Members of Mariachi Sol de México pose with actress Martha Higuera on the set of McFarland, USA. From left to right: David Lizarde, Freddy López, Pedro Hernández, Fernando Velásquez (currently with Mariachi Vargas), Martha Higuera, Beto Díaz, Mario Hernández, and Julio Hernández. (Photo courtesy Roberto Díaz.)
Thumbs up for Walt Disney’s McFarland, USA, and congratulations to Mariachi Sol de México for that group’s role in this outstanding new motion picture. The movie’s director, New Zealander Nicola Jean “Niki” Caro, also deserves applause for the manner in which she captured numerous positive aspects of Hispanic culture and mariachi music. It’s truly refreshing to experience a positive portrayal of our culture on film.
McFarland, USA is about the track coach (played by Kevin Costner) for a high school’s long distance running team in a small Central California town where many Latinos work as migrant farmworkers. The movie portrays the parental support, family unity, and cultural celebrations that are inseparable from Hispanic culture. During one scene, parents of the team participate in car washes and tamale fundraisers to help purchase running shoes and gear for the young athletes. It reminded me so much of the fundraisers that our own mariachi students—with help from family, friends, and community—participate in regularly. The celebration of a young girl’s entry into womanhood is prominently depicted, and it is during one of these traditional quinceañera celebrations that Mariachi Sol de México enters the picture.
Incidental music that Sol de México recorded for the film includes “Las Mañanitas,” “El Gavilán,” “Suavecito,'” and “Vals de las Mariposas.” These can be heard in the background during the quince años scenes, where we get glimpses of many of the group’s current and former members. Although the entire ensemble didn’t participate in the on location segment, the band’s founder and director José Hernández was present during that part of the filming.
Mariachi Sol de México has been significantly influential in promoting mariachi music in the U.S. movie industry, having appeared in numerous Hollywood films such as Old Gringo (1989), American Me (1992) A Million to Juan (1994), Don Juan de Marco (1994), The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998), The Prime Gig (2000), Seabiscuit (2003), Glory Road (2006), Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Pt. 1, 2008; Pt. 2, 2011; Pt. 3, 2012), Red (2010), and Rango (2011). The group also participated in James Michener’s made-for-television miniseries Texas (2001), and has been featured on a large number of TV programs over the years.
Check out Disney’s McFarland, USA at a theater near you, and please let us know what you think!