Treat your family to an evening devoted to the complete mariachi holiday experience with one of the most popular and colorful events of the holiday season in New Mexico. The New Mexico Tech Performing Arts Series presents “A Mariachi Christmas” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 20, at Macey Center.
Swirling dresses, lively violins and the sights and sounds of folkloric dancing accompany the peal of triumphant trumpets as part of “A Mariachi Christmas,” featuring the all-female Mariachi Azalea and Ballet Folklorico of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
“The annual Mariachi Christmas concert is a delightful way to welcome the approaching holidays, and to embrace the Southwestern spirit of the season,” PAS Director Ronna Kalish said. “Native New Mexicans, newcomers, old-timers, and children of all ages enjoy this lively show designed to showcase one of the most beautiful traditions of our Mexican neighbors and families.”
Both Mariachi Azalea and Ballet Folklorico fall under the umbrella of the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, which has one of the longest-running mariachi programs in the nation, including Mariachi Aztlán and Mariachi Juvenil – almost 50 years for Ballet Folklorico and 27 years for mariachi. Under the musical direction of Dahlia Guerra, Francisco Loera, and Miguel Peña, the awardwinning program has set a high standard of excellence among international collegiate performing ensembles.
Mariachi Azalea’s members hail from Rio Grande Valley high schools, and most are freshmen in college. Guerra said she looks forward to touring the state this month.
“These girls exude strength and confidence as women,” Guerra said. “We want to feature songs that showcase femininity, yet confidence.”
Early mariachis dressed in peasant garb (usually white), although since the early 20th century, male mariachis typically have worn traje de charro (attire of the cowboys of Jalisco), with tight, ornamented trousers, boots, wide bow ties, wide-brimmed sombreros and short jackets. The traditional ensemble was all-male, but since the 1940s, women have played an increasing role in maria chi performance.
Mariachi Christmas showcases talented young women richly arrayed in brightly-colored dresses, flowers and elaborate costumes, swirling and twirling as they perform traditional folk dances that date back generations.
“The colorful costumes are part of the charm of mariachi music and its accompanying ballet Folklorico,” Kalish said.
Mariachi is considered uniquely Mexican, representing homegrown traditions that embrace both indigenous and foreign elements, an emblematic mix of music, dance and cultural references. For example, not so long ago in the Mexican culture, young men and women were usually kept apart from one another. The gentleman who wanted to court the lovely lady of his dreams would hire mariachi singers to serenade his loved one, as a sort of musical love note.
Mariachi Christmas Musical Director Loera has been a lecturer at the host university for over 20 years in the departments of Modern Languages and Music, serving as music director of Mariachi Aztlán and Mariachi Juvenil Aztlán. Under his direction, UT-RGV earned recognition as the most outstanding university mariachi program in the nation.
Ballet Folklórico, part of the UT-RGV family, is a 34-member company of university students pursuing degrees in a variety of disciplines. The ballet presents student and public concerts annually and travels to local, state, national, international, private and public events.
In 2007 and 2012, the ballet was honored as one of top 10 choreographies presented for adjudication at the American College of Dance Festival.
Peña, UT-RGV artistic director, is a native of Mexico and a graduate of the University of Texas-Pan American where he earned bachelor and master’s degrees in electrical engineering. A professional dancer and choreographer, Peña worked as a dancer with “Espectaculo Járocho” under the direction of Richard O’Neal, as part of the ensemble for more than five years. He has worked nationally and internationally, setting choreographic works for different dance companies such as BYU Folk Dance Ensemble, Ballet Folklórico Nacional de Milwaukee, and several Rio Grande Valley folklórico groups.
Sponsors for Mariachi Christmas are the Wells Fargo Foundation, Sofia’s Kitchen, EMRTC, “Grandpa” Joe GonzalesCounty Commissioner, The Catron Courier and NM Tech Student Government Association.
Tickets are $22 for adults, $20 senior, and $10 for youth, and free for Tech students. Tickets can be purchased online at nmtpas.org or at the following locations: NMT Cashier (2nd Floor Fidel Center), Sofia’s Kitchen/ Burrito Tyme, John Brooks SuperMart, PAS office in Macey Center (call 8355688 for directions), NMT student tickets at the NMT Bookstore, or at the door.