This is the fifth profile in a series of blogs written by mariachi historian Jonathan Clark on current members of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. This profile features Daniel Martínez, longtime vocalist and violinist for Mariachi Vargas.
Daniel Martínez was born on September 29, 1956 in Saltillo, Coahuila, to a family of non-musicians. An uncle-by-marriage taught him to play the vihuela at age 11, and soon after, he made his debut in a mariachi. At age 14, he moved to Monterrey, Nuevo León, where he played vihuela with several groups, and eventually switched to guitarrón.
His ambition was to study with legendary guitarronist Natividad “Nati” Santiago of Mariachi Vargas, and at around age 19 he moved to Mexico City with that intention. Unsuccessful in establishing an apprenticeship with Nati, he commenced a serious study of violin and voice. His violin teacher was Luis Guzmán; his vocal instructors, Paco de Migueles and Yordi Ramiro. All three were famous teachers who produced a large number of distinguished mariachi musicians. During that period, Daniel practiced an average of six hours a day.
In 1979, he became a violinist with Mariachi de América II, Jesús Rodríguez de Híjar’s second-string group (later called Mariachi de la Ciudad, de Pepe Villela). In 1983, he became a formal member of Mariachi de América, where he remained until 1985, when he joined Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.
Daniel considers his early years with Mariachi Vargas, when he worked beside some of the most renowned icons in the history of mariachi music, many of whom have since passed away, to be the most unforgettable period of his life. As a vocalist, his principal inspiration has always been Heriberto Molina. Ironically, it was bassist Nati Santiago who taught him the essential nuances of song interpretation and vocal expression within the mariachi genre. In 2008, Daniel launched another facet of his career when he began composing songs. Mundo Viejo, his debut solo CD as a singer-songwriter, was released in late 2013.