enjoy spreading their culture and empowering women through music. They find that their biggest supporters are their family members.
Casillas said her family was excited to see that she was going to be in a mariachi group.
“My family is very proud that they finally have a mariachi in the family because they love mariachi music,” Martinez said. “It is part of our culture. It’s our passion. I honestly don’t listen to anything else but mariachi music.”
The group plays different venues for different occasions, Casillas said. They find that their audience’s atmosphere can be contagious.
“We do catch and feel our people’s energy. For example, at a funeral you’ll see us crying, and at birthdays you’ll see us celebrating with them,” Casillas said. “It just depends on the type of event.”
Fermin Herrera, a professor of Chicana/o studies at California State University, Northridge, said mariachi music is part of the Mexican culture.
“The importance of the Son de Mariachi is that it is distinctive to Mexicans,” Herrera said. “It’s not something we cropped out from France or China. It’s something Mexicans created. It’s part of our Identity.”
Herrera said Mariachi has always been male-dominated, but it doesn’t mean women don’t have the capability of doing a man’s job.
“The notion that only males can participate in this activity is just nonsensical when you think about it,” Herrera said. “But we as people often continue with nonsensical ideas. So it goes against [our culture], and we should just get rid of it.”
Mariachi Lindas Mexicanas wants to be an example of empowerment and hope to continue spreading love of Mexican culture through music.
“This is an art,” Martinez said. “When we perform, we want people to connect the music with good people who are representing our community.”
To hear what the Pierce College Community thinks about an all-female, listen to the KPCRadio.com audio package by staff member, Felipe Gamino