There are so many ways in which mariachis make every season and celebration better, both for the Mexican American community and for the larger population.
Their music resonates Christmas in particular from both sides of the border. They unite their families and friends with the music that binds them eternally. And they bridge the divide between Spanish and English speaking communities by singing familiar Christmas songs in both languages.
They remind people that everyone is celebrating the season. And this time of year mariachis are unbelievably busy, playing at parties, family gatherings and community events wherever needed. They play at gatherings that support the poor and homeless and bring comfort to those who need it most.
Traditions arise and ebb. In Tucson for the past few years Julie Gallego’s Ballet Folklórico Arizona and Viva Dancers have teamed up with Jose Hernandez’ Los Angeles-based Mariachi Sol de Mexico to create a singular Christmas show that welcomes and binds a broad spectrum of Tucsonans. Held at Tucson’s Fox Theatre, the event was packed Friday night.
But great as the professional performers are, the more recent inclusion of youth mariachis, chosen by competition, has brought a new dimension, and drawn even more families into the event.
This year’s number one and two winners, respectively, were Mariachi Corazon – a community-based group – and Mariachi Aztlán de Pueblo High School. Both proved on stage why they were chosen.
Another special part of this year’s show was the celebration of the life of Elva Flores, who passed away in 2015. Mrs. Flores was a special person in our community. Herself the parent of a member of the Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos youth mariachi, she held a special passion for Mexican American and Hispanic Arts. She was an early supporter and advocate of the Tucson International Mariachi Conference, which she helped get off the ground, and a few years later she created El Centro Cultural de las Americas to act as a center for a variety of Hispanic cultural activities.
In the clip below from 2013, Mrs. Flores talks about how she helped thousands of families from California, transferred to Tucson by Hughes Aircraft, come to think of their new city as home. And she talks a little as well about the creation of El Centro.
She was a tireless advocate for musicians, dancers, painters, authors, theatre groups, puppeteers and every other imaginable practitioner of Hispanic art forms, and her passing leaves a deep hole in Tucson’s heart.