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Back at the ranchera: ‘Mariachi Spectacular’ features some of the best groups in the genre

This year’s “Mariachi Spectacular” concert features some of the best mariachi groups in this country.

“We always try to do a variety, and this year I think we’re really going to capture the variety probably more than ever,” said Peter Sanchez, CEO of the Atrisco Cos. “We have the traditional groups, the headliners Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez, and they’re from Los Angeles and they’re followed by Mariachi Internacional de Mexico de Francisco Jara, and they’re also from California. The first two are more traditional male groups.”

Representing the ladies is Las Colibri, an all-female group that performs mariachi music written before the 1950s.

“It was mostly strings and vocals; the trumpet had not been introduced,” Sanchez said of mariachi music before 1950. “They play more of an old-style version of the music. … So that I think is going to be quite interesting.”

Also performing is Mariachi Aztlan, from Texas. They will be accompanied by musician Pepe Martinez Jr., the son of Pepe Martinez Sr., one of the primary figures in the renowned Mariachi Vargas. Ballet Folklorico University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, a professional ballet folklorico group from the University of Texas, will dance during the Mariachi Aztlan performance. Back by popular demand is the Loera Family Ropers from Mexico. The group’s members demonstrate their intricate roping abilities.

The nonprofit organization Mariachi Spectacular de Albuquerque has a three-day conference before the “Mariachi Spectacular” concert and brings instructors from around the country and Mexico.

“What it is more than anything, the mission is about music and cultural exchange, from one generation to the next,” Sanchez said.

The culmination for the students is the “Showcase Competition” concert, which will be held tonight at Civic Plaza in Downtown Albuquerque. Tonight’s competition will showcase 14 or 15 of the approximately 40 groups in the conference.