Above: The Mariachi Margaritas. Courtesy Karina Vela.
Brownsville, Texas’, Mariachi Margaritas stand out for a couple reasons. Watch them, and they’ll lull you with their beautiful melodies and graceful performances. But they also represent a very non-traditional approach to the very traditional Mexican music: they’re all women (with the exception of one trumpet player). We had a conversation with Karina Vela, the band’s director and founder, and Avigai Gonzalez, the assistant director, before their Sept. 1 performance at Mariachi Extravaganza, during Santa Fe Music Week.
Karina: I was born in Mexico, just across the border. In Mexico, surprisingly, people don’t appreciate mariachi music as much as how we do it here in the US. I didn’t know about mariachi until we moved. I was put in mariachi class my first day of school, and I didn’t want to be there. That first week, I fell in love. The music, the songs—ever since then I’ve been in love with mariachi and it’s been a part of my life.
Avigai: Coming from a Hispanic family, a Mexican-American family, I have lived in mariachi music for almost all my life. My father was a mariachi performer and songwriter.
Karina: People think that it’s just a group that plays at weddings, or for drunk people. In reality, there’s much more to it—different music styles, romantic music, festive music, music from every state of Mexico. If you’re sad, there’s a mariachi song that will hit the spot. If you’re in love, or happy, there’s a mariachi song for that.
Avigai: Mariachi is very macho man Mexico. Men do underestimate women in the mariachi world. They underestimate that women can direct mariachi, but hey, we can. We’re not directed by a man, and we do feel very proud of that.
Karina: [The trumpet player] is a trooper. He likes to be around all the girls.
Avigai: I got a compliment from a manager. He said he feels the positive energy on stage because of how we perform and get along with each other. We not only sound pretty, but our energy on stage is beautiful.
Karina: We’re excited to go to Santa Fe and represent our culture, represent South Texas, Brownsville, and women in mariachi.