After gaining nationwide fame in the last year for a series of viral videos of their virtual performances, the Roma High School Mariachi Nuevo Santander were in the national spotlight Tuesday as they took part in the pre-inauguration ceremony for President Joe Biden.
The high school mariachi program was selected to perform the closing ceremony in the Latino Inaugural 2021 event commemorating Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s historic inauguration.
The Latino Inaugural, which was broadcast across social media and Univision and Telemundo, was hosted by Eva Longoria and featured appearances from Latino celebrities such as Lin-Manual Miranda. The mariachi team debuted their mariachi version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around this,” Nuevo Santander Program Director Eloy Garza said Tuesday. “We’ve spent so much of the last few days getting ready for this that it’s not until today that its hitting me how big this is.”
The mariachi team was invited to perform late last Wednesday and began arranging and practicing the performance on the following day. The team recorded the performance on Saturday and submitted the video to the virtual event the following day.
“It typically takes us three weeks to arrange a piece and practice for it before we’re ready to perform. We had to do all of that within three days,” Garza said. “Most of these students have been members of the Mariachi program since the 6th grade so they’ve been working for these kinds of spotlights for their musical talent.”
This isn’t Nuevo Santander’s first brush with the spotlight. For the last seven consecutive years, the team has won nationals at San Antonio’s Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Competition. When the COVID-19 pandemic occurred last year, cancelling all in person events and competitions, the mariachi team began virtual performances that went viral throughout the year.
Their first video received over 1 million views, giving the team some notoriety that led to an appearance on the Kelly Clarkson Show last summer.
“Throughout the pandemic they’ve been pretty constant in their performances. They’re known for being professional in representing the area so they’re very excited to keep doing that,” Garza said.
The 2021 Latino Inaugural is a ceremony that honors the contributions Latinos have made in the country. Garza said he feels pride for his team performing “This Land is Our Land” during the event.
“It’s a song about America that represents what the U.S. should be, and what better way to make that statement than through this,” Garza said. “We’re representing Latinos to let people know, ‘This is also our land. It’s supposed to be everyone’s land.’”
News of the performance was met with an ecstatic response from the team once they were informed of it, Garza said.
“Their faces lit up and the spark they usually reserve for competitions came back,” Garza said. “It’s been tough on them with in-person events and performances being cancelled but they finally had something to look forward to.”
News of the mariachi team’s performance as part of the pre-inauguration was met with joy from several officials.
“It’s an honor, this team has always been a point of pride for us so we’re very excited for them,” Roma ISD spokesperson Helen Escobar said. “We expect nothing less from these kids, they work so hard and truly represent the very best of the musical talent we have to offer in the school district.”
Praise for the mariachi program was also given on the federal level. During a Tuesday news conference in the incoming Biden administration, U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar extended congratulations to the mariachi members.
“This will be the first time Roma ISD will be participating in the presidential inauguration,” Cuellar said. “Here we have a small border community in Roma Texas who will be part of the historic inauguration. I am very proud of them.”
Garza said the team will continue holding virtual performances which can be viewed on the Facebook page for the Roma ISD Mariachi Program.
“I’m excited for my students. It’s been an incredible ride that’s brought so much joy and hope,” Garza said. “We need to show our community and school that we have to keep going, even during a pandemic, to motivate others.”
A recording of Tuesday’s performance can be found on the Progress Times’ website.