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High School Students Make Mexico's Music Sing in Wenatchee

Mariachi Huenachi, part of Wenatchee High School's award winning mariachi program, performs at the Apple Blossom Festival in Wenatchee, Washington.
Wenatchee High School Mariachi
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Mariachi Huenachi, part of Wenatchee High School's award winning mariachi program, performs at the Apple Blossom Festival in Wenatchee, Washington.

The fastest growing Mariachi music program outside of Mexico is in Washington state. A high school Mariachi band from Wenatchee has an award winning director and they’ve won a few themselves.

Since the 18th century, Mariachi has been an integral part of Mexico’s music scene and most students here have Mexican roots. There aren’t many programs like this in the U.S.

The group, which is called Mariachi Huenachi, keeps kids culturally connected. They also have to meet specific academic standards. Teacher Ramon Rivera said expectations are high. 

“We are a farming community,” he said. “Their parents work in apples, cherries and pears and when you think of an agriculture worker, you don’t think of them going to college. You don’t think of them going to be the next senator, the next president, the next governor of the state.”

Sarahi Hernandez-Rubio is a soloist in the band. Next year, she hopes to sing at Eastern Washington University. She scored a partial scholarship from the band. She’ll be the first in her family to go to college. 

“Where we started, it was not good,” Hernandez-Rubio said. :We were like poor, poor, poor, poor and it feels amazing to give that to my mom.”

Historically, women did not take part in Mariachi. That posed a challenge for Rosa Espinoza, who had to convince her conservative Mexican parents that the band is good for her. 

“I would beg all the time and show them videos and pictures and so, it was all family trust,” she said.

 Espinoza will also be the first in her family to attend college next year because of two small scholarships from the band. 

Mariachi Huenachi plays 40 shows per year, but audiences aren’t always receptive. Rivera said a concert for their local Congressman this spring drew negative comments and questions about the students’ citizenship on social media. But they’ve been invited by U.S. Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan to play in the nation’s capital. 

“To be recognized like that, by politicians that are on that side of the spectrum, we’re looking past illegal immigrants or past stereotypes,” Rivera said. “These are kids.”

That concert take places in October, as part of a Hispanic heritage month celebration.

Copyright 2017 Northwest News Network

Emily Schwing
Emily Schwing comes to the Inland Northwest by way of Alaska, where she covered social and environmental issues with an Arctic spin as well as natural resource development, wildlife management and Alaska Native issues for nearly a decade. Her work has been heard on National Public Radio’s programs like “Morning Edition” and “All things Considered.” She has also filed for Public Radio International’s “The World,” American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” and various programs produced by the BBC and the CBC. She has also filed stories for Scientific American, Al Jazeera America and Arctic Deeply.