NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Since its inception the genre of Mariachi Music and its groups have been dominated by men. That is until women started taking on more of a role, even establishing their own all-female groups. One of those early pioneers, Rebecca Gonzales is now being honored for paving the way for others.
Since the beginning, the world of Mariachi music has been ruled by men. The beauty of the melodic sounds drew Rebecca Gonzales to take up the violin at 10 years old in San Jose, California. She would go on to change the look and sound of the music.
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When Rebecca was in college in San Jose, California, she started out by learning classical music, but when she checked out a class taught by renowned Mariachi Teacher Mark Fogelquist, she knew she had to change over to Mariachi. Two things stood in her way, learning Spanish and establishing her path in the predominantly male field.
“Mariachi Music believe it or not, I had no hurdles because I was surrounded by supportive people. My parents were very supportive, and then the group I started playing with, the professional group I started playing with, in the beginning, the only requirement he got of me was that I learn to sing. He said you are the only female in the group, people are going to expect to want to hear you sing,” Gonzales said.
At the age of 21, in 1975, Gonzales started making a name for herself. It was Mark Fogelquist who actually made her part of his group called, ‘Los Mariachis Uclatan.’ It wasn’t long before one of the biggest groups from Los Angeles, ‘Mariachi Los Camperos,’ came calling for Gonzales to join them. “It was very exciting and I was nervous too because I knew everyone was going to be looking at me as the female,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales remains hopeful that the accomplishments of her career will set the path for more women to become Mariachis. “I hope in my lifetime I get to see a female in a group I like, ‘Vargas Nuevo Tecalitlan,’ because I haven’t seen that yet and it’s a shame because I know there are probably women out there who would qualify. So, I hope that in my lifetime I get to see that, that would be a great thing,” Gonzales said.
Now in 2023, the Mariachi Hall of Fame in Albuquerque, New Mexico honored Rebecca as its latest inductee. It’s an honor that she says she takes great pride in when looking back at her storied career.