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‘Mariachi Girl’ breaks down barriers during A&M-San Antonio president’s inauguration week

By Robert Carrasco

Carmencita wants only one thing, to sing in her father’s mariachi group.

But there’s a problem for “Cita.” Her father, who vows to cling to any bit of his cultura from his upbringing in Mexico, does not believe women should be allowed to sing in mariachi groups.

“I wanna be a mariachi like papi, but he won’t let me!” exclaimed Cita.

That voice, played loud and clear by Brackenridge High School freshmen Lauren Rose Calderon, filled the auditorium Oct. 8 during a live performance of “Mariachi Girl,” attended by a full audience of local students.

“Mariachi Girl” premiered three years ago in Austin, Texas. The play, which focuses on breaking down barriers, was shown throughout the day on Main Campus to young audiences in the morning and afternoon. The play was directed by Michael Avila.

Luis (Gino Rivera) embraces his daughter Cita (Lauren Rose Calderon) after she sang with his Mariachi band. Photo by Evelyn Vallejo.
Luis (Gino Rivera) embraces his daughter Cita (Lauren Rose Calderon) after she sang with his Mariachi band. Photo by Evelyn Vallejo.

The performance was one of the final events during a week of festivities celebrating the President Cynthia Teniente-Matson’s Inauguration.

The story of a 10-year-old’s struggle to get her parents to understand she wants only one thing, sing in her father’s mariachi group, reaches a diverse audience.

Cita is a young girl who actually sings in her own mariachi group, Mariachi Milagro, and is in constant battle with her father (played by Gino Rivera) who wants nothing more than for her to keep her nose in her books. Cita is ready to give up hope until her teacher Mrs. Parker (played by Elise Lopez) and her mother (played by Rhonda Garcia, female mariachi who herself broke down barriers) push her to follow her dreams.

Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, assistant professor of theatre education at the University of Texas at Austin department of theatre and dance, wrote “Mariachi Girl” almost ten years ago. She said she was pleased to see the play make its San Antonio debut.

Young members of the audience looked on as Cita and her father came together, influenced by an older brother and their mother, who showed the strength of the family values in this play.

“There aren’t many important Latino stories for people to see in theatre,” Schroeder-Arce said. There is a high need to fill the void for the sharing of important Latino stories, she added.

High school students from Somerset, New Frontier Charter School and Edgewood Fine Arts Academy packed the auditorium by the request of A&M-San Antonio President Matson as Schroeder-Arce unveiled “Mariachi Girl” for the first time at the university.

The playwright expressed her delight to see so many young people. She aspired to “bring in young people to see theatre” as well as reach family audiences as often as she can.

Schroeder-Arce’s “Mariachi Girl” was brought to A&M-San Antonio due in large part to the efforts of a sub-committee, including co-chair Eric Lopez, dean of College of Education and Human Development.

Lopez said President Matson introduced him to Schroeder-Arce at an A&M-San Antonio event.

“Our culture?!” Carmen (Rhonda Garcia) says in a skeptical tone as Mrs. Parker (Elise Lopez) admits to being a Mexican-American. Photo by Evelyn Vallejo.
“Our culture?!” Carmen (Rhonda Garcia) says in a skeptical tone as Mrs. Parker (Elise Lopez) admits to being a Mexican-American. Photo by Evelyn Vallejo.

“She told me about the play and after hearing about it, we spent the summer trying to figure out how to get the play here,” Lopez said by telephone. “With the cultural implications and identity issues that the characters experience, it really pulled me in.”

When asked if Schroeder-Arce is expected to return to A&M-San Antonio in the future, Lopez confirmed that there is already talk of trying to bring her back to possibly work with students and faculty at A&M-San Antonio.

Back in the auditorium, as the lights turned on following the play, children from the community wearing their “Class of…” t-shirts stood displaying the number of years left before they will graduate from area high schools.

Lopez made sure to let them know of A&M-San Antonio’s expansion to a four-year institution. With the announcement of the opening of freshmen and sophomore courses in the fall of 2016 at A&M-San Antonio, the afternoon was not just filled with culture from the play, but promise of the future as well.

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