UTPA group to perform at presidential inaugeration
As Mariachi Aztlán was setting up for one of their Christmas performances in November, Dahlia Guerra, the Dean of UTPA’s College of Arts and Humanities, received a phone call from Washington D.C.
The musicians didn’t think anything of it, until she casually told them that the Obama Administration had just invited them to play at his upcoming inauguration Jan. 21.
Fort Worth native Jose Perez, one of the group’s singers, was caught off guard by the news.
“It came out of nowhere; it was a really cool moment,” the 18-year-old music major said.
As a fairly new member to the group since August, Jose Perez is excited to be the first from his family to meet a United States president.
“To share a piece of what you love doing with the President is a big honor,” Perez said. “I really don’t know how to express it. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
The group plans to depart to Washington D.C. Jan. 18 for their performances Jan. 19 at the Black Tie and Boots Ball, as well as at a Latino Gala and the Presidential Inauguration Jan. 21.
The mariachi genre originates from 18th century Jalisco, Mexico, and is typically made up of string and wind instruments accompanied by singing about many aspects of life, including love, death, politics and betrayal. In the Rio Grande Valley, mariachi music lives and thrives in the streets, restaurants and a few churches.
This is not the first time Mariachi Aztlán has been invited to play for President Barack Obama. In 2010, the group played for Obama one-on-one in Washington D.C. as part of the signing ceremony of an executive order that renewed and enhanced the White House’s Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
Mariachi music came to UTPA in 1989 when Dahlia Guerra founded the program. Since then, the group has been recognized nationwide by The Texas House of Representatives in 1999 and the Texas Senate in 2003 for the promotion of the music and traditions of Hispanic culture. Since 1989, the UTPA Mariachi Aztlán has traveled widely throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Although members have come and gone, the productivity has remained throughout the years. Their various achievements include playing with the Houston Grand Opera in the premiere of the world’s first Mariachi opera, winning first place two years in a row at the Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque national competition and their 2011 performance at the Hollywood Bowl in California.
Mariachi Aztlán is currently made up of music and non-music majors alike. Some members are studying as vocal and brass majors, while a few are a part of the Mexican American Studies program. Most of the members are Valley natives, while several have traveled from San Antonio, Odessa and Fort Worth to study at UTPA.
The group has been hard at work practicing and performing Sounds and Splendors of Mexico this past weekend at the Edinburg City Auditorium. For more updates and upcoming performances, check out their Facebook page.