One reason is that the business of performing mariachi music is extremely grueling. Unlike other genres, where tours are planned in advance and carefully choreographed, mariachi acts typically freelance on weekends, requiring frequent and erratic travel that can collide with family life. When Trio Ellas initially formed, they performed at restaurants, weddings and baptisms close to home.
And although women often sit in with all-male groups, it’s almost unheard of for them to become full members of those bands. “The real reason some men don’t want a female in the band is that while they’re on the road they drink and act crazy,” says Amaro. “As soon as I join a group where I’m the only female, everyone is seeing how they can hook up with you. By the second day when they realize that’s not going to happen, it stops. But if you have the musical chops they have no complaints about it; you’re just another guy on the tour.”
After putting the men in their place, these mujeres are not shy when it comes to pushing the genre beyond its traditions (even beyond that collabo with Lady Gaga). Trio Ellas’s compositions, both originals and covers of classics like “Bésame Mucho,” mix mariachi sounds with jazz, samba and country—a bold choice in a genre fixated on tradition. By the same token, it was a gamble when Mariachi Divas recorded their version of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” But putting women front and center is the most revolutionary choice of all.
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