It’s not unusual to hear Mariachi music along the River Walk, but visitors in the area probably heard more than the typical dinnertime serenade at one of the many riverside restaurants on Thursday.
Dozens of floats slowly made their way down the San Antonio River for the Mariachi Festival, an official Fiesta San Antonio event that brings perhaps one of the most beloved aspects of the city’s culture and heritage to residents and visitors alike. Mariachi music has been around since the 19th century, originating in Mexico, and has even been recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, bestowed upon those “intangible” aspects of various cultures.
Several groups of middle and high school Mariachi students – whose enthusiasm and music brought visible joy to onlookers – serenaded the crowd of hundreds as the day faded into night. Each year, the festival is an opportunity for them to warm up to performing in front of large, lively crowds of people. And everyone knows that there are no larger and livelier crowds than those that Fiesta brings.
In total, 33 groups of students from Texas schools will lend their talents to the four-day festival, and Grammy Award-winning music icons like Little Joe Hernandez and Juan Ortiz with his 12-piece Mariachi band Campanas de America kicked off the event on Tuesday with riveting performances as the perfect primer for those to come.
Ortiz and his wife Belle, who introduced Mariachi instruction to many San Antonio public schools in 1970 and is the mother of former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, chaired the free event that will conclude on Friday night at 7 p.m.
Top image: Wheatley Middle School was one of 33 schools to perform in the Ford Mariachi Festival. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone