American Mariachi SG - Dallas Theater Center
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Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre,  MARCH 14 – APRIL 5, 2020

Spending her days caring for her ailing mother, Lucha yearns to break her monotonous routine. Here’s a wild idea: an all-girl mariachi band! But it’s the 1970s, and girls can’t be mariachis… or can they? As Lucha and her spunky cousin hunt for bandmates, dodge disapproving relatives, and bring Mom along for the ride, they wonder: will the band come together? American Mariachi is a heartwarming and hilarious comedy about family, progress, and the freedom to dream big that will send your heart soaring and put a bounce in your step with a wave of vibrant, infectious live music.  A huge hit in San Diego and Denver, now coming to Dallas, before moving on to Chicago.
A co-production with Goodman Theatre.

About the Playwright

José Cruz González was born on March 19, 1957; his family worked as migrant workers. He earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in US History and Chicano Studies with a minor in Theatre from the University of California, San Diego, a Master’s of Arts in Theatre from Arizona State University in Tempe, and then a Master of Fine Arts in directing from the University of California Irvine. Raised on California’s central coast, González was inspired to write by nature and the stories of his grandparents. His plays, including The Highest Heaven, Dialogues/Diálogos, and September Shoes, often focus on communities of color. González has also written for the Emmy-nominated children’s television series, The PAZ Show, and currently works as a professor at California State University Los Angeles. 

[Information courtesy of Dramatic Publishing and NYU]

“Mariachi has been with me my whole life. When my mother cleaned the house on Saturdays, we’d hear the music on her little record player. It was always in my family, but it wasn’t until about nine years ago that I started studying it. I teach at Cal State Los Angeles, where I decided to take a mariachi course. The play’s music director, Cindy Reifler Flores, taught the class. Little by little, I reconnected with the joy of the music. It was out of studying with Cindy and other mariachi teachers and listening to their stories that this journey began. American Mariachi is the story of Lucha, who spends her days caring for her ailing mother but yearns to break her monotonous routine. Here’s a wild idea: an all-girl mariachi band! But it’s the 1970s, and girls can’t be mariachis…or can they? American Mariachi is a heartwarming and hilarious comedy about family, progress, and the freedom to dream big that will send your heart soaring.” – José Cruz González

About the Director

Henry Godinez (Director) is the Resident Artistic Associate at Goodman Theatre. His Goodman directing credits include Charise Castro Smith’s Feathers and Teeth, The Sins of Sor Juana and Mariela in the Desert by Karen Zacarías; José Rivera’s Boleros for the Disenchanted (and world premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre); Regina Taylor’s Millennium Mambo; Luis Alfaro’s Electricidad and Straight as a Line; The Cook by Eduardo Machado; Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez; the Goodman/Teatro Vista co-production of José Rivera’s Cloud Tectonics and the 1996–2001 productions of A Christmas Carol. He also served as director of the Goodman’s Latino Theatre Festival. As an actor, Godinez appeared most recently in Goodman’s The Winter’s Tale, 2666 and the Goodman/Teatro Buendía of Cuba world premiere of Pedro Páramo, and at Writers Theatre in the title role of Quixote: In the Conquest of Self. He has also appeared on television in Chicago PD, Above the Law, The Beast, The Chicago Code, Boss and Chicago Fire. Co-founder and former artistic director of Teatro Vista, Godinez is the recipient of the 1999 Theatre Communications Group Alan Schneider Director Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the Lawyers for the Creative Arts and was honored as the 2008 Latino Professional of the Year by the Chicago Latino Network. Born in Havana, Cuba, Godinez is a professor at Northwestern University and serves on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Arts Council and Albany Park Theater Project.

Little known fact: Henry attended R. L. Turner High School and the first Dallas Theater Center show that he attended as a high school student was Inherit the Wind.  What was your first Dallas Theater Center show?


Beginnings. Mariachi is a uniquely Mexican sound, combining indigenous and foreign elements to create a new flavor. Mariachi began in the late 1700s and early 1800s in west central Mexico, likely the region of Jalisco. Mariachi is often referred to as revolution music. Mariachi was used to help separate Mexico from Spanish influence, and later mariachi bands wandered from town to town singing of the heroes of the Mexican Revolution. The first instance of the word “Mariachi” to describe this unique blend of musical styles appears in the writings of Father Cosme Santa Anna in 1852. By then, of course, the U.S. had acquired much of Mexico in the Mexican-American War, and many of the former residents of Mexico were now U.S. Nationals, officially bringing Mexican traditions, including mariachi, to the United States of America.

