Mariachi Garibaldi Celebrates Culture Through Music – NBC Los Angeles

on Sep17
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Since the 18th century, the music known as “mariachi” has told Mexico’s many stories, from love and death, heroes and heroines, to betrayal, machismo and even politics.

That music and the stories it contains had a huge impact on young musicians like Jimmy Cuellar.

“It’s just a tradition that’s in my blood,” Cuellar said. “And it’s so enjoyable.”

Cuellar has loved mariachi since he was 12 years old, when he realized the music his father and uncles played was about much more than just something pleasant to his ears — it was about his heritage.

Now 39, Cuellar has turned his pride in that heritage and his love for the music into a business, forming a band called “Mariachi Garibaldi.”

The band doesn’t just seek to entertain — which they do, year-round — but also to build bridges. The goal is to connect older generations that love mariachi with new generations that can help it survive.

Like all folk art forms, mariachi faces an overriding question: how to remain relevant and popular among younger generations.

That’s a fear Cuellar has.

“If the youth don’t continue it, it could be… it could go away,” he said.

So he and his wife started a school, called “Thee Academy” and located in a small building in Bell Gardens.

There, Daisy Villa-Torres practicing vocals after school. At 17 years old, she’s discovered that mariachi can topple generational barriers.

“Singing in my family’s language — you know, where we came from — it just feels right,” she said.

She loves how her music, a gift she hones weekly, connects her to her parent’s homeland in Guerrero, Mexico. She knows this because of her father’s reaction.

“He’s not a very emotional guy, but whenever he sees me sing, I always see him in tears,” Villa-Torres said.

Thee Academy faced challenges during the pandemic. But Cuellar found ways to keep his students active and engaged: their spring recital was performed entirely online.

Villa-Torres is back in the studio again, rehearsing with Gustavo Hernandez, one of Mariachi Garibaldi’s 10 regular members.

Villa-Torres is among the performers who Cuellar is counting on to keep the music form’s torch burning brightly.

Cuellar thinks mariachi is secure for the next generation, but it’s difficult to say for certain. With art, trends come, and trends go.

But this art form has more than 200 years behind it, a new generation of talents, and many more stories to tell.

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