A Mexican New Yorker is using mariachi music to help connect the new generation of Mexican immigrants with the rich culture of their homeland, reports Feet in 2 Worlds in a podcast.
When Ramon Ponce moved to New York to join the band Mariachi Real de Mexico, his son, also named Ramon, was 13. The young Ramos also showed talent for music and soon started playing with his dad. Their passion for traditional Mexican music lead them to open the Mariachi Academy of New York in 2002.
“I grew up with mariachi music, listening to mariachi music, especially having my dad at my side,” he told Fi2W. “He’s been playing mariachi music for over 50 years.”
“We used to live right across the street from a plaza, so you could hear the trumpets and the guitars,” he recalled. ”Mariachi music had been in my life since I was born, I guess. It means a lot to me.”
In this Fi2W web extra, father and son perform a popular Mexican folk song:
The National Endowment for the Arts, the Gildor Foundation, the Pumpkin Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Union Square Awards have been supporting the school through grants. Students are taught music theory and to play guitar, trumpet and violin in after-school classes held at St. Paul’s School, a Catholic elementary and junior high school in East Harlem. The academy has taught over 500 students since its opening.
“The whole idea behind the Mariachi Academy of New York is not to create 100-plus musicians, but really to connect students to their roots through mariachi music,” Ramon said.
New York has seen a surge in immigration from Mexico in recent years. Many of these immigrants have had children in the United States, and they see the academy as a way to connect their children to Mexican culture.
“As a person, you have to know where you’re from, and you have to be proud of who you are,” Ponce told Fi2W. “You have to be proud of your music, your culture, everything that belongs to you. Because that makes you who you are.”
Here is an audio slideshow of photos taken inside the academy: