Houston Students Celebrate Latino Culture Through Mariachi Music

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It’s an ordinary morning at Patrick Henry Middle School in Northeast Houston. 

Jose: “Good morning. Start up. Warm up.”

Thirty students are scrambling into a music room, greeting their teacher, picking up their instruments and practicing their music.

But not just any music …


Mariachi is a type of Mexican folk music. It’s played at celebrations like weddings and quinceañeras. Musicians wear elaborate suits called traje de charro.

They play violins, trumpets and different sized guitars. The music is about love, pain and betrayal.


That’s Giana Mijares, the group’s lead vocalist.

She’s 12 years old. She enrolled in this school specifically for the Mariachi program.

“It taught me so well by learning different instruments, its history, and how our culture, or Mexican culture really represents that music. And it’s very good to actually be a part of it and just be proud of it and representing the Mariachi music too.”

Giana credits her dad for her love of Mariachi music. When he heard her singing ballads by the Tejana idol Selena, he put her in vocal lessons with Jose Longoria, the director of the Mariachi program at Patrick Henry.

Longoria recruited her for his program and now she’s one of his 60 students.

The program started almost by accident. 12 years ago, Longoria was working as a math teacher, performing music with his brothers on the side. They were entertaining the crowd at a school luncheon when the school’s superintendent approached him. He said, “Let’s start a Mariachi program.”

Longoria was in. But he knew if the program was going to work, it’d have to be serious. Now his students are more than a band, they’re a team. And he’s as strict as any coach: the kids have to pass all their classes to perform. 

“The responsibility to make sure that they come, that they participate in fund raisers, all that goes back to them. So those are skill building that they’re going to need in the real world for when they have a job. They have to be participating; they have to do their best.”

Some of the kids want careers in music. Others are happy just to learn. Either way, Longoria says the best part of the program is that it helps them be proud of their culture, their families. And based on how many people show up to their performances, he says their families are proud of them too.

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