Life & Culture

Mariachi NU fosters Latinx community and spreads culture on campus Mariachi NU fosters Latinx community, spreads culture on campus

Longing for the sweet sounds of “Las Mañanitas” for a birthday or “Cielito Lindo” for a special celebration but not sure where to look on campus? Mariachi Northwestern supports you.

Head of Communications Mia Hodges serves as president and one of the voice actors at Mariachi NU. She had no experience with mariachi-style music, but Hodges said she joined mariachi no in her freshman year to get in touch with this aspect of her culture.

Hodges, as the group’s only senior, added that she watched the numbers of Mariachi members dwindle and increase, putting pressure on the VIPs to keep the group alive.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve come up with, considering so many of us started from scratch,” Hodges said.

Mariachi NU is open to all students, regardless of race, experience, or year. According to Hodges, most students who join Mariachi NU have little or no experience with the music style and are learning new instruments to play with the group.

Mariachi music typically includes violins, trumpets, guitars, and sometimes the accordion. It also includes some instruments specific to this style, such as the guitaron – a large stringed instrument with a deep, guitar-like sound – or the voila, a smaller stringed instrument shaped like a guitar but tuned like a lute.

“They play some of the rarest musical instruments in the world, and they became experts in them at this university,” Hodges said. “For the future, they have to compromise on that. They literally transmit culture, they transmit traditions, and it is a really beautiful experience.”

Young Weinberg Isabella Brown joined Mariachi NU as a freshman. She works as the group’s business chief and a trumpet player.

Mariachi NU performs several times a year, sometimes with Ballet Folklórico de Northwestern – a group that performs a traditional Mexican dance style known as folklórico – or alone at off-campus events such as weddings or birthdays. As a business leader, Brown said she coordinates the events at which the group plays.

A group dressed in black mariachi and holding various instruments, perform on stage.
Mariachi NU is performing at the 2019 Spring Show (Image via Mia Hodges)

“I’ve never had any kind of group, with a Latin base, or Latin—it doesn’t matter if it’s culture or music or anything. I’ve never had a group like this before,” Brown said. A great experience for me to connect more with the culture.”

Communications student Esteban Ortiz-Villacorta is the new voice performer for Mariachi NU. He said he auditioned for the group after a friend from a peer counseling group told him about it, because he thought it would be a unique musical experience that would also connect him to his culture.

Just like Hodges and Brown, Ortiz-Villacorta said Mariachi NU is special in that it allows students of all backgrounds to learn about Mexican culture and music.

“(Mariachi groups) make more sense in places like Florida or Arizona where Latino communities are higher,” Ortiz-Villacorta said. “But especially here at Evanston, it’s great to be able to see that there is still a group here that allows students who are part of that background to either be involved in art or be involved as members of the audience and be able to connect to that part of their heritage.”

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Related stories:

Ballet Folklórico and Mariachi NU Spread Latin Culture at Annual Spring Fairs

Mariachi NU brings energy to holiday classics

Mariachi Northwestern dazzles at the first annual spring show

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