Mariachi Extravaganza 2022 in San Antonio makes big changes in 28th year – San Antonio Express-News

San Antonio’s annual mariachi competition has a new name and a new headliner this year.

The new name is Mariachi Extravaganza, a rebranding that made its debut this week with the 28th edition of the event. The celebration of all things mariachi was previously known as Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza. The name was a nod to perpetual headliners Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

This year’s headliner, Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán, will be making its festival debut. The group, founded in 1965 in Guadalajara, has recorded almost 50 albums, played festivals across the United States, and accompanied singers such as Vicente Fernández and Lila Downs.

The name change is something that festival founder and producer Cynthia Muñoz had been contemplating for about a decade.

Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán, shown in 2016, headlines Mariachi Extravaganza.  

Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán, shown in 2016, headlines Mariachi Extravaganza.

Courtesy photo

“There’s a lot of reasons for that,” Muñoz said. “If we look at the top three mariachi music festivals in the country — that would be ours, Albuquerque Mariachi Spectacular and Mariachi USA at the Hollywood Bowl in L.A., which is not necessarily a mariachi festival but a very big mariachi event —  everybody has very broad names that allow them to feature numerous artists and different artists every year, and that was something that we thought we should be doing many years ago.”

The fact that Mariachi Vargas is in a period of transition following the death of longtime leader Rubén Fuentes in February also was a factor in Muñoz’s decision that this was the right time to make the name change, she said.

What: A concert featuring Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitalán as well as vocal and group competition winners

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Where: Lila Cockrell Theatre, 200 E. Market St.

Deetails: $66-$206, ticketmaster.com; more information at mariachimusic.com.

READ MORE: Young mariachi musicians in the San Antonio-area prep for Mariachi Extravaganza competition

About 900 middle school, high school and college students from across the country are taking part in the festival.

It began Sunday with a mariachi Mass at Mission San José, and continued with workshops and songwriting, vocal and group competitions, and jam sessions. Friday night’s concert starring Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán is the big finale. Competition winners will be featured in the performance as well, Muñoz said.

Every year, the festival caps a lot of hard work for the competitors.   

“For these kids, this is their Super Bowl, this is their World Cup, this is their NBA Finals, and this is their Olympics,” Muñoz said. “This is what they work toward year-round.”

Gabriella Villasana, a senior at Fox Tech High School, is one of the finalists taking part in the vocal competition during this year's Mariachi Extravaganza.

Gabriella Villasana, a senior at Fox Tech High School, is one of the finalists taking part in the vocal competition during this year’s Mariachi Extravaganza.

Javi Vela

Gabriella Villasana has made it to the finals in the vocal competition for five straight years.

“It’s an amazing experience,” said Villasana, who is a senior at Fox Tech High School. “You’re in this wonderful mariachi community, there’s people from all over. It’s honestly a very beautiful experience. And I’m honored to be able to represent my culture.”

Villasana grew up singing along with the radio. 

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“My mom would wake up and turn on the little radio that we have in the living room, and we would be jamming out to Juan Gabriel, to Beatriz Adriana, a lot of very big Mexican and Hispanic singers, and a lot of that was mariachi music,” she said.

She got into mariachi music more formally in middle school. And she’s hoping to stay connected with performing after she graduates in the spring and works toward a career as either a paramedic or a nurse.

“I love the mariachi community,” she said. “I’m hoping I still get to gig with friends, maybe record something here and there.”

Muñoz grew up playing in church and school mariachi programs, and she took part in San Antonio’s first mariachi festival in 1979. So she’s seen how powerful these kinds of events can be for both the students taking part — “It really is a life-changing experience” — and for those in the audience.

“This event is really different because it breaks stereotypes people have about Latinos, about mariachis, about the music,” she said. “It is at a completely different level. It’s very youthful. And I tell these kids all the time, when you combine youth, education and talent, it’s a very powerful.”


dlmartin@express-news.net | Twitter: @DeborahMartinEN

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