Hispanic Heritage Month: Mariachi in New Mexico

Pedro Sepulveda's desire to be mariachi started early. Sepulveda said, “I remember hearing a trumpet that hit my heart right away my soul.”


When it comes to mariachi music, there is a meaning behind every Mariachi traje.

"We share a lot of special moments with people, in their weddings and their birthdays," said Mundo Marquez, a local mariachi musician.

Marquez has been playing mariachi for 10 years. But making a career as a mariachi musician wasn't the plan.

"Playing mariachi just drew me in. It kept taking care of me, you know. In every sense... mentally and physically," Marquez said.

Meanwhile, for Pedro Sepulveda, a 77-year-old trumpet player, his desire to be mariachi started early.

"I remember hearing a trumpet that hit my heart right away my soul," Sepulveda said.

Once he got his first trumpet, he started going out to gigs at 11 years old.

In mariachi, there's typically six different instruments. Two of them are uniquely used in mariachi music.

"People always ask what the name of that instrument is. It’s not something that you see everywhere. I play the rhythm section, so it's vihuela and guitarron," Marquez said.

In mariachi, the "Grito" is well known.

"It's natural. It's something that you can explain it's something that you feel, and when you feel something, you're the only one that's feeling it," Sepulveda said.

Getting to call yourself a mariachi is "part of our culture. It's part of our Mexican culture," Sepulveda said.

"To me, it’s the biggest privilege to be able to represent that. It’s a blessing. It’s super special," Marquez said.

For Sepulveda, mariachi has come full circle, playing with several generations.

"I really put myself as the great grandfather of all the musicians here in New Mexico you know from my era," Sepulveda said.

"I've learned songs with Pete," Marquez said. "We'll just walk in and Pete always likes to lead us into that. He will go have you heard this song it goes something like this."

"We just start doing it, and then he says, 'OK, let's go back and just try it again,'" he added.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque is an annual event that brings together musicians from all over the nation. It started in 1991.

Noberta Fresquez and a colleague put together the very first conference. They had "60 students and that has grown too close to 1,000 today, you know, with dancers and mariachi musicians."

Fresquez has always had a passion for mariachi music creating this program was another way of promoting it.

"I never realized the impact that it would have," she said. "It was just a labor of love that I knew there were enough people that would love it as well."

The conference set out to teach students the history of the music.

Oftentimes long-time mariachi Jonathan Clark will share with young students the stories of mariachi and his documentation of the music.

To pass on the stories, the Albuquerque mariachi conference began to celebrate pioneers.

"It wasn't until we started bringing in pioneers and educating basically and sharing that information of the musicians it had gone unrecognized," Fresquez said.

For Clark, it's an honor to share the stories of the heroes of mariachi music.

"It's a real privilege. You know, I feel it's my destiny and without me knowing, I think this was what I was put on the Earth, on this Earth to do and was what I was meant to do," Clark said.

With over 30 years of organizing the conference, Fresquez is retiring next year, but that doesn't mean spectacular will retire with her.

It will be organized by the Atrisco Heritage Foundation.

"I'm just so comfortable in knowing that it's there, it's going to continue. And we're grateful for the community support. It's definitely a community-based program," Fresquez said.

Watch the video above for the full story.