Nathania Flores, 2018 Grand Champion winner of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza National Vocal Competition, has been announced as the opening act for La Voz del Mariachi, Steeven Sandoval, when he performs in San Antonio for the third consecutive year on Saturday, May 4, 2019. Sixteen-year-old Nathania is a high school junior from Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District in Edcouch-Elsa, Texas. Nathania will proudly represent her community in performances throughout the U.S. this year in the role of artistic ambassador for the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza.
Nathania Flores won the prestigious Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Grand Champion title last November 16th when she performed “Mi Tierra Mexicana” in front of a distinguished panel of judges made up of members of the world-renowned Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. Having previously competed twice in the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza National Vocal Competition, Nathania carefully selected a song she believed could potentially win her the Grand Champion title. “This is the largest and toughest mariachi vocal competition in the world, so I knew I needed a song that was challenging, yet traditional, and one that would allow me to showcase my wide vocal range and falsetto,” says Nathania.
Alejandra Orozco’s version of “Mi Tierra Mexicana” with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán appealed to Nathania. “I liked the arrangement and the way Alejandra interpreted the song,” she says. Flores studied the song in all its complexities to render the best performance she could. She took the necessary time and effort to understand in depth the meaning of the lyrics. “I want people to feel what I’m singing, and for this song, it was important to me that I interpret it in a way that brings out its joyful emotions,” she emphasizes.
“Mi Tierra Mexicana” is a poetic representation of Mexico and its culture. In addition to references of the love, pride and beauty of the land, the song portrays Mexico’s courageous men and women in a colorful comparison of personality types: “Las del centro son altivas, las norteñas son sinceras, las surianas, sensitivas…” (“Women from the central region are proud, northern ones are sincere, southern ones are sensitive…”). The song acknowledges the nobility of Pre-Hispanic culture — highlighting the history, legends and traditions symbolically centered in the heart of Mexico: “Es la noble tierra azteca, corazón de corazones.” The final quatrain describes how the sun wears a charro outfit, the moon a ranchera dress, and how the stars are bright sequins (an allusion to the folkloric china poblana outfit). The refrain is a heartfelt confession of the singer’s love for their homeland: “¡Ay! tierra linda, con el alma yo te canto esta canción.”
“Mi Tierra Mexicana” was written more than seventy years ago by two of the most revered Mexican songwriters of the previous century: Alfonso Esparza Oteo and Felipe Bermejo. Both resided in Mexico City and worked together for many years during the Golden Era of Mexican Cinema. In this particular song by that duo, Nathania found the perfect vehicle to reach into the hearts and souls of her audience.
Nathania acknowledges that winning the Grand Champion title was not only the result of her hard work and discipline, but also a result of the support and guidance of her mariachi directors and the entire Edcouch-Elsa community. “During the announcement of the winners, I wasn’t sure who the grand champion winner would be, because there were many superb singers,” Flores recalls. “But when I heard my name, tears of joy immediately rolled down my cheeks. I felt that WE WON… Not just me, but the entire Edcouch-Elsa community who had faithfully supported me throughout the process,” she says. “I’m grateful to Mariachi Juvenil Azteca, my high school mariachi, which did an excellent job in accompanying me, and for the support I received from my mother and father (Sandra and David Flores), aunts, uncles, padrinos y madrinas. I also appreciate the guidance I received from my mariachi directors Marcos García, Mario Ferrer and Michael Sital. When you come from a small community and you really want to accomplish something, everyone gets behind you. They put everything aside, they make sacrifices and they do all that they can to help you achieve your dreams. That’s how it is in Edcouch-Elsa,” affirms Nathania.
The Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza competitions helped Nathania Flores realize what she could achieve as a mariachi performer. They also gave her the opportunity to experience how meaningful the support of family and community can be, and how mariachi music evolves around love for the Spanish language, the magnificent history of the songs, their singers and authors, the musical instruments, and the rhythms and styles associated with mariachi music.
Marcos García — one of the three co-directors who lead Nathania’s high school mariachi — is himself an accomplished musician and a member of Mariachi Los Arrieros del Valle, an ensemble nominated in the 2011 and 2014 Grammy Awards for Best Regional Mexican Album. Marcos says he feels proud and humbled by his students’ accomplishments, as well as for his mariachi’s accomplishments as Grammy Award nominees. He has been able to continue his passion for teaching mariachi music for the past 20 years while playing professionally with Los Arrieros, a group in which 11 of the 14 members are music professors. He emphatically acknowledges that, although small, his beloved community of Edcouch-Elsa possesses the three main ingredients necessary for a successful high school mariachi ensemble and individual vocalist winners: talented students, supportive families and community members, and a highly supportive school administration. “With these ingredients, our students can win both collectively as a mariachi ensemble and individually as vocal soloists. They can be mariachi role models everywhere they go,” explains Marcos.
Not surprisingly, last year not only did Nathania win the Grand Champion National Vocalist title, but Edcouch-Elsa’s very own Mariachi Juvenil Azteca also took first place in the highly competitive Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza National Group Competition’s high school category.
“Nathania has worked very hard over the past three years in the mariachi program at Edcouch-Elsa,” Marcos García confirms. “She is a disciplined young lady, and her win is well-deserved. She competed against the best 42 mariachi vocalists in the United States and won, and we’re very proud of her,” he assures us. “I’m proud of all my students,” Marcos adds.
After being named Grand Champion vocal winner, Nathania opened for Mariachi Vargas at the Lila Cockrell Theatre on November 18, 2018, where her outstanding performance was captured by Solarshot videographers Isaih Matthews, Chavis Barron and Dominque Johnson (see video above). Nathania was also awarded a $3,000 scholarship by Gonzaba Medical Group, presenting sponsors of the 24th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza.
Nathania Flores will open for Steeven Sandoval on Saturday, May 4 at 7:30 pm, at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre in San Antonio, Texas. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.com.
Catch Nathania at these 2019 performances
March 28 – April 1 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — Philadelphia Convention Center
April 27 – San Antonio, Texas – Fiesta Week – King William Parade
July 14 – Greeley, Colorado – Northern Colorado University, Fine Arts Theater Complex
July 15 – Lone Tree, Colorado – Lone Tree Arts Center
Additional awards won by Nathania
February 24, 2018 – Outstanding performer, Mariachi State UIL. Edinburg, Texas
January 30, 2018 – 1st place vocalist, All-Region Mariachi. Donna, Texas
December 2, 2017 – 1st place vocalist, Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza National Vocal Competition – High School Category. San Antonio, Texas
January 31, 2017 – 1st place vocalist, All-Region Mariachi. Donna, Texas
December 3, 2016 – 3rd place vocalist, Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza National Vocal Competition – High School Category. San Antonio, Texas