La Reina de los Mariachis. The success of canción ranchera pioneer Lucha Reyes, who was among the first of Mexico’s superstars to perform and record with mariachis, also encouraged the proliferation of singers accompanied by mariachis. Even though Reyes herself was never a mariachi, in Mexico she is affectionately known as la Reina de los Mariachis.

First all female Mariachis. Due to a lack of documentation, it is difficult to determine with absolute certainty which group was the first all-female mariachi ensemble since many groups in Mexico claim that title. However, the earliest known documented all-female mariachi, las Coronelas, directed by Carlota Noriega, formed in Mexico during the 1940s. During the 1950s two other all-female mariachis started performing in Mexico City: Mariachi las Adelitas, directed by Adela Chávez, and Mariachi Michoacano. In the early 1960s Lupita Morales formed Mariachi Estrellas de México. Female mariachis found initial success in Mexico City but, like other ensembles, were unable to secure enough work solely by playing music. A combination of factors, including marriage, childbearing, lack of familial support, and the economic instability of Mexico, led to the demise of all three groups.

Watch and Listen. Watch the Mariachi Rosas Divinas perform “La Lámpara.” 

Research and Learn. These Mariachi Bands Have All-Female Lineups And Will Warm Your Heart  Read more about the various all female Mariachi bands across the nation.


Mariachi instruments. A traditional band now uses the vihuela, guitarrón, guitar, violin, trumpet, and vocal elements to produce mariachi music for special occasions such as weddings, baptisms, holidays, and mass.

Did you know? The trumpet wasn’t a traditional part of mariachi music. It wasn’t until the early nineteenth century when jazz and Cuban music became popular that the trumpet was adopted into mariachi music, in many instances replacing the harp in an ensemble. 

Videos – Questions asked of the actors. What instrument do you play in the show?  Explain its history in Mariachi. Is your instrument particular to mariachi? What basics of the instrument can you teach to students/or you think they should know? Can you play an example of a song on your instrument?



Question for Students: Research one of the three instruments. What did you learn from the actor’s instruction?


Research and Learn. These Mariachi Bands Have All-Female Lineups And Will Warm Your Heart  Read more about the various all female Mariachi bands across the nation.


Mariachi instruments. A traditional band now uses the vihuela, guitarrón, guitar, violin, trumpet, and vocal elements to produce mariachi music for special occasions such as weddings, baptisms, holidays, and mass.

Did you know? The trumpet wasn’t a traditional part of mariachi music. It wasn’t until the early nineteenth century when jazz and Cuban music became popular that the trumpet was adopted into mariachi music, in many instances replacing the harp in an ensemble. 

Question for Students: Research one of the three instruments. What did you learn from the actor’s instruction?



Mariachi attire. Modern mariachi typically wear traje de charro (the traditional attire of the cowboys of Jalisco), which consists of tight, decorated trousers, boots, wide bow ties, sombreros, and short jackets. 

Unlike their male counterparts who adopted the equestrian or charro outfit favored by wealthy southern Mexican landowners of the nineteenth century, female mariachis alternated their stage attire between the traditional folkloric dresses that were a variation of the china poblana style and the full-length charro skirt ensemble. The china poblana consisted of a rebozo or shawl/wrap, a white blouse (not always), with short sleeves, decorated with vivid colors (usually the colors of the Mexican flag), and petticoats with black designs made from sequins. The female charro ensemble included the equestrian jacket, white shirt, bow tie, and full-length skirt. During the late 1950s, however, the full-length charro skirt ensemble fell out of favor for female performers.

Because of cultural ideas like machismo, the traditional mariachi ensemble is all men. However, women have had an increasing role in mariachi since the 1940s, and by the early twenty-first century all-women mariachi bands formed, such as Mariachi Rosas Divinas, North Texas’ first all-female mariachi ensemble. 







Second wave of feminism and the rise of female Mariachis. 

