On New Year’s Day of 2021, Covid-19 took another life, this time that of our dear friend Cassandra Trejo, a well-known personality in the mariachi festival world.
Cassandra Clemence was born in 1963 in the town of Ruidoso, New Mexico. She grew up in Hobbs, New Mexico, but lived most of her life in Midland, Texas. By her own testimony, “Cassy,” as many called her, became familiar with mariachi music through television at the age of 18, and learned Spanish expressly to be able to sing it. As she would often say: “I fell in love with Mexico, its music, and its culture.”
New Mexico concert promoter Noberta Frésquez comments:
In the late ’90s, I hired Cassandra to sing at the New Mexico State Fair. I later invited her to participate in our Mariachi Spectacular festival workshops in Albuquerque, where her first vocal teacher was Heriberto Molina. She would return year after year. Cassandra was very nurturing and always brought several young people with her that she kept under her wing. When she met mariachi legends like Miguel Martínez, Jesús Rodríguez de Híjar, Rigoberto Alfaro, and José Hernández, her enthusiasm was overwhelming to the point of being contagious!
Cassandra also attended other U.S. mariachi festivals, including those in San Antonio, Tucson and Las Cruces, and eventually the Encuentro Internacional del Mariachi y la Charrería, in Guadalajara. In that city she made contacts and promoted herself in the media, resulting in invitations to sing in different parts of the republic. There she also recorded her own compact disc, Sueño en Vida, featuring arrangements by Rigoberto Alfaro.
Cynthia Muñoz, producer of San Antonio’s Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, recalls:
Cassandra was loved by many for her natural ability to interpret songs with great emotion, passion, ánimo and ganas. It was a true joy to watch her perform.
Besides singing, Cassandra played violin, guitar, and vihuela. She also worked as a cosmetologist and a nursing assistant. This latter skill proved useful in the case of Don Miguel Martínez.
By September of 2014, Don Miguel had been diagnosed with spondyloarthrosis, a degeneration of the cervical discs that causes loss of control of the hands and legs. His wife, Guadalupe Vallejo, recalls:
It was after dark and the phone rang. It was Cassy, calling to ask how Miguel was. After hearing the despair in my voice, she said: “Godmother, I’m going to Mexico.” Three days later she arrived loaded with vitamins. Miguel was very debilitated and had no interest in anything. She gave him vitamins, gave him physical therapy, talked to him about music and sang songs to him. Cassandra stayed in our apartment for nearly a month taking care of Miguel and when she left, he had come back to life. His enthusiasm had returned.
Rafael Palomar offers us another testimony to Cassandra’s generosity:
When I left Mariachi Vargas, I became depressed. I wanted nothing to do with stardom; I wanted to lose myself in anonymity. Cassandra was the one who restored my spirits and connected me to different mariachi festivals, which turned a whole new page in my life. For this, I’ll always be very grateful to her. Cassandra must have a very special place in heaven. I thank God that he put her into my life.
In late 2020, Cassandra went to visit her mother, Olivia Clemence, who was in hospice care at the home of her sister Melissa (Cassandra’s aunt), in Dallas, Texas. While there, Cassandra became ill with Covid–19 and died unexpectedly on January 1, 2021. She was 56 years old. Three days later, her mother died of non-Covid related causes.
Cassandra Trejo is survived by her husband, Doroteo Trejo, siblings Melissa, Floyd, Rubén and Mario, and two children, Vanessa and Adrián Arenivas.
“Mariachi was her life,” Cassandra’s daughter Vanessa assures us, “and in living her dream, she affected many lives. You can’t imagine how many people have told me that my mother lifted them up in their darkest hour.”
Cassandra Trejo isn’t the only member of the extended Texas mariachi family who has died of Covid. Another is the Río Grande Valley’s San Diego Independent School District band and mariachi director Héctor Cantú. Our hearts go out to all who have been affected by this pandemic. Please continue to stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask, and keep a social distance from others.