Mariachi Herencia de México

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Debut New Self-Released CD titled ESENCIA on June 28

CD Release Concert at Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art on June 28

Also Headlining at the Chicago Mariachi Festival at Millennium Park on June 30 

From the Capital of America’s Midwest, A Fearless Young Ensemble Creates a Mariachi Milestone

Collaborating with Arranger Rigoberto Alfaro, One of the Most Revered Figures in the Genre,

A Stunning New Set Pays Tribute to Mexico’s Golden Age of Film

ESENCIA North American Tour June 2019 – May 2020


The historic tradition of mariachi music has roots in cities like Guadalajara and Mexico City, places where the festive folk style lived its past glory days in the mid-1900s. Today, the future of the evolving genre may rest in the hands of a dynamic ensemble from the capital of the American Midwest: Chicago’s Mariachi Herencia de México.

The group of young Mexican-American musicians is set to release its third studio album June 28. Titled Esencia, the stunning collection features some 18 musicians on 14 classic tracks plus two originals, with arrangements by one of the most revered and innovative figures in the field, composer and musical director Rigoberto Alfaro.

Recorded in Chicago, mixed in Los Angeles, and mastered in Madrid, the album breaks through genre boundaries with a polished and urbane sound that gives it solid international appeal.

“It’s a masterpiece,” says Jonathan Clark, a mariachi expert and historian. “This is mariachi music at its most sophisticated and most modernistic. It’s almost the antithesis of folklore, almost futuristic. Maybe 20 or 30 years from now, all groups will sound like this, I don’t know. But it is state-of-the-art."

This milestone in mariachi music comes from an unlikely source: a three-year-old ensemble that started as a student group in Chicago Public Schools and is still composed of teenagers, mostly between 14 and 16. Their new album, however, shows how far they’ve come since their debut CD two years ago, which garnered them a Latin GRAMMY nomination.

The main force in elevating the group’s game is, undoubtedly, its charmed collaboration with the 84-year-old Alfaro, a composer and arranger from Mexico City considered a legend in the field. He wrote 17 arrangements for the new album that set a high musical bar for the students.

“These new arrangements are not only more difficult but, I want to say, more prestigious,” says Marco Villela, 16, who sings and plays trumpet on the album. “With these arrangements, we're trying to capture the essence of the traditional song but with a newer sound, giving it that special kick, with that modern feel.”

Alfaro was a big get for this album. For seven decades, he has worked with almost every top mariachi performer in Mexico, including many of the greats of the music’s golden era: Pedro Infante, Lola Beltrán, José Alfredo Jiménez, Miguel Aceves Mejía, and many more. He was also a member of the groundbreaking Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán during its heyday, and helped, along with fellow arranger Rubén Fuentes, to revolutionize the music in the 1950s. His longevity has also allowed him to work with many contemporary stars, including Vicente Fernández, Juan Gabriel and Aida Cuevas. Today, the energetic octogenarian is still at the top of his game.

The songs on Esencia (Essence in English) have a unifying theme that may not be immediately apparent. They were all culled from Mexican movies produced during the country’s so-called golden age of film, or Epoca de Oro from the 1930s through early 70s, during which singing stars often became screen stars as well. The young Chicago musicians diligently watched and shared YouTube videos of these old film classics to select the songs they wanted to record.

Several are standards in the mariachi songbook, such as “Cucurrucucú Paloma” by Tomás Méndez, or “Amanecí en tus Brazos” by José Alfredo Jiménez. But other tunes will be familiar to English-speaking audiences as mid-century pop standards in the U.S. market, such as “Bésame Mucho” by Consuelo Velázquez or “Allá en el Rancho Grande” by Juan Díaz del Moral.

Two of the tracks are medleys of songs from movies considered among the best of the era. “Dos Tipos de Cuidado” (1952), a favorite of trumpeter Villela, is a classic comedia ranchera, or country comedy, starring two superstars of the genre, Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete; it marks the only time they appeared together on the silver screen. Violinist Karla De La Cerda, also 16, was drawn to the music of “El Gallo de Oro” (1964), especially the singing of female costar, Lucha Villa, whom she admires. The acclaimed drama, set against the sport of cockfighting, boasts stellar literary credits: based on the book by Juan Rulfo and adapted by two of the greatest Latin American writers of the past century, Mexico’s Carlos Fuentes and Colombia’s Gabriel García Márquez.

