PHOENIX — Mariachi bands are usually there to make your family events lively, to spread joy with their music at quinceañeras, weddings, and birthdays. But things have changed with COVID-19.
“We’re playing at more funerals than parties and weddings. That's a direct result of the pandemic,” expressed Desiree Figueroa, a member of Mariachi Juvenil de mi Tierra.
She says it’s important to remind people that many of the funerals they’re seeing are a result of a bigger issue in America.
“This virus is affecting people of color more and that in itself is a product of systemic racism. People of color, Mexicans, Latinos, Black people, Asians, natives, we have all of these things going against us because of who we are.”
In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, ABC15 is highlighting the efforts by Mariachi Juvenil de mi Tierra as they try to uplift people during these unprecedented times.
“Not too long ago, I had to bury my ‘tata’ (grandfather) about a year ago. Since then, I really don’t like playing at funerals. But I realize this is something really important in someone's life and it’s really important for their families,” stated Figueroa.
Figueroa has been singing and playing guitar with this mariachi for a few years now. She says she grew up not knowing Spanish, so she joined Mariachi Juvenil de mi Tierra to learn more about her Mexican roots.
Even though she doesn’t speak Spanish, Figueroa can sing various traditional songs such as ‘Viva Mexico’.
She blushed when I mentioned she’s just like Mexican-American singer, Selena Quintanilla.
Figueroa is proud of her Mexican heritage and says she feels proud to be part of the celebration of people’s lives even if it looks a little different this year.
“For them to ask me, to ask us to be part of that, it’s an honor.”
An honor that comes with some challenges, “it’s hard on our mental health. I think that’s very stigmatized in the Latino community,” expressed Genesis Clara.
Clara has been part of Mariachi Juvenil de mi Tierra since she was a baby. Her entire family has been dedicated to continuing the mariachi music legacy in the United States.
All members of this mariachi are young adults, teenagers, and even some children. They have become a family, so seeing each other without being able to hug or be closer than six feet hasn’t been easy.
“We don’t have that many practices, we have to keep social distance,” said Clara.
But, no matter the event, they say they will always be there for anyone who needs it, even if it hurts because they say showing the importance of the Mexican culture matters, now more than ever.
“I love my culture, my Mexican culture and I also love what I can bring to America with that culture,” expressed Clara.
You can find more information about Mariachi Juvenil de mi Tierra here.