Central Texas mariachi band lends support to Uvalde community through music

Darren Puccala, Life and Arts Reporter

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the July 6, 2022 flipbook.

Sounds of ferocious trumpet horns, beautiful violin strings and the strumming of acoustic guitar accompanied by passionate vocals typically make up the renowned and comforting sounds of a mariachi band. From births and weddings to the final goodbyes at a grieving funeral, mariachi music remains a staple in Mexican communities and families. 

Anthony Medrano said in addition to a job as a campaign manager, he is a member of Mariachi Campanas de América, a 12-piece musical ensemble mariachi band founded in San Antonio in 1978, and is on the resource council for the Voces Oral History Center at UT, further giving a voice to the mariachi community of Central Texas. Medrano said he knew after the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde on May 24 that he had to pay his respects to the community and lend support in any way that he could. 

“I was in the same mindset as everyone else,” Medrano said. “It was every emotion —  anger, sadness, confusion. It was very hard to process.” 

Medrano said he soon realized he wanted to go to Uvalde in person to grieve alongside the community and offer support in the best way he knew how — with mariachi music. After inviting five musicians from his own group and additional players from San Antonio, Medrano said he realized he wasn’t alone in his desire to support Uvalde through music. Medrano said the concert ended up including over 60 mariachi performers and musicians who offered support to the Uvalde community.

“We (wanted) to go humbly and play some songs, not make … a publicity stunt to get known or recognized,” Medrano said. “It was just to go for the community. (Other players) wanted to go and be a part of this.”

Medrano’s charter bus of 40 musicians, accompanied by those driving their own cars, traveled from San Antonio to Uvalde the next week, where Medrano said many of the mariachi players delivered the most important and emotional performances of their lives. 

“The mariachi (professionals’) willingness to go and share their talent in Uvalde because we all felt that it was absolutely necessary — I just think that (it was) really beautiful,” performing musician Christoper Perez said.

Despite taking an almost yearlong hiatus from music, 25-year-old violinist Perez said after receiving news of Medrano’s initiative to support the Uvalde community through mariachi music, the call to his violin became too powerful to ignore.

“When I heard about (the Robb Elementary Shooting), I felt helpless,” Perez said. “I know the power of music because I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I wanted to give a small gesture to the community.” 

Juan Rolando San Miguel, a jazz performance and government junior, said on several occasions he witnessed the deep culture of unity and vibrant joy that ran through the town, so he felt drawn to this initiative to provide relief through a medium familiar and comforting to the community.

“Mariachi stems from expression, grief, sorrow, heartbreak, happiness — all of which are conveyed at the heart of it,” San Miguel said. “Our music is definitely a participatory music genre. The audience sings along and actively participates emotionally just as performers do.” 

San Miguel said this effort provided the community of Uvalde with an outlet to come together and grieve in a way that was deeply rooted in their own culture.

“(Mariachi music is) there at every part of your life,” San Miguel said. “It’s something that as Mexican-Americans, we’ve clung to. I was overwhelmed with joy that we were able to organize something like this. It really does speak to the mariachi and Mexican-American community.”