All-female LA mariachi band strives to empower – NBC Los Angeles

on Jul12
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An all-female mariachi band from Los Angeles has played at weddings, funerals, parties and prisons. Now, they are hoping to take the stage internationally.  

Marciela Martinez founded Mariachis Lindas Mexicanas in Boyle Heights in 2007. Though Martinez admires the “amazing women” she works with, she said that directing the group has been “16 years of hard work. Really nonstop hard work.”

The band has 14 members, many of whom are immigrants and all are Latine.

“I wanted to create a space for me to feel safe from bigotry, machismo and harassment,” Martinez said. 

Mariachi has been mostly dominated by men until recent years. Historically, traditional groups had only male members who would wear a “traje de charro,” an outfit inspired by cowboys from Jalisco in the 1900s.

The mariachi trumpet, Martinez said, is considered a “manly instrument” because it requires a lot of technique and control. People are surprised when they see her perform, she said, even though she has played for 26 years. 

“’You play like a man,’” people tell her.

Martinez knows that these words are supposed to be a compliment, but she doesn’t see them that way. 

“People throw rocks at us in one way or another, but now we know how to navigate it and just keep going,” Martinez said. 

Social justice through music

The band uses its platform to highlight social justice, immigration and equal rights.

“We come together to make music to forget, to forgive, to heal and to move forward. That’s the beauty of mariachi music,” Martinez said.

Martinez led a song-making workshop at a male correctional facility through the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, an organization that works with traditional artists who use cultural traditions to empower people, she said. 

“I was just so proud. I never thought that my music would take me there to help people to heal.”

Festival de la femme Mariachi à Paris

Mariachis Lindas Mexicanas was invited to Festival de la femme Mariachi, a celebration of female mariachis in Paris this October. 

“We want to go to Paris because we want to celebrate life, celebrate our accomplishments, and tell the world we’re here,” Martinez said, adding that Paris also “sounds very romantic and sexy.”

She said that the festival builds community by creating a space for musicians to support and learn from one another.

“Many ladies have paved the road for us to be where we are right now, and we want to make sure we keep paving the road for new generations because mariachi music is impacting people on so many levels,” she said, such as through education and fashion.

When asked about the band’s trip, Martinez responded with a question: “How am I going to do it?”

Martinez has to raise enough money to pay for hotel rooms, food, travel expenses, and a babysitter to take care of her three kids. 

Martinez hopes that the festival shows people that as women, “we’re united and are trying to keep the tradition going. Even though we don’t get paid, we do it for the love of the art.”

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