11 Songs, 38 Minutes

TITLE TIME

About Mariachi Herencia De Mexico

Mariachi Herencia de Mexico is a charting ensemble comprising students from Chicago's public school system. They have captured the imagination of not only American audiences but also those in Mexico and Central America via their buoyant, wide-open style, which is steeped in the long and illustrious Mexican tradition of folk song.

The group grew out of a foundation created by Chicago resident and investment banker César Maldonado. Though Maldonado was born in the Windy City, his parents both hailed from Durango, Mexico, worked in factories after immigrating, and spoke little English. Growing up, most of the music he heard on the radio was mariachi, and he fell in love with it. As an adult and a successful businessman, he wanted to give something back. He recalled having gone through elementary school with no music or arts classes, and decided to focus his charitable giving in that area. With his love of mariachi guiding his choice, he founded the nonprofit Mariachi Heritage Foundation in 2013. Since its beginnings, mariachi music education has been implemented in the curricula of eight Chicago public schools, hosting 2,100 students in grades three through eight.

One of its programs auditioned advanced students between the ages of 11 and 19 and selected 16 to work together for a year and take part in recording the album that became group's debut, Nuestra Herencia. It was produced by José Hernández, one of the top mariachi musicians residing in the U.S. (Maldonado brought him to Chicago four times to get it done.) Its tracks included vocalists from groups such as Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan, Los Camperos, Sol de Mexico, and Reyna de Los Angeles. The album included tributes to Mexican composers José Alfredo Jiménez and Juan Gabriel. Upon release, it took regional Mexican radio by storm and reached the number two spot on the Top Latin Albums chart as well as topping streaming lists. It became one of of the most successful U.S.-released mariachi albums in history. It was also the first major mariachi recording to be released by a U.S. student ensemble. It was nominated for a Latin Grammy in the Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album category. The group went on a tour during the summer of 2017 and played numerous prestigious venues, including the Kennedy Center.

In May 2018, Mariachi Herencia de Mexico issued their follow-up, Herencia de la Tierra Mia, featuring guest spots by Lila Downs and Aida Cuevas. The globally renowned Spanish producer Javier Limón (Alejandro Sanz, Bebo Valdés, Diego El Cigala, Paco de Lucía, Buika), who had never worked on a mariachi recording before, said "I had some doubts about whether I should do this project or not, but when I saw the faces of those kids — 12, 13, 14 years old — they just stole my heart." The producer, who is artistic director of the Mediterranean Music Institute at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, added "These are kids from very humble backgrounds who just as well could be thinking about their video games, or listening to hip-hop or reggaeton. The fact that they work so hard to learn this music, and then use music to get ahead in life, for me, that was the vital element that convinced me to work with them."

Although he thought it was a long shot to get Limón's participation, Maldonado let his feeling about mariachi propel him past that fear: "Mariachi music is an art form. It belongs in world music with flamenco and Latin jazz. I wanted to work with a producer who agreed that mariachi music needed to reach new audiences." Upon release, Herencia de la Tierra Mia topped the Latin albums sales chart, hit number five on the Mexican regional albums chart, and topped the streaming charts on three major services.

ORIGIN
Chicago, IL
FORMED
2016

Songs

Albums