Documentary "Going Varsity In Mariachi" highlights Mexican music competitions, culture

ByHosea Sanders and Marsha Jordan WLS logo
Friday, May 5, 2023
Documentary 'Going Varsity In Mariachi' highlights Mexican music competitions, culture
Directors Sam Osborn and Alejandra Vasquez moved to a Texas border town to make a film about kids who compete in mariachi championships.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Friday is Cinco de Mayo, and Chicago's acclaimed Doc10 Film Festival will continue the celebration Sunday with "Going Varsity In Mariachi."

The movie is about teens exploring their Mexican heritage through music. The film's directors, Sam Osborn and Alejandra Vasquez, spoke to ABC7 about the rousing feature.

Over 100 Texas schools compete in Mariachi championships. Osborn and Vasquez moved to a border town to make a film about the kids who take part in them.

While the concept of a Mariachi competition may seem obscure to some, they have existed for a few decades.

"It's been around since the 90's as kind of a club sport that students did," Osborn said.

The kids who participate in the championships are highly competitive, the directors said.

"It's gotten more and more intense as the years have gone by," Vasquez said.

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Osborn talked about what makes these kids want to embrace this tradition.

"In the classroom, it's students from all sorts of Mexican-American backgrounds," Osborn said. "Some translate English for their parents who can only speak Spanish and some students have never spoken Spanish in their lives, and I think they kind of all made this choice to get in touch with their roots in some way."

Osborn also talked about how their film focuses on celebrating Mexican culture in the Texas border region.

"There's a lot of media, films and TV about the border, about regions like this, and they tend to show the trauma, the violence that happens in these communities," Osborn said. "We wanted to show the joy and the music and have an uplifting message about growing up along the border and being a Mexican-American kid."

The directors spoke about their hopes for the future of mariachi with young people.

"One cool thing is that Mariachi is a male dominated pursuit traditionally, but the majority of students who take it up in high school are female," Osborn said. "I think there's a lot more female led Mariachi groups around the country already."

Chicago's all women "Mariachi Sirenas" will perform at the screening Sunday.

"Chicago has a huge Latino community, a huge Mariachi community," Vasquez said.

Osborn expanded on how their film's cultural reach extends further than just where it takes place.

"Mexican culture doesn't only exist on the border," Osborn said. "There are massive communities across the country, and they all have a way to connect to mariachi in their own way, just like this movie."

"Going Varsity In Mariachi" can be seen at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Davis Theater in Logan Square. The directors will be there to talk about the movie.