An important mission of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, now in its 21st year, is to honor and recognize artists who have made significant contributions to the mariachi genre. This year’s award goes to don Rigoberto Mercado, who played trumpet with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán for over 25 years. In 1979, as a member of Mariachi Vargas, Rigoberto participated in San Antonio’s (and the world’s) first international mariachi festival. Three and a half decades later, he’s taking part in San Antonio’s current mariachi festival, this time as an honoree.
Rigoberto Mercado Álvarez was born in 1942 in the town of Tequila, Jalisco, where at age 11 he began playing brass instruments in the municipal band. At age 15, he moved to Mexico City, where he shared a Plaza Garibaldi tenement with relatives who included a young Jesús Rodríguez de Híjar. Rigoberto immediately enrolled in the Escuela Libre de Música, where he applied himself diligently. Although he had never played with a mariachi before, he soon received invitations from groups in the plaza. Slowly working his way up to better and better groups, he eventually joined the ensemble led by Miguel Díaz, considered one of the better mariachis of that era.
In 1967, Rigoberto was invited to join Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, where he remained for over 25 years. The combination of Federico Torres (on first) and Rigoberto Mercado (on second) was the most stable and enduring trumpet duet Mariachi Vargas has had to date. During his tenure with Vargas, Rigoberto participated in over a dozen of the group’s most memorable albums, made many hundreds of recordings with the greatest singers in ranchera music, and toured the world extensively.
Rigoberto in his early years with Vargas
Following his departure from Mariachi Vargas in 1991, Rigoberto moved to San Antonio, where he performed for many years at the Fiesta Texas theme park, first as a member of Mariachi Campanas de América, and later as a member of Mariachi Los Caporales. He directed and played on Los Caporales’ 1999 CD Jamás, Jamás. He currently performs with Mariachi Zacatecano at San Antonio’s La Fogata Restaurant.
Rigoberto Mercado will be the guest of honor at a special Noche de Cultura presentation where Andrés González (current member of Mariachi Vargas), Roy Quintero (director of Mariachi Los Caporales), and Cynthia Muñoz (producer of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza) will pay tribute to this outstanding musician for his six-decade contribution to mariachi music. The event will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, at the Mexican Cultural Institute, located in San Antonio’s Hemisfair Plaza. The public is invited and admission is free.
Maestro Mercado will also be giving a private presentation at the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Director’s Workshop on November 20, 2015. The title of his lecture is “Secretos a Voces: Frequently Overlooked Details that Distinguish a Superior Mariachi.” This special event is only open to registered mariachi directors.
Below is a selected discography featuring some of don Rigoberto’s favorite recordings of the many he made with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. To hear more of this music, tune in MariachiMusic.com Live every Saturday morning from 8-10 a.m. CST, on KEDA AM/FM and streaming live on the Internet. Maestro Mercado is a frequent guest on this weekly radio show hosted by Extravaganza producer Cynthia Muñoz.
You can say hello to Rigoberto at the Mariachi Vargas concert on Saturday, November 21, at San Antonio’s Lila Cockrell Theatre. Seats are still available at ticketmaster.com.
Don Rigoberto and Cynthia Muñoz
Selected recordings of Rigoberto Mercado with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán
|Bonito Tecalitlán||De las Mañanitas
a las Golondrinas
|La Bikina||La Nueva Dimensión||RCA||1968|
|La Gruta||La Nueva Dimensión||RCA||1968|
|Fiesta en Jalisco||Fiesta en Jalisco||RCA||1970|
|Cielito Lindo (popurrí)||Fiesta en Jalisco||RCA||1970|
|Viva Autlán||Viva el Mariachi||RCA||1971|
|Café Colón||Viva el Mariachi||RCA||1971|
|Las Bodas de
|Alma Llanera||LXXV Aniversario||RCA||1973|
|Los Gallos (popurrí)||El Mejor del Mundo||RCA||1976|
|Motivos||El Mejor del Mundo||RCA||1976|
|Pajarillo||El Mejor del Mundo||RCA||1976|
|Sabes una Cosa||Hablando Claro…||RCA||1980|
|El Cascabel||Hablando Claro…||RCA||1980|
|El Niño||México es Mágico||RCA||1981|
|Caballería Ligera||México es Mágico||RCA||1981|
|Viva Veracruz||El Mariachi||PolyGram||1989|
|Huapango de Moncayo||En Concierto||PolyGram||1989|