Mariachi turning up the heat in Arizona

Violinists from the all female group Mariachi Pasion get ready to strum away at a local event. Photo courtesy of
Violinists from the all female group Mariachi Pasion get ready to strum away at a local event. Photo courtesy of

Mariachi music is hot.

Rap, rock, country and pop musicians are all integrating mariachi into their sound.

Betty Duarte-Matwick, vocalist, guitarronera and one of the founding members of the all female group Mariachi Pasion, believes that it takes more than music skills to play mariachi.

“Music is the language of the gods both male and female, we try to convey the passion behind the song,” said Duarte-Matwick.

Mariachi Pasion formed in 2002 during a music class at Arizona State University. Duarte-Matwick said that there were so many mariachi groups in Tucson that the 13 women joined together and became one of Phoenix’s first all female mariachi bands.

“Our group focuses on being inclusive when we perform, we act out the heart-felt words and we translate so English speakers can feel the music, the culture and make something special,” says Duarte-Matwick.

Many female mariachi groups and mariachi bands that translate Spanish songs are breaking from the traditional mold of the past.

Mariachi originally started in Mexico as a form of folk music. For years people would learn to play solely by listening to the music. But today it has transformed into written music and passionate performance of music and emotion.

The hardcore punk band The Bronx from Los Angeles created Mexican folk alter ego band Mariachi El Bronx. The band has been widely successful in the mariachi music scene and their third album released the album “III” early November this year.

Attention on mariachi is even growing in the heart of the music world: Los Angeles. There are plans for further development of the Mariachi Plaza in the Boyle Heights neighborhood. This renovation would bring in new stores and more people. The Mariachi Plaza serves as a sanctuary for musicians to play with each other and find gigs.

Tucson plays a big role in the mariachi music scene, too.

The Tucson International Mariachi Conference is one the largest conferences for mariachi bands in the United States. The conference has been held in southern Arizona for the past 32 years and showcases more than 500 elementary- college leveled mariachi teams.

Teri Lagunas, in charge of the registration for the event, anticipates that next year’s conference will be larger than the past.

“In the past four years that I’ve been working the conference attendance and registration has gone up,” said Lagunas. “We have people from Las Vegas, California and even from the far east that come to play.”

The 2015 Tucson Mariachi Conference will be held at Casino Del Sol on April 8-11. Mariachi players and Folklorico dancers can register for the conference as well as sign up for workshops at the website starting in January.

“The groups that come to the conference get together even when they aren’t learning in the workshops of performing for the crowd,” says Lagunas. “They play for each other and are connected through the music.”

Connie Rosas is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News Service from the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at

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