Another song also popularized by Lucha Villa, “Te Traigo Estas Flores,” is a delightful and wholesome expression of romantic love, dramatized by the students in the album’s first official video. The lead single features Melanie Juarez, one of the mariachi’s standout vocalists.

The most contemporary song on Esencia is titled “Los Mandados,” a virtual anthem of the undocumented, and a unanimous choice of the student musicians. Written by Jorge Lerma, the rowdy and defiant tune tells the adventures of a man who brags about repeatedly crossing the border illegally, no matter how many times La Migra (or Border Patrol) throws him back. Popularized in the 1980s by superstar Vicente Fernández, it’s considered a poke-in-the-eye to proponents of a border crackdown, with renewed relevance in today’s political climate.

No matter how familiar the songs, Alfaro has reshaped them with brilliant veneers, unexpected rhythm changes, and ornate adornos, or decorative fills.

The young musicians found inspiration in Alfaro’s passion, work ethic, and his drive to stay relevant. “He’s such an amazing talent, and for him to be working with us is such a great honor,” says De La Cerda, who also sings on the album. “Everyone was super inspired, and we just wanted to give him our best."

De La Cerda also appreciated Alfaro’s folksy, personal touch. He would tell jokes and share stories. Like the time she sat next to him during a break and he recounted a defining childhood memory.

As a boy of 8 or 9 in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Alfaro worked shining shoes on the street. One day, the great Pedro Infante came to town for a concert, and the ambitious shoeshine boy went to find him at his hotel. Tipped off by a bellboy, he wrangled his way to a guest room and got his wish. The boy was allowed to shine Infante’s shoes, never imagining that years later he would play guitar for the popular singer’s backup mariachi.

"That's amazing,” says De La Cerda. “He came from poverty, just shining shoes, and he became something really big. That's honestly really inspiring."

“I’m very interested in helping young people, because I’ve always wanted to make sure that our music is not forgotten,” says Alfaro. That’s why I’m so glad to see such enthusiasm from these young people in the United States. It gives me a lot of hope because they are the future of mariachi.”

Signed to IMG Artists, a major international talent agency, the group has dozens of dates scheduled this year, including stops in Guadalajara and their first performance in Mexico City. While other teens are on vacation this summer, this mariachi will be on the road and hard at work.

“In order to be in the group, I think you have to be mature,” says De La Cerda. “When the group first started, nobody imagined that we were going to record albums, or that one day we would be nominated for a Latin GRAMMY. You have to be really, really dedicated. That’s one thing that I’ve learned. If you really work hard for something, it really does pay off.”


“Los Mandados”

 “Las Ciudades”

“Te Traigo Estas Floras”

Mariachi Herencia de México: Esencia

Release date: June 28, 2019  Label: Mariachi Heritage Foundation



June 28

Chicago, IL

National Museum of Mexican Art

June 30

Chicago, IL

Chicago Mariachi Festival 2019

July 11

Grass Valley, CA

California Worldfest

Sept 13

Goshen, IN

Goshen College Music Center

Oct 5

Fredericton, NB, CN

Fredericton Playhouse

Oct 6

St.John, NB, CN

Imperial Theatre

Oct 11

River Forest, IL

Dominican Univ Performing Arts Ctr

Oct 12

Madison, WI

Capitol Theater Overture Ctr for the Arts

Nov 8

Kingston, ON, CN

Grand Theatre

Nov 9

Burlington, ON, CN

Burlington Performing Arts Centre

Dec 20

Omaha, NE

Omaha Performing Arts Center

Jan 31

Appleton, WI

Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

Feb 8

Chicago, IL

Moraine Valley CC, Oremus Theater

Feb 28

New Albany, IN

Paul W. Ogle Cult. & Community Center

April 26

Newberry, SC

Newberry Opera House

May 1

Indianapolis, IN

Butler University Clowes Memorial Hall

May 3

Red Bank, NJ

Count Basie Center for the Arts

May 5

Urbana, IL

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts