The characters of American Mariachi take a stand against stereotypes when they strike upon the radical idea of creating an all-women mariachi band. Chicago is home to its own all-women mariachi band: the Mariachi Sirenas (MariachiSirenas.com). Group co-founders Eréndira Izguerra, (who plays Tía Carmen in American Mariachi) and Ibet Herrera share how representation has the potential to change a culture.
By Jaclyn Jermyn
“I’m a first-generation mariachi musician,” says Erendira Izguerra. “It’s a generational tradition—if you were born in a mariachi family, you kind of have to be a mariachi.” As part of Mariachi Sirenas, which Izguerra and Ibet Herrera started in March of 2017, they work with women that don’t often come from mariachi families. “We’re creating our own standards,” says Izguerra. “We’re not letting mariachi being a male-dominated tradition stop us from doing what we love.”
Sometimes, when the group is out, dressed in their suits and holding their instrument cases, they get stopped and asked if they’re going to sing or dance. “To these people, being a musician is not an option,” says Izguerra. “Why are women labeled as only singers or dancers? Why can’t we do all three? We do all three!”
Slowly but surely, they are crossing those bridges. “In these times, we’re still fighting against this machismo mentality,” says Izguerra “but we started this group to empower women.” Herrera adds that the community has been very supportive. “We have a booked calendar just like everyone else,” she says.
That journey hasn’t been without its challenges. When COVID-19 forced the group to stop performing and practicing together, the group collaborated to devise musical practice challenges and later, virtual performances. During this time, the Mariachi Sirenas still managed to accomplish a major goal: as of January 2021, they are now a full mariachi ensemble. “For the first time ever, we have three trumpets, three armonía and six violins,” says Izguerra. “It’s something we have struggled to attain since there aren’t many women mariachis in the Windy City.”
That accomplishment has created moments of intense vulnerability and connection. “I don’t think I truly appreciated mariachi music until I started consciously listening to all the nuances of the instruments complementing each other,” says Izguerra.
The group is back to rehearsing and performing together, but their time apart has put things into perspective. Much like in American Mariachi, music has the power to bring people together in important ways. “When we were not able to get together and play, we really felt how much we took each other, and what we do together, for granted,” says Herrera. “It goes beyond music. We have grown to be a sisterhood.”