Under the musical direction of Dr. Dahlia Guerra, Francisco Loera, and Miguel Peña, the award-winning University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (UT-RGV) mariachi program and Ballet Folklórico group has set a high standard of excellence amongst collegiate performing ensembles internationally.
Three mariachi groups fall under UT-RGV’s umbrella, including Mariachi Aztlán, Mariachi Juvenil Aztlán and newly formed all-female ensemble Mariachi Azálea. UT-RGV is one of the longest running mariachi university programs in the nation. For 27 years, the mariachi program has run, and almost 50 years of Folklorico.
From embarking on tours, to playing for high-profile politicians, UT-RGV is gaining recognition and showcases across the nation for their cultural and powerful performances.
During the 23rd Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, UT-RGV’s rendition of “El Relampago” was filmed and captured by San Antonio producers Isaih Matthews, Chavis Baron and Dominique Johnson of Solarshot. It was submitted and accepted into the 40th Annual Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Cinefestival, and will premiere on Friday, July 6 during “Senior Cinema: Coco” at the Guadalupe Theater at 10 a.m.
The video holds a great significance to all members of UT-RGV, and dedicated to Mexico City native Ángel Hernández Morales; a resident of Pharr, Texas, a recent graduate of the University of UT-RGV School of Engineering, and a member of the university’s esteemed folkloric dance group. The video captures one of Ángel’s final performances before his unexpected passing on February 14, 2018, at the tender age of 25.
In addition to CineFestival, UT-RGV is kicking off their summer tour and representing Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza in Floresville on June 8, at the Lauro G. De Leon III Event Center at 3 p.m, and will accompany Grand Champion Vocalist Jizelle Rodriguez.
Following Floresville, UG-RTV will be premiering the 16-piece all-female ensemble Mariachi Azáleas in Albuquerque on July 14. Mariachi Azáleas members are all from different Rio Grand Valley high schools, and most are freshmen in college. Three former Mariachi Vargas Grand Champion Vocalists, Kassandra Juarez, Alexa Posas and Jackie Barrera, are members in the ensemble.
“These girls exude strength and confidence as women,” Guerra said. “We want to feature songs that showcase femininity, yet confidence.”
Performances follow in Greeley, Colorado at the University of North Colorado on July 15, and Lone Tree, at the Lone Tree Arts Center on July 16.
“We are looking forward to the tour, and performing in different places,” Guerra said, “We love to promote our university and program that we work so hard for.”
It’s been a busy summer for the group, as Mariachi Juvenil Aztlàn recently retuned from Washington D.C. where they performed at the White House and accompanied Ballet Folklorico UT-RGV at the 2018 American College Dance Association (ACDA) Festival. They were the only college group representing the Mexican American community at ACDA.
“That was really special.” Guerra said. “The whole D.C. trip was just so important and significant. This is a high point.”
Other key points in UGRTVs summer include performances in Santa Barbara, California during the Viva El Artes program and Chicago for the 4th Annual Chicago Mariachi Festival on June 24th at the Millennium Theatre.
“That’s really something special. The whole trip was just so important and significant.” Guerra said. “We want to inspire others and let them embrace their culture. I am extremely proud at performances to represent South Texas and our university and our culture. It is a wonderful and exciting moment.”
The Floresville and Colorado performances were organized by Muñoz Public Relations (MPR), producer of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza.
“This tour started last year with two cities, and has now expanded to three,” said Cynthia Muñoz, president of MPR. “I’d like to continue growing this tour to additional markets for award-winning Mariachi Extravaganza artists over the next few years.”
Mariachi Aztlán members:
Orlando de León, violin
Alan Sanchez, violin
Clyde Guerra, violin
James Escobedo, violin
Mónica Fogelquist, violin
Micheal Sital, violin
Joel González, violin
Brígido Lagunes, violin
Julian Hernandez, violin
Josué Eduardo López, violin
Alexa Posas, violin
Héctor Bermea, trumpet
Frank Carreón, trumpet
Rubén Núñez, trumpet
Luis Ángel Chávez, vihuela
Alicia Alanís, guitar
Carlos González, guitar
Nathan García, guitarrón
Iván Velasco, harp
Ballet Folklórico members:
Jose Luis Torres