One example is the San Francisco Symphonyâ€™s yearly celebration of Mexican culture, including mariachi music and Day of the Dead accoutrements. Thereâ€™s no associated low-rider car show â€” yet.
S.F. Symphonyâ€™s Dia de los Muertos Family Concert, San Francisco Chronicle, November 4, 2010In Houston, diversity has been escalated still further with a major incursion of Mexican culture in the form of a mariachi opera. The story line is a typical illegal alien sob story with a reality twist: immigrant granddad on his deathbed confesses he abandoned his original family back in Mexico when he came north. So the story is a lot more credible than many opera plots.
On his way through the lobby of Davies Symphony Hall, Donato Cabrera pauses in front of a colorful Ferris wheel, decorated with macabre gondolas in the shape of skulls, and puts on a pair of blue and red goggles at a 3-D Day of the Dead altar covered in images of famous Mexican folk heroes, devised by Ren?© and Rio Ya?±ez.
And the Houston Chronicle report managed a DREAM Act tie in. So convenient and timely!
Keep in mind: the opera celebrates illegal immigration and at least one of the musicians was an illegal. Thereâ€™s no similar liberal media glorification of other mass crime, but here itâ€™s â€?tears and hugs.â€?
A trumpetâ€™s note of hope in a mariachi opera, Houston Chronicle, December 6, 2010
The young mariachi â€” a trumpeter whose powerful vibrato bounds effortlessly from his wiry frame â€” isnâ€™t the star of this opera.
He blends into the arc of strings and brass and midnight blue, bejeweled charro suits accompanying the singers in the spotlight. But he finds his story center stage.
The Houston Grand Operaâ€™s production, To Cross the Face of the Moon or Cruzar la Cara del la Luna, touted as the worldâ€™s first mariachi opera, captures a Mexican immigrant familyâ€™s journey to Texas and the sacrifice and loss that come with it.
Without taking a stand on the politically charged topic, the opera humanizes members in our society often relegated to one dimension: hotel maid, landscaper, dark, wall-scaling figures in the stock footage that loops relentlessly on Fox News.
Itâ€™s not an opera that allows the audience to melt lazily into cozy seats. It calls us to stand in uncomfortable shoes. To feel the art in realityâ€™s vivid relief.
David Moreno, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg and a member of the schoolâ€™s Mariachi Aztlan, didnâ€™t experience the tragedy of the family in the opera. (The main character, lured by the promise of more money to support his family, leaves them behind to work in Texas. His pregnant wife and their young son try to reunite with him, but the wife dies crossing the border.)
Moreno says he saw his parents in the charactersâ€™ sacrifice and in their romantic ideals of what they hoped to achieve in America. Moreno came to Texas at age 5 on a vacation visa with his family and never left. He lived most of his life in fear of being found out, a captive of his undocumented status and the Valley checkpoints that locked the family away from the rest of the world.
â€?My threat every day was â€?what if we got stopped?â€™ My dad had to drive. And if we got stopped, they would take him away,â€? Moreno told me in an interview Sunday before the operaâ€™s final performance at Talento Bilingue de Houston.
He has vague memories of the journey from Monterrey to El Norte and of the tears and hugs when the family reunited with mom in Rio Grande City. He remembers the one-room house his father paid for at first by mowing lawns on the ownerâ€™s property. As a child, he recalls seeing his father rise before dawn and come home after dark, eking out a living with odd jobs: painting, plumbing, roofing. His mother would clean houses and babysit. [. . .]
He eventually graduated from high school with honors and is now pursuing a music education degree at UTPA, with the hopes of teaching music or performing professionally. Heâ€™s the kind of student the proposed DREAM Act was written for. The legislation would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came as children, stayed out of trouble and attended college or joined the military.