BOLI: It’s the 70’s, man. Hello, news flash. Women’s Lib! American Mariachi, p. 9. The women’s liberation movement was a collective struggle arising originally in the 1960s and 1970s. The movement aimed to free women from oppression and male supremacy. The movement comprised women’s liberation groups, advocacy, protests, feminist theory and a variety of diverse individual and group actions on behalf of women and their freedom. Books, magazines, lectures and public media appearances advanced the ideas of the movement’s leading voices. The term “Women’s Liberation” was created as a nod to other liberation and freedom movements of the time. The term “liberation” was intended to resonate not only with independence from oppression and male supremacy, but to create greater solidarity among women seeking independence, and ending oppression for women collectively.

During the 1970s the rise of the second wave of feminism and the burgeoning civil rights movements in Mexico and the United States led to the creation of music programs that sought to reclaim Mexican and Latino/Chicano heritage. The proliferation of mariachi classes and Chicano/Latino studies classes enabled many students to learn about the mariachi heritage. The formation of mariachis at public schools K–12, colleges, and universities, as well as community groups and churches, also encouraged the participation of women and non-Latinos in the mariachi tradition. By 1976 Maria Elena Muñoz formed las Generalas in Los Angeles, California, the first known all-female mariachi in the United States. The members of las Generalas were also the mothers and wives of mariachi musicians. In 1977 Teresa Cuevas and Consuelo Alcalá formed the second known all-female ensemble, Mariachi Estrella in Topeka, Kansas. This ensemble stayed together from 1977 to 1981. Rebecca González and Laura Sobrino were the first females to join the most successful mariachis and previously all-male ensembles. Currently the two most prominent all-female mariachi ensembles in the United States are Mariachi Mujer 2000 and Mariachi Reyna. Laura Sobrino is Mariachi Mujer 2000’s musical director and was the original musical director for Mariachi Reyna. A partial listing of female mariachis that exist or have existed in the United States includes the following:

  • Mariachi las Tejanitas (The Little Texans), Austin, Texas
  • Mariachi Paloma (Dove), from Del Valle (El Paso, Texas) High School
  • Mariachi Femenil Sol Azteca (Female Mariachi Aztec Sun), Phoenix, Arizona
  • Mariachi Femenil Erendira Xochitlan (Erendira is a proper name; Xochitlan is the name of a city), San Antonio, Texas
  • Mariachi Angeles del Cielo (Angels from the Sky/Heavens), San Antonio, Texas
  • Mariachi las Golondrinas Viajeras (The Traveling Swallows), El Paso, Texas
  • Mariachi las Alondras (The Skylarks), El Paso, Texas
  • Mariachi Femenil las Aguilas (Female Mariachi the Eagles), Sacramento, California
  • Mariachi las Altenitas, San Fernando, California
  • Mariachi las Adelitas (Derivative of Adela, a proper name), Los Angeles, California
  • Mariachi Flores Mexicanas (Mexican Flowers), El Paso, Texas
  • Mariachi Rosas del Cielo (Roses from the Sky/Heavens), San Angelo, Texas
  • Mariachi Azahares del Valle (Orange Blossoms from the Valley), Edinburg, Texas
  • Mariachi Divas (Divas), Los Angeles, California

[Information courtesy of “Latinas in the United States, a historical encyclopedia”, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Berkeley,, New Mexico State University, She Shreds Magazine, and]


Mariachi bands in schools. Did you know that there are several mariachi programs for students across North Texas?  Some of the most renowned Mariachi programs include Mariachi Los Unicos de Greiner located at W.E. Greiner Middle School Exploratory Arts Academy; Mariachi Pegaso at Booker T. Washington High School of the Performing and Visual Arts; Stockard Mariachi at L. V. Stockard Middle School and Mo-Set AllStarz of Molina High School.  The school is named after none other than Moisés E. Molina, educator and musician who formed the mariachi band “Mariachi Azul y Blanco” at W. H. Adamson High School in 1978 during his tenure as band director. 


Watch the 2019 Mariachi Festival at Stockard Middle School with a performance by Mariachi Los Unicos de Greiner.

