The 28th Mariachi Extravaganza kicks off this week in San Antonio

On a recent afternoon, Osvaldo Chacon, a 21-year-old senior from the University of Texas at San Antonio, picked up his classical guitar and sang a melodic song by famed Mexican singer Luis Miguel.

Eres mi bien, lo que tiene me ecstatic

Why deny that I’m in love with you?

¿Por qué negar que estoy de ti enamorado?

“I grew up listening to the mariachi bolero,” Chacon, who grew up in the small border town of Del Rio, said of the love songs inside the School of Music building on campus. of UTSA. “It’s the music I play and listen to all the time. It is the culture that is part of you. It’s the personality we have and it’s who we are.

The musician practiced his breathing to prepare his voice for the Mariachi Extravaganza scheduled for Wednesday through Friday at the Lila Cockrell Theater in San Antonio.

This year marks the 28th year of the National Mariachi Festival.

“It’s such a great competition,” said Cynthia Muñoz, president of San Antonio-based Muñoz Public Relations, who played mariachi as a child and founded the festival in 1995. “It’s the longest-running competition of this type in the world.”

The Extravaganza is expected to attract 800 students to compete in group, solo and songwriting competitions in San Antonio, the largest Hispanic-majority city in the United States.

“A lot of students come from the San Antonio area,” Muñoz said. “There are so many students from Kyle, Seguin, San Marcos and San Antonio this year and that says a lot about the mariachi programs in the area. They become stronger and more competitive. Its good. This is really good.”

In San Antonio, mariachi musicians play music from Mexican culture at serenades, quinceañeras, serenades, weddings and funerals. The city offers the most renowned scene for artists and enthusiasts in South Texas.

For many, the mariachi represents deep family ties in Mexico and the musical tradition has been passed down from one generation to the next.

“I’m Mexican and it’s in my blood,” said Gianna Gonzalez, a 14-year-old freshman at St. John Paul II Catholic High School in Cibolo, a town in the San Antonio metropolitan area. “It connects me to people from my past, like ancestors, and their culture.”

Lucia Gonzalez, her mother who grew up in the west-central Mexican state of Jalisco, known as the “Mariachi Nation”, said she worked as a church choir director in California and now at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in San Antonio. . Her daughter sang in church for half of her young life and joined several mariachi bands.

“I’m so grateful for the Extravaganza because they let this generation show other generations and they take their love for music,” Gianna said. “It’s an honor to play and show people our tradition. That’s how the mariachi goes on.

On the UTSA campus, Gianna, dressed in her green mariachi journey, described how she was preparing to compete in her first-ever solo competition at the Extravaganza. She practiced the song, Mañanitas a la Virgen de Guadalupe.

Gianna said she practiced in a home studio. “I feel like I have a really good song that suits me,” Gianna said. “Lyrics calm me down. It’s like a prayer for me. So I’m going to pray on stage.

Her mother smiled and added, “When she does the dishes, she sings.”

Nearby, Chacon, who carried his journey with the blue and orange colors of his UTSA, said he was raised in the small border town of Del Rio as well as Ciudad Acuña, a town in the Mexican state of Coahuila.

His family introduced him to mariachi through revered Mexican musicians such as Javier Solis and Pedro Infante. He started listening to boleros and joined the school orchestra and mariachi bands and eventually became a member of the high school choir.

“What boleros represent is just love and passion,” he said, recalling his decision in seventh grade to stick with music instead of acting in clubs. soccer teams. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. At the time, it gave me hope and life and it was part of my adolescence and my development.

Last year, Chacon said he made it to the Extravaganza finalists.

“It’s definitely a learning experience,” he said. “Beyond the talent and the voice, it’s a lot more about the mental game and how you mentally play to overcome anxiety, to be more aware of yourself when you’re on stage because it’s It’s a different scene. It really is.”

This time around, Chacon, a music education student member of UTSA’s Mariachi Los Paisanos ensemble, said his bandleader Michael Acevedo helped him choose the song Abrazame by Spanish superstar Julio Iglesias. .

“I want to challenge myself this year and be as confident as possible,” he said.

“For me, this song is a bolero. I emotionally connect to this song and knew it was a song I had to sing.

The young mariachis gathered in the hallway of the School of Music: Chacon strummed his guitar while Gianna sang the high notes of Luis Miguel’s version of another love song.

Together, they seemed to already be on the Extravaganza stage.

I take you by the hand heart

Te llevo de la mano corazon

and here we go

Y allí nos vamos

If they let us

If our dejan

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