More Mariachi

Most of you probably come from somewhere else.

I don't mean Mars, although that seems like the case for a few of you. What I mean is, many Ashland residents seem to have moved here from elsewhere on Earth.

And by elsewhere, I mean California.

I'm guilty as charged, and so are the women of Las Colibri, the Mariachi trio that performs in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's "Measure for Measure" this season.

We all came to Ashland from Southern California, they from Los Angeles and I from Santa Barbara.

As I interviewed them last week for the Daily Tidings' annual Shakespeare guide, we started talking about how different Ashland is from the parts of California we know.

"We had major culture shock when we first moved here," said violinist Susie Garcia. "We were homesick and overwhelmed."

The rigors of the professional theater world were also a tough adjustment, she said.

"For three women who had never been artists in a big production company, we did not know what to expect," Garcia said. "We had never combined acting and music before."

Still, Garcia, guitarist Mary M. Alfaro and guitarrÓn player Vaneza M. CalderÓn were determined to make their time in Ashland count.

"For me, personally, it's been my goal to continue to share a part of my personal identity through music," Alfaro said.

In many parts of Southern California, you can't go two blocks without hearing someone blasting Mariachi from their car and about every fourth radio station plays the music. I can remember Mariachi musicians performing regularly during assemblies at my elementary school, and it's common to hear the music in the Mexican restaurants that dot the region.

I told Los Calibri I didn't think I'd ever heard Mariachi playing in Ashland, except during the annual celebration of our sister-city Guanajuato, Mexico. Here, Mariachi is part of a special event, not a part of daily life.

"It's important that this community, that truly isn't very diverse, gets to experience a little of who we are as Mexicans and Mexican-Americans," Garcia said.

"We did not de-Mexicanize our music for this play," she said. "Every piece of music could be in our true repertoire of what