Mariachi Imperial. If you want to learn more about American Mariachi and Mariachi Imperial de Dallas, TX, tune in to the recording of the Guild Salon where the musical director, band, playwright and director talk more about mariachi and the play

Machismo and Marianismo 

Machismo is a concept in Latin American culture that is commonly adopted by men and passed from older male role models to younger men who admire them. In many ways, machismo can mirror Western ideas of traditional male family roles or chivalry, but it works beyond typical ideas of misogyny and sexism. In general, machismo considers men to be superior to women. Taking care of the family, providing for loved ones, showing pride in children, and showing valor among peers are all aspects of machismo culture.

As a cultural construct, machismo varies by region, country, class, and other factors. Because it is embedded in a region’s culture, machismo can make it even harder for a country to reach gender equality. In places like Mexico, people are beginning to advocate against machismo culture in order to reduce violence against women and further equality in the workplace, education, and politics. 

Listen how the Latinx community is calling out “Toxic Machismo” culture on Latino Rebels.

Marianismo The is a feminine counterpart to the masculine machismo is marianismo. Marianismo derives its name from the Virgin Mary (la Virgen María), and values virtue, purity, and piety. Women who participate in marianismo culture are expected to be highly religious and self-sacrificing, especially in roles as wives and mothers. The term marianismo was coined by political scientist Evelyn P. Stevens in 1973 in her essay “Marianismo: The Other Face of Machismo in Latin America,” which appeared in Ann Pescatello’s edited work Female and Male in Latin America. In the secular world marianismo means that all women are perceived as possessing qualities of “semidivinity, moral superiority, and spiritual strength.” The blend of these variables endows women with self-abnegation, humility, and the willingness to sacrifice themselves for their children and tolerate the imperfections of their husbands, to whom they remain submissive.The surge of feminist movements and groups in Latin America since the late 1970s has challenged Stevens’s marianismo concept as sketchy at best, and in need of more solid research. 

Click to read how Latinx women are fighting against marianismo trope. 

[Information courtesy of, the New York Times, Minnesota State University Moorhead,, Forbes, and the BBC (1, 2)]


Alzheimers .  In the play Amalia, the mother of Lucha, She is battling early onset dementia and is mostly lost in the past except for a few moments of lucidity. She sees and speaks to her deceased aunt, Tia Carmen often. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. The most common early symptom of the disease is difficulty remembering newly learned information. Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age. Most of us eventually notice some slowed thinking and occasional problems with remembering certain things. However, serious memory loss, confusion and major changes in the way our minds work may be a sign that brain cells are failing. The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information, since the disease changes parts of the brain that affect learning. People with memory loss or other possible signs of Alzheimer’s may find it hard to recognize that they have a problem. Signs of dementia may be more obvious to family members or friends. Anyone experiencing dementia-like symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible. At present, there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but treatments for symptoms can temporarily slow the worsening of the disease and improve the quality of life. Today, there is a worldwide effort underway to find better ways to treat the disease and prevent it from developing.  

Learn more about how our partner AWARE is dedicated to fighting Alzheimer’s disease by providing funding and support to programs, projects, and research provided by nonprofit organizations that actively help individuals affected by Alzheimer’s in Dallas and the greater North Texas area.  

Music and Memory In the play, Lucha’s mother Amalia suffers from dementia. However, every time she hears her favorite songs she sings along with strong memory and devotion. How does music affect memory? We’ve probably all experienced the phenomenon where an old song reminds us of a time in our lives or even evokes a specific memory. Most people may not give this a second thought. It may seem as sensible as having an old toy from your childhood evoke a memory. However, studies have shown that music-related memory is a far stronger effect, and that there’s a serious link between music, emotion and memory — one that can actually be used to help Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers.

First musical memory. Record a video of yourself telling the story of your first musical memory.  Share it with your teacher or on your Instagram or Facebook Story and @dallastheatercenter or #americanmariachidallas.  If you don’t want to share your memory, ask your parents, family members or older siblings if they would like to be videotaped sharing their earliest musical memory.


Share your playlist: Boli is a true individual with her own sense of Let us know your top 10 favorite songs that define who you are as an individual.  Share your playlist with us using the hashtag #americanmariachidallas . Our marketing team will put together a playlist of our top PD student’s favorite songs!

Visit Boli’s playlist on Spotify.













José Cruz Gonzáles, the playwright, uses many common Spanish expressions to highlight the reality of living bilingual – that is, fluently speaking two languages at the same time. 

  • Doña – Mrs. In this case Mrs Cuqui, a neighbor of the Morales 
  • Viejito– “Little Old One ”, a kindly diminutive referring to Mr. Sanchez. 
  • Ama – an informal address for Mother (similar to the term “Mom”)
  • Dónde está mi Tia Carmen? – “Where is my aunt Carmen?”
  • Cuando Viene? – When is she coming? 
  • Tengo que cocinar – I must cook 
  • La cena no ‘sta lista – the dinner is not ready ( ‘sta is used as a colloquialism of está) 
  • Tu, quien eres? – who are you?
  •  ‘Apa – an informal address for Father (similar to the term “Dad”) 
  • Que’s esto? – What is this? (note that Que’s is a contraction of que “what” and es “is”) 
  • Que no la estabas cuidando? – You weren’t watching her?
  • Mi’ja – my daughter, a contraction of Mi Hija 
  • Prima – a female cousin
  • Chilaquiles – a traditional Mexican dish consisting of tortillas, a red salsa or mole, and pulled chicken. . 
  • Traje – suit, used in the play to describe a traditional Mariachi suit. 
  • Muy Guapo – Very Handsome 
  • Fregona – literally “mop”. Used here as a term of endearment. 
  • Mamita – literally “little mama”, used here as a term of endearment.
  • Chisme – gossip 
  • Musica – Music 
  • otra, otra! – another, another! 
  • Mentirosa – liar, literally a female liar
  • por vida – for life 
  • Gringos – Americans, specifically white Americans 
  • Mariachi es tradicion, amor, y familia – Mariachi is Tradition, Love, and Family
  • Que estan haciendo? – What are you doing? 
  • YA BASTA – stop it now! 
  • Calmate, mi bella, calmate – literally “calm down, my beautiful one, calm down”
  • Despiertate, Lucha, Chingao! – Wake up 
  • Lucha! Come on! 
  • Mujeres – Women 
  • Demonios – Demons 
  • Ay Dios Mio – Oh my god 
  • Orale – Whoa!
  • Escuchame – listen to me

[Information courtesy of, NPR,, and]

Activity 5: Lunch with the cast.  Director of Education Morgana Wilborn sits down with case members Gloria Benavides, Chris Ramirez and Tiffany Solano DeSena about the play American MariachiWhat do the actors share about?

  • Who do you play?

I play Sister Manuela, a Holy Roller, and Soyla Reyna.


  • How has Mariachi culture influenced your life as Mexican American?

I grew up in South Texas, where mariachi, and Mexican/Latinx music were king. Every wedding and quinceañera featured mariachis, and you could even take Estudiantina classes at every high school, (which was like band, but for Latinx music).I love mariachi music, full stop. I had it at my own quinceañera, and I better have it at my funeral.


  • Being in two plays that revolve around the relationships and experiences of Latinx women, what important lessons have you learned performing in Real Women Have Curves and American Mariachi at Dallas Theater Center?

I’ve performed in hundreds of plays over the course of 20+ years, and I can count on one hand the opportunities I’ve had to perform with an all Latinx cast. The list is shorter for plays that feature strong Latinx woman leads. Every experience has been lovely—I make new family members each time. It feels like our stories are finally important enough for bigger stages, and although I am grateful for the interest, I also want to say that IT IS ABOUT TIME.


  • American Mariachi is based in the mid-1970s. How do you think it is relevant today?

The play centers heavily on the pressures and beauty of tradition and family within Latinx culture. Lucha is expected to take care of her mother, even at the expense of furthering her own education. When she sees an opportunity to become part of something bigger than herself, she is pressured by society to give up and put her dreams on the back burner.


Although we have made considerable strides since the time the play is set in, there is still a ton of pressure on Latinx women to conform and sacrifice themselves for their families. That is not to say that our culture of strong family ties is not important or unique or empowering—but to buck against being a perfect mother, daughter, and/or wife is still an act of rebellion.

Video Assignment 4 – Questions asked of the actors, Chris Ramirez: Can you talk a bit about the various male characters that you play in the show?  How does each character represent archetypes within Mexican American culture? What have you learned from the different characters that you played? Are there any lines that your character(s) share that are important quotes?

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