Advocates push for more support of Mariachi programs in New Mexico

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — From postage stamps to a Minor League Baseball team changing their name to pay homage, Mariachi music is a big part of New Mexico’s culture.

“Mariachi music has become an integral part of our community here in New Mexico. Obviously because of the proximity to the border but also we have welcomed and taken in mariachi music as our own as part of our everyday lives. Mariachi music is played at so many other of our events now – weddings, baptisms, funerals – it really has become the soundtrack of our lives,” said Orlando Marquez, the chairman of the New Mexico Hispanic Heritage Committee.

Many advocates are pushing that New Mexico kids not only learn about mariachi music in school but also learn to play it. They say it offers another musical outlet, other than choir, band or orchestra, that students already have a bond with.

“Some students are just not into band, orchestra or choir but it gives them something that’s relative to them in regards to their culture and their heritage and you’d be surprised how many kids gravitate towards that. They feel a sense of pride when they learn and they are playing this music because they heard it growing up,” Marquez said.

Some mariachi youth programs already exist in some high schools, such as Atrisco Heritage Academy High School in Albuquerque which has one of the biggest programs of its kind.

Carolina Gonzales teaches beginning, intermediate, junior varsity and varsity mariachi there. Kids have more access to the artform, but Gonzales believes there’s still work to be done.

“We have one of the oldest mariachi conferences in the world and for years it’s been going on, but we’re behind in mariachi education, compared to our neighbors in Arizona, Texas and Nevada,” Gonzales said, “so we need to find a way to make this successful.”

Gonzales and advocates for mariachi programs will continue to push to make the programs more accessible across school districts in Albuquerque and hopefully across the state.