September 21, 2020

The centennial validity of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán | Culture



At 39, Carlos Martínez admits that it is difficult, at the time of reggaeton, of bachata, and with salsa as always competing, for Mariachi to sound in a disco. But still, every time you step on one, listen to the songs of your group: the Vargas de Tecalitlán. And the young people sing them, dance them without knowing that he – their current leader – is there and that they belong to him. When he tells it, Martinez gets excited, moves his hands to the sound of an imaginary trumpet and, with his powerful mariachi voice, also sings: “Do you know something? I have something to tell you … And I don't know how to start explaining, what I want to tell you! ”

"Our music is alive," he says when it ends. "And I don't care that even my niece thinks that song is from Luis Miguel." The song, Do you know something, popularized by Luis Miguel in 2005 – and that last year had a second luck boom for the series about his life– It is actually the work of nonagenario composer Rubén Fuentes who, back in the forties, also joined the Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, a group that celebrates 122 years of history with six generations of musicians. When Luis Miguel recorded it, Vargas rang in the background as he did with much of the great Mexican songs of the 20th century.

The group was founded in 1898 thanks to the call of the mayor of Tecalitlán – a small peasant town in the State of Jalisco – to Gaspar Vargas and the group with which he improvised sones, because he was urged by a group to liven up the national holidays. Thus the Vargas de Tecalitlán was formed, which left the town to leave its mark on Mexican music recognized throughout the world. De Rubén Fuentes, who at 93 is still in the group as CEO, are also some iconic themes such as The bikina, Like nothing Y The son of the black. Vargas has been the band that accompanied Pedro Infante, in his acting role as a composer who became a driver, to sing on your balcony Cucurrucucu dove Miroslava Stern in the 1954 film School of Vagrants. He also accompanied José Alfredo Jiménez in 1976 to record the original version of If they let us, and it was the Mariachi header for Lola Beltrán, Juan Gabriel or Alejandro Fernandez, among many other musicians in the country. Without the Vargas, present behind the scenes of much of Mexican music of the last century, the sentimental education of all post-revolutionary Mexico would be different.

(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU-lANuwEbc (/ embed)

“Vargas is Mexico in its music,” says Jonathan Palomar, guitarist of the group since 2017. Palomar says his Mariachi is a trunk for Mexico, especially because the connection with the public is never disregarded. He exemplifies it with the reception they had last year, when they toured the United States accompanied by the band El Recodo. “Together we make 200 years of Mexican music, and the reception in all cities was incredible,” he says about that 15% of the American population – about 36 million people – who are Mexican and who went to the meeting. “We are now working to adapt Broadway musical themes West side story", Palomar continues," it will be the first time a mariachi song is recorded half in Spanish and half in English. And it was time. ”

Because Vargas has never been indifferent to the history of Mexico. It was the band that accompanied General Lázaro Cárdenas through Jalisco when he toured the country with the slogan “Workers of Mexico Unite” in campaign to access the presidency in 1934 and nationalize the oil industry, founding the National Institute of Anthropology for the preservation of heritage Mexican archeological and receive the republican exiles of the Spanish Civil War. They were also hired as the international promoters of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City by the Government of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, who days before the start of the event ordered the repression of the student movement who wanted to demonstrate during the occasion to show the institutional abuses of an authoritarian government. Vargas was also the first Mexican group to play at the United Nations Palace in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 2018: a month after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security admitted that separated 1,995 children from their parents on the Mexican border between April and May of that year.

For Gonzalo Camacho, anthropologist, ethnomusicologist and researcher at the Faculty of Music of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Vargas de Tecalitlán is the great symbol of mariachi developed during Mexican nationalism and that is why it has great worldwide recognition. "The Vargas and that mariachi style – which includes trumpets, violins and a great staging – wins a great projection from the victory of President Lázaro Cárdenas, of whom they are a symbol of popularity," says the researcher, although he clarifies that Vargas' style is "only one" among several expressions of the mariachi that were relegated by the cultural policies that promoted the most pompous style of the Vargas leaving aside more regional ones.

Agustín Sandoval, trumpeter and last member to join the group this year, says that being part of the group is his dream come true. “We all grew up listening to Vargas,” he says, and smiles as he remembers that at 11, while he was learning to play, he looked forward to his concerts. Now, when he is 29, he says: “Once I got the members from that time they signed me a bun that I kept perfectly well cared for. My trumpet teacher said that I was going to sign him one day, but I didn't want to believe him. ”

The dream come true is something that all members have in common. Today, already far from Tecalitlán, and with its members scattered between Mexico City, Guadalajara and Los Angeles (USA), the weeks that can be found to rehearse in a house south of Mexico City, where only they and their instruments fit, are sacred. "The one who wants to be in the Vargas has to be the order of the day on the phone," summarizes Sandoval.

Martínez refines: “There is a profile that is based on studies and adaptation to always be available. Vargas is the Mexican Mariachi team: that's why there will be great musicians who can never integrate the family because the most important thing is that dedication and closeness, many of us know each other since we were children. Why when the idea of ​​a mariachi in the group enters the conversation, the three doubt. In 122 years, Vargas has only been integrated by men. "Never say never," says Martinez, who thinks for a moment in silence and ditch: "I have heard groups of incredible women, but I think they do not plan to enter the Vargas, but sing and play on their own. But if one day it happens… to see what God will have prepared. ”

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