Mariachi Imperial de America Helps Celebrate La Virgen de Guadalupe

Check out our slideshow from yesterday's Feast of the Virgen de Guadalupe.

For Mexicanos and Mexico-Americanos, there is nothing better than mariachi music to help celebrate a wedding, birthday, funeral, graduation, hiring, firing, or national or religious holiday. The music is both fancy and accessible, assisting celebrants in expressing their emotions and opening their hearts through song. With a few guitars, trumpets, and violins, a mariachi band adds a symphonic and traditional atmosphere to any event.

The feast day of La Virgen de Guadalupe is celebrated every year on December 12. On that day in the year 1531, it is believed that the Virgin Mary appeared to an indigenous Native American peasant named Juan Diego. The miracles associated with this Marian apparition led to the conversion of millions of indigenous people to the Catholic faith, as well as the construction of a shrine on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City, where the events are believed to have occurred. In 2002, Juan Diego was canonized and became the first indigenous American saint.

Indeed, there is a long list of mariachi songs specific to the celebration of La Virgen, including "Mañanitas Tapatias," "Buenos Dias Paloma Blanca," "Virgencita Ranchera," "Adios Reina Del Cielo," and many more. I spoke to Stephanie Tunchez, a member of the internationally acclaimed Houston-based group Mariachi Imperial de America, about the significance of mariachi music during the December 12 celebrations.

Rocks Off: What role does mariachi music play during the Virgen de Guadalupe celebrations? What makes this event so special?

Stephanie Tunchez: The event originated in Mexico and is celebrated by Catholics. It's a huge celebration which includes a mass and usually some sort of reception afterwards. It's a national event and the mariachi's role is just to add to the fiesta! We play during the mass and usually at the reception.

RO: What is your favorite Virgen de Guadalupe song and why?

ST: I don't have a favorite Virgen de Guadalupe song. I love them all! We only play them once a year for this special event and it's great to hear everyone sing along with us!

RO: I often see your posts on social media tagged with #MariachiLife. How has mariachi music changed your life?

ST: Mariachi has changed my life significantly! It was actually something I got thrown into in middle school not even knowing what it was, and from that, it has turned into a passion that I can't see myself ever quitting!

Being in a mariachi has given me great opportunities to play at events accompanying Ana Gabriel, Lola Beltran, and Jenni and Lupillo Rivera and more (Rest In Peace, Jenni). It's also given me opportunities to travel the country.

Stephanie invited me to Saint Jerome Catholic Church in Spring Branch Tuesday night for one of the largest Virgen de Guadalupe celebrations in the city. Indeed, when I arrived, parking was at a premium as almost 1,000 people crowded into the church.

Dancing groups called matachínes began the night by performing indigenous dance routines to the tribal banging of a large drum. Mexican sweet bread and champurrado (a hot chocolate-based drink) was served on the frigid night as we waited to enter the church.

The night was magical. I was flooded with memories and emotions when I heard the songs and saw the colorful visuals of the celebration. There was one person that I had in my mind and heart: my dearly departed mother.

Back in 1999, we visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, and saw Juan Diego's tilma that carries the beautiful image of La Virgen. I specifically remember her being overcome with happiness, laughing and smiling as I wiped tears from her cheek.

Mariachi music tends to have a profound effect on me, and in that respect, it will forever be near and dear to my heart.


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