Religiously, there’s nothing more Mexican than la posada, the December street procession that re-enacts the Virgin Mary’s search for a place to give birth to Jesus. Musically, there’s nothing more Mexican than mariachi — that roaring mix of trumpets, violins, guitars and flamboyant sombreros.
Put them together, as Homestead's burgeoning Mexican-American community did this month, and you've got the perfect Mexican Christmas.
But the mariachi part was an exuberant debut: It was the first public performance by the city's new mariachi academy.
Last year, the Homestead-based Mexican-American Council (MAC) received a $60,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for the creation of the academy. It was part of the Knight Arts Challenge Miami.
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The school is the first of its kind in South Florida — and it represents a milestone for Mexican-Americans here, since mariachi academies are usually a feature of large, well established Mexican communities like those in San Antonio and Los Angeles.
In Florida, Mexicans today are the third-largest Hispanic group behind Cubans and Puerto Ricans. According to 2014 U.S. Census numbers, close to 700,000 Mexicans live in the state, 150,000 in South Florida.
María Garza, president of the Homestead-based Mexican-American Council (MAC), and her husband Cipriano Garza envisioned the academy long before knowing about the challenge grant.
“The idea is to bring this type of folklore and history and knowledge to the children of migrant farm workers,” says María Garza. “But most importantly, is to give them the opportunity to know how to read and write music, to learn about the history of mariachi music, part of it is the roots.”