New generation of student musicians discovers mariachi

Mariachi Fuego performs in the Pilsen Mexican Independence Day Parade

Mariachi Fuego performs in the Pilsen Mexican Independence Day Parade Sept. 12.


Students in a new UIC music group are embracing their heritage through mariachi, the folk music of Mexico.

“Mariachi can help people connect with their culture, their roots,” said Giovanni Garcia, trumpeter for Mariachi Fuego, UIC’s first music ensemble dedicated to mariachi music.

Mariachi Fuego performs tonight in a concert with the UIC Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. at the Merit School of Music, 38 S. Peoria St. Admission to the Latino Music Festival event is free to UIC students with i-card; others pay-what-you-can.

“We’re a traditional mariachi, playing songs written for the mariachi medium,” says Javier José Mendoza, UIC Orchestra conductor and visiting instructor in the School of Theatre and Music.

The mariachi genre is largely based on Mexican history and folklore; it’s considered a large part of Mexican national identity.

Mariachi Fuego performed in the Little Village and Pilsen Mexican Independence Day parades earlier this month to great enthusiasm.

“It’s amazing to see how the audience and public reacts to a mariachi and particular songs — it enlivens them,” said Mendoza.

Erendira Izguerra, the group’s student director and violinist and a senior majoring in music, grew up listening to mariachi at home.

“It really inspires me. It pushes me because it’s my culture and it feels so good to do it,” she said.

Others in the group are playing the music for the first time.

“This mariachi is important because a lot of students grow up not recognizing their cultures,” Izguerra said.

“After a few generations, not a lot of cultural practices are passed on,” Garcia agreed. “But now we have resources like Mariachi Fuego to connect to our roots. It’s a big help for students to not lose parts of their heritage.”

Mariachi Fuego began as a music activity last year, then expanded to become a one-credit instrumental ensemble class this semester, meeting two hours a week.

The band currently has 16 members: six violinists, two guitarists, three trumpeters, two bassists, two lead vocalists and one vihuela player (a kind of guitar). They hope to raise money for instruments and mariachi suits.

Izguerra is also a member of the Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic.

“Using different styles, and making your brain work to do that, definitely makes a musician better, and the more styles of music you expose yourself to, the more opportunities you get,” she said.

For tonight’s Hispanic Heritage Concert, the group has been rehearsing classics like “La Negra,” “Los Laureles,” “Atotonilco,” “El Nino Perdido,” “Alejandra,” “El Zopilote Mojado” and “La Malagueña.”

“We’re starting to sound really good now. We’re starting to grow together as musicians and as a group in general,” Garcia said.

“That’s the end goal — for you to have fun doing what you love,” Izguerra said.

The class is open to all majors. Students interested in joining can email Mendoza,

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