Mujer Latina isn’t your average Mariachi band. Formed in 2004, the Mexico-based musical group is comprised solely of women, something that’s unusual in such a male-dominated space.
“For every 100 mariachi bands, only about five of them are female,” Verónica Oviedo, leader of Mujer Latina, explained to Atlas Obscura. “People have the notion that women can’t play Mariachi music. But in reality, it’s good musicians and bad musicians that is the real distinction.”
According to UNESCO, which declared Mariachi a symbol of Mexico’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage” in 2011, Mariachi is a type of traditional Mexican music that dates back to the 18th century. Though Mariachi bands are largely defined by their instruments and music, they also tend to wear Charro-style costumes comprised of embellished jackets and matching pants, a piteado (or decorative leather), a sombrero and myriad matching accessories.
Oviedo founded Mujer Latina in December 2004 with a total of eight members, all female. Today, her group has 10 musicians: five violinists, two trumpeters, a guitarrón (or large bass guitar) player, a vihuela (guitar-like string instrument) player and a harpist.
“Part of the reason I started Mujer Latina was to open another door for Mexican women,” Oviedo explained. “In a culture where ‘mariachi’ exudes machismo, it’s been a difficult thing.”
Though it’s been hard for the members of Mujer Latina to find their place in a male-dominated culture, they’ve enjoyed being able to do what they love: make music.
“It can be difficult, since it’s not economically profitable for women and the environment remains predominantly male,” violinist Elva Aranza Zavala Souza told Atlas Obscura. “However, my parents could see how hard I’ve been working and decided to assist me with my dream.”
Mujer Latina is just one of the many Mariachi groups changing up tradition. From LGBTQIA+ groups to groups made of family members, different types of Mariachi bands are popping up all over the world to represent Mexicans of all ages, genders and sexual orientations.
“Mariachi may have a long tradition of being male, but Mariachi is also Mexico,” Oviedo said. “[The genre] has opened doors for our country. Now, it is also opening doors for our women.”
Check out the video above to learn more about Mujer Latina and see some of their epic performances!
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