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Mariachi trio La Victoria respects tradition and celebrates the new

by Jonathan Shifflett | The Frame

La Victoria is a Los Angeles-based mariachi trio. Rafael Cardenas

All Souls Day is celebrated in Mexican culture as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. It’s when we remember loved ones who have left this world, and celebrate their lives with food, drink and — of course — music.

So what better time to introduce you to the Los Angeles-based mariachi trio, La Victoria.

It’s no longer rare to come across an all-female mariachi group. But Vaneza Marie Calderón, Mary Alfaro Velasco and Rosalie Rodriguez are making their mark by taking a contemporary approach to traditions that they hold dear. Calderón says:

What makes La Victoria different than a standard mariachi would be that we understand the importance of keeping the traditional mariachi songs alive, but we have the opportunity to write songs and we have the opportunity to play for audiences that are looking for the old songs, but also creating our own type of folk music. 

One way they're contributing to the contemporary folk scene is by taking part in a musical protest movement, My Song Is My Weapon, spearheaded by Tom Morello and Jackson Browne. La Victoria's original song, "Mi Hermano," deals with the misrepresentation of Latino communities during this election year. Rodriguez explains: "It's talking about combating injustices — racial injustices — saying 'They will try to divide us, but together they can't.'"

La Victoria has a weekly residence at Las Perlas in downtown Los Angeles.
La Victoria has a weekly residence at Las Perlas in downtown Los Angeles. Corey Burns/

Although Day of the Dead celebrations offer the ensemble opportunities to perform, the members of La Victoria have mixed feelings about the way the holiday is represented and what is expected of traditional Mexican musicians. Velasco says:

We have a reverence for the traditions that go way back. But we're also hesitant to take a gig when [we're told], Paint your face! We try to approach it in a respectful manner. We will do songs that are more appropriate for Day of the Dead, but we'll also try to explain what the song is about and why it's appropriate. 

La Victoria performs Nov. 6 at The Glass House in Pomona.


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