EXCLUSIVE: All-Women Mariachi Bands Trailblaze New Path For Latinas

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When Stephanie Amaro got pregnant two years ago, her bandmates in Trio Ellas (pictured) panicked. “As it was getting closer to the due date, they were saying, ‘Oh, my God, what are we going to do?” recalls Mexican-American Amaro. “‘Is there a subvocalist that can play mariachi guitar, sing at the same time, wear the outfit and know the repertoire?’”

The answer was, claro que si. As it turns out, the number of female singers who can fill out charro pants and roar a grito mexicano is on the rise. Female mariachi singers have long been an exotic minority, noticed more for the novelty they present than for their musical prowess. But today, a growing number of all-female groups, including Trio Ellas, Mariachi Divas and Mariachi Las Coronelas, are elevating the traditionally male-dominated genre with their talent and substance, along with their beauty and style. And they’re also gaining acclaim.

In 2011, Trio Ellas, consisting of guitarist Amaro, violinist Suemy Gonzalez and Nelly Cortez on guitarrón, was featured on Lady Gaga’s “Americano” and nominated for a Latin Grammy the following year. Meanwhile, the multicultural Mariachi Divas, who became the first all-female mariachi group to win a Grammy, in 2009, are up for the award again this year in the Best Regional Mexican Album category.

Despite the popularity of bands like Mariachi Sol de Mexico, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and Mariachi Vargas, women still have a relatively small part of the guitarrón pie.

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