By Astrid Téllez
The Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza is so much more than just a concert! My first time attending the event was in 2011, and I’ve attended almost every year since.
I had joined McAllen High School’s Mariachi Oro just one week prior to going to San Antonio for the 17th annual Extravaganza. I hardly knew anyone at the time, but I had the opportunity to make friends right away with people from everywhere who were involved in mariachi music. There were musicians from Rio Grande City, Roma, San Antonio, Las Vegas and many parts of the U.S. Having come from Mexico, it was a whole new experience for me. I was surprised to see so many people who really loved mariachi music.
My First Impression
My family moved from Mexico City to McAllen, Texas when I was 14 years old. In Mexico, mariachi music was a common theme in restaurants and in Plaza Garibaldi, where a lot of mariachi musicians gather. The songs played in many restaurants were common tunes played by popular artists like Juan Gabriel or Rocío Dúrcal. Attending the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza for the first time immediately expanded my awareness of other songwriters, musical arrangers, musicians, groups and vocalists.
Seeing Mariachi Vargas in concert was amazing—it left me speechless. It was a whole new experience for me to see a 13-piece, professional mariachi group perform on a big stage to a level of perfection that was beyond my imagination. It made me realize there’s so much more to mariachi than I had imagined. Arturo Vargas’ rendition of “El Pastor” literally took my breath away, and I soon found myself trying to mirror his performance. Seeing Vargas in concert made me realize that I definitely wanted to be part of this mariachi community that shares so much love for its music.
The Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza has many highlights. There are workshops, mariachi group and vocal competitions and a grand finale concert, but what I like most about the event are the friendships that are built and camaraderie that exists among everyone. It’s like a family reunion.
Friendships for a lifetime
My first time competing in the Mariachi Vocal Competition was in 2013. A girl backstage saw how nervous I was. She pulled me aside, sat with me and calmed me down until I felt comfortable. She helped me so much, but I didn’t even get her name. Then the following year, I saw her again, I got to know her and we became friends. Her name is Isabella Rodríguez. She’s from San Antonio and her father is a long time mariachi musician known as Francisco “Pancho” Rodríguez. It was also great to see her at the Mariachi Extravaganza Summer Vocal Camp as a volunteer. She is one of the many people I enjoy seeing every year.
I met my best friends through mariachi music. Among them is the Best Vocalist in the U.S. for 2015, Kamryn Ramírez. The common bond we all have for this music and the emotions shared during the Extravaganza help build friendships that last a lifetime. Mariachi music brings out so much passion that is shared with the special people in my life.
The Vocal Competition
The Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Vocal Competition is the very best. The first time I saw it was in 2012. It’s a unique experience that is like nothing I’d ever seen before. There are so many vocalists dressed in beautiful outfits. I remember when Nizhoni Begay from San Antonio and Yomara Cortez from Roma both tied for first place in the high school category. I was impressed that Nizhoni had such a strong voice for being so petite. Yomara, with blonde hair and wearing a white dress, walked out on stage with so much confidence and so much power in her voice. She was impressive.
And there are others that stood out that first year, like Paola Alanís, who had this gorgeous pink traje, and Karen Zavala, who won “Best Mariachi Vocalist in the U.S.” that year. Her performance was filled with energy. She sang beautifully and danced with the guest accordion player, Robert Casillas, and looked like she was having a lot of fun. All these finalists motivated me to try out for the competition the following year. I’ve competed in the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Vocal Competition twice now, and it’s the best experience ever. Everyone is so receiving. The professors and artists are humble, and they want to you to succeed.
Mariachi music and Mariachi Vargas have given me so much hope as to my future, and there’s no greater feeling than to be part of this great family. I’m looking forward to this year’s Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza and I would like to encourage everyone to share this message with others, to help expand our mariachi community and keep these beautiful cultural traditions growing for many years to come.
This blog was written by Astrid Téllez, a senior studying Spanish Translation and Interpretation at the University of Texas RGV in Edinburg. She is an intern with Muñoz Public Relations (MPR) in preparation for the 22nd Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza.
Due to the increase in phone calls and emails from people who are planning to attend the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, tickets have gone on sale earlier than usual this year. Purchase your ticket today with the code word VARGAS. Regular tickets go on sale August 3 via ticketmaster.com.
From now until November 9, you can book your hotel room at the Grand Hyatt Hotel at the special rate of $109 per night. Do it today! Be sure to book your rooms early, as this year the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza is held the same weekend as the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon that attracts thousands of runners and fills up many hotel rooms in the downtown area.
“I’ve attended all of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza concerts except for one. I love mariachi music and look forward to attending this event every year. I tell my daughter: ‘When I die, don’t get mariachi music. I want to enjoy them while I’m alive!’”
Link to Astrid’s alma mater:
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