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Mariachi Mariposas, created with the goal of giving women mariachi an opportunity to showcase their talent, has gone above and beyond by breaking barriers in the male-dominated genre by creating their own traditions and legacy.
Created in 2012 by founding director Mayra Garcia, the all-woman 12-member mariachi features six violins, three trumpets and a guitar, guitarro and vihuela.
In traditional traje de charro uniforms from purple to gray to pink, the group has built a reputation of being one of the best all-female mariachi in the world, and they carry the “Puro 956” pride wherever they go.
“We’re very proud to be from the Rio Grande Valley … we hope to represent the Valley well everywhere we go,” Garcia said. “We want people who know that we are from the Valley because the Valley has such a rich culture, you know, it’s a big part of us and who we are.”
The group includes Ashley Escamilla, Ruth Medrano, Griselda Solis, Lorena López, Karla Pérez, Vanessa Garza, Elizabeth Salinas, Nicole Guzmán, Rebecca Cano, Priscilla Espinoza and Mellanie Olivares.
Five of the group members are music educators in the Valley having been a part of UTRGV’s Mariachi Aztlán. Most members have musical backgrounds in their family or education that started at a young age.
Garcia, also the mariachi director at Palmview High School, said the main goal in starting the group was for young women to have opportunities to continue playing mariachi. She added the need for a professional all-female mariachi was also sparked by noticing her Palmview program always having more female than male students.
“I’m not gonna say that we haven’t had our challenges considering that we’re all female,” she said. “Sometimes we do get the occasional ‘women cannot play like the boys can’ and so it has created some sort of challenges. But I think now as we continue through the years, there’s more and more all-female mariachis popping up. And not only in the RGV but all over Mexico and in the United States.”
Taking a lot of pride in being women mariachis, Garcia added it’s beautiful to see it being more accepted over the years.
Asked how it feels to keep the Mexican Mariachi tradition alive through breaking barriers and creating new avenues, Garcia replied, “It’s important for me, because one day when I retire, I don’t want to see this dead. My main goal in life is to keep on going and keep on working harder as a director and as a teacher to start growing these students into also wanting to continue that tradition. And to continue to push hard to put women on a very high level.”
With all-female mariachi being more accepted into the genre, Elizabeth Salinas, violin player for the Mariposas and program coordinator in the UTRGV Office of Research, said all-female mariachi have been given more opportunities which creates the pathway for more breakthroughs.
“We’ve had the opportunity of performing in California, New Mexico, the Houston Rodeo recently … you know, different festivals that before you would have never seen an all-female mariachi being a part of It,” she said.
Describing Mariachi Mariposas’ 11-year journey as transcending, Garcia said their love and passion for mariachi music and culture has helped guide them to new heights and respect in the genre.
“Being part of these festivals is something really big because we are playing now with the boys, you know, with the big mariachis,” she said. “We’ve just finished coming back from Albuquerque where we played with two of the best mariachis in the world, Mariachi Cobre and Mariachi Los Camperos … and so that shows also that the respect that women mariachi are now given.”
Being trailblazers in the world of mariachi, Salinas said Mariachi Mariposas allows them to be role models to the new generation of young women aspiring to study or become musicians.
“Young women studying (music) in middle school and high school look up to us and what we’ve accomplished,” she said. “That’s something great, you know, to give hope to the new generation.”
Griselda Solis, a trumpet player in Mariposas, is one of those young musicians inspired by the group.
Seeing them play as a freshman at Donna North High, Solis felt inspired and was starstruck when Garcia reached out to her when she was a senior to join the group.
“It’s a huge part of who I am,” Solis said after being in the group for seven years. “I don’t primarily do music as my job so, it’s a great escape for me … it’s my passion and it’s great”
Salinas added they are also an inspiration to anyone that could relate to the messages conveyed in the music and lyrics.
“Sometimes I’m going through something in my life, and I share it with a picture and the connection that we make with the audiences is an incredible one,” Garcia said. “Because they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I was going through this also,’ … that’s something that we’re not embarrassed to do. If one or two of us are going through something, you know, we tend to want to share our experience and know how we overcame that challenge.”
Asked what is a piece of advice that the group would give to young Hispanic women in music, the consensus was to never give up. If you’re not given the opportunity then you create your own and that embodies the journey Mariachi Mariposas have been on for the last decade.
To find out more about Mariachi Mariposas, their social media and music visit www.mariachimariposas.com.
This story is the next in a series of stories observing National Hispanic Heritage Month.