Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Mariachi, Dancing

SOCORRO, N.M. April 30, 2012 – Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in style, when Mariachi Buenaventura, the state’s first all-female mariachi troupe; singer Reynaldo Maestas and the Baila! Baila! folkloríco dancers bring their show to town at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 4, at New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center.

Mariachi Buenaventura with Reynaldo Maestas

Mariachi Buenaventura is New Mexico's first all-female act.

The Performing Arts Series (PAS) concert is a prelude to the actual “Fifth of May” Mexican holiday that marks the country’s victory over a much larger invading French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1861.

On the following day is the City of Socorro’s own Cinco de Mayo celebration, starting with a parade at 10 a.m., continuing with a rodeo at the fairgrounds from 1 to 4 p.m., and live music, a spirits tent, arts and crafts and food booths at the Plaza from 3 to 9 p.m.

“Cinco de Mayo has been called the Mexican version of St. Patrick’s Day, and others mistakenly believe it coincides with Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually celebrated on Sept. 16,” Director Ronna Kalish said.

“After the Battle of Puebla, the French actually prevailed in overtaking Mexico City, but the joy of an unlikely victory against overwhelming odds is remembered every May 5,” she said.

“We’re hoping to set the record straight with a spring celebration that pays homage to the music and traditions of our neighbor to the South, and to the rich and colorful history it celebrates,” Kalish said.

As a complement to the celebration, Tech Club/Club Macey will host a taco bar with a $5 cover charge for non-members, 5:30-7:30pm at Macey Center.

And who better to lead the musical celebration than Maestas and the two groups he has worked with over the years.

“I’m so excited to be coming back to Socorro to perform,” Maestas said. “I’ve done the fiestas and Christmas show there, but it’s even more of a thrill to return and headline a show.

“The audience is going to love Mariachi Buenaventura,” Maestas continued. “We have been working together for four years now, and not only are the members all great musicians, but they are New Mexico’s first all-female mariachi group and beautiful ladies.”

Indeed, Mariachi Buenaventura is an aspiring group of talented young women whose popularity continues to grow. Performing since 2005, the mariachi troupe plays for private and public events such as weddings, masses, quinceañeras, concerts and banquets.

The young singers perform a wide variety of traditional, contemporary and original songs, and pride themselves on their arrangements of pop songs and cumbias with a mariachi twist, both covers and original compositions.

Members of Mariachi Buenaventura are from various musical backgrounds which include rock, symphony and jazz. The ladies have attended annual mariachi conferences in Arizona and New Mexico, and have taken lessons with some of New Mexico’s finest mariachi groups.

In the summer of 2008, Mariachi Buenaventura accompanied a choir from Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, Mexico. To compete in the Choral Olympics of Graz, Australia, they spent a month touring and performing in various European countries.

Baila! Baila! Dance Academy was founded in January of 1990. The dance academy, which initially educated its students solely in traditional Mexican folk dance, now embraces ballet folkloríco (Mexican folk dance), country western, Latin/salsa, hip hop, classical ballet, danza Azteca and voice lessons.

Baila! Baila! often gives benefit performances for fundraisers and community programs, and works closely with the City of Albuquerque’s Public Housing and Drug Elimination Program (PHDEP) to offer children an alternative to drugs by teaching them respect for culture through history and dance.

“When I started singing eight years ago and producing shows, I knew I wanted a ballet folkloríco to dance,” Maestas said.  “Baila Baila has been with me for all of those years, and it’s because they’re the best at what they do – I’m so excited to be working with them again.”

Among their future shows is a scheduled performance in London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

“Our PAS performance in Socorro will include some of the songs we’ll be doing in London,” Maestas said. “The rest of the show will feature traditional mariachi songs and even a few originals written by members of Buenaventura.

“We’ll also take the audience on a tour of Mexico with song selections from different states,” he continued. “Our goal is for everyone to enjoy themselves and be part of one of the most beautiful music genres in the world, which we think is mariachi!”

For his part, Maestas is from Rociada, a small ranching community some 30 miles northwest of Las Vegas, N.M.

“The canyon where I live in is called ‘Maestas Canyon,’ which is named after my great grandfather,” the singer said, adding that his family still raises Quarter horses and competes in team roping events. In fact, Maestas attended college on a rodeo scholarship.

He has been singing mariachi for eight years and has two CDs recorded with Mariachi Tenampa, which Maestas calls “New Mexico’s premier mariachi ensemble.”

Among his musical accolades are seven New Mexico Hispano Music Awards, including duet of the year, which Maestas recorded with Ane Romero, Miss New Mexico 2005; the song is featured on his second CD, copies of which will be available for purchase after the performance.

Maestras has always loved to sing.

“My mom told me that when she was pregnant with me, she would play records of artists such as Jorge Negrete, Miguel Acevez Mejia, and many more greats, and I would kick in her stomach while the music was playing,” he said.

At the age of 14 years, the future music producer started the first all-Spanish choir at his hometown church.

“To this day, we still play together every first Sunday of the month,” he said. “Mariachi is my passion – I live, breathe, sweat, and will die singing Mariachi. It’s who I am, and I hope I can be a representative for future generations of mariachi singers to keep this beautiful music going,” said Maestas.

Unlike some performers who get stage fright or become anxious before a live performance, Maestas is just the opposite.

“I’m most comfortable on stage,” he said. “What I hate is the wait – all I want to do is get out there and start singing. When I’m on stage, it’s unlike any other feeling; the adrenalin that goes through your body is amazing.”

Other performers can attest to the feeling of interacting with an audience and getting them into the performance.

“I love to interact with the crowd – in fact, my goal is for fans to sing along if they know the song, clap their hands to the beat, or even cry if the song means something to them,” said Maestas.

“If a person can come to one of my concerts and leave feeling happier and content, then I've done my job,” he continued. “I don’t consider myself as just a singer – I’m an entertainer.”

As such, the singer has performed at a number of high-profile entertainment venues, including the Santa Fe Fiestas, N.M. State Fair, National Hispanic Cultural Center, and in cities from Clovis to Farmington and Tucumcari to Las Cruces.

“My greatest memory and venue so far would have to be when I performed at the Santa Fe Opera with Mariachi Azteca del Sol from Tucson and shared the stage with America’s first all-female mariachi, Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles,” said Maestas, adding that his collaboration with Mariachi Reyna included a performance in L.A. itself.

“That opportunity was amazing, and I’ll never forget it,” he said.

Kalish added that the May 4th PAS show is sure to leave a lasting imprint on the Socorro audience as well.

Sponsors for the performance are First State Bank, Comcast, Sofia’s Kitchen and Socorro Econo Lodge.

Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for seniors, $8 for youths 17 and under, and are available at the N.M. Tech Cashier’s Office (second floor of Fidel Center), Brownbilt Shoes and Western Wear, Burrito Tyme Drive-up or at the door.

– NMT –

By Valerie Kimble/New Mexico Tech