“Back in the day it was, ‘Oh, girls, they won’t be able to play,’” recalls the group’s founder, Cindy Shea, an Italian and Irish bandleader who, in 1999, brought together women from Guatemala, Colombia, Puerto Rico and Mexico to perform as Mariachi Divas. “I always told people I’m not going to speak with my mouth—I’m going to speak with my music. I see the popularity for the female mariachi [rising] because my calendar is booked every day for 2014.”
When Shea founded her group, she says, “Mariachi was definitely more machista. The males made it a little difficult to be accepted, because of the tradition that it’s a male-dominated music. But 15 years after, it isn’t abnormal. I’ve been playing trumpet for over 30 years, and any ensemble I’m in tends to get a lot of attention because I’m the only woman. I thought, ‘Can you imagine if we got a group of women together?’” She followed her instincts, and it paid off. “I think that a lot of people have learned to respect the fact that we are who we are,” she says.
On some level, it’s as if she had no choice.
“I fell in love with the response of the audience,” Shea says. “I loved that you would make people love, make them cry, make them dance.”