Telling the Story of How Mariachi Transforms Lives and Communities

Initiative The Mariachi Miracle
Grantee Partner La Frontera Arizona, Inc.
San Francisco Superintendent of Schools Richard Carranza recalls talking school policy with President Obama.

The mariachi has long been the soundtrack of life in Mexican culture from the cradle to the grave. But in places across America over the last 50 years, it has become something far deeper. It has become the sound of equality, economic prosperity, academic achievement, social change, political empowerment and artistic prowess. 

The Mariachi Miracle is a film and book project documenting the impact of the youth mariachi and folklorico dance movement in Tucson, Arizona. Tucson is just one example of a cultural groundswell that is taking root among Hispanic populations in schools across the nation. As credited by Richard Carranza, former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education (the largest school system in the Nation), participation in mariachi gives young people confidence and self-esteem that lead to achievement and leadership. Mariachi is increasingly viewed as a promising strategy for enhancing educational potential. 

Tucson was among the first cities to create a mariachi program as a vehicle to a college education for Mexican American youth. Over time it led to the creation of the Tucson International Mariachi Conference, artist Linda Ronstadt’s platinum-selling recordings of mariachi standards, the proliferation of numerous private and school-based programs, and the birth of curriculum-based mariachi and folklorico dance programs in schools through Tucson. Tucson mariachi teachers went on to seed programs in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego, New York and other cities. 

At the school level these programs have become proven agents of academic and community success. Participation in mariachi and folklorico dance gives student self-confidence and workplace skills such as teamwork, discipline, and math and reasoning ability. Beyond school, the impact includes a less racist and more cohesive and civil community at large. 

This grassroots achievement that started in the Chicano community is a thoroughly American success story that has yet to be told in a comprehensive way. With the proliferation of mariachi in public schools nationwide, the film and book will become a resource for the movement to continue to transform students’ lives and whole communities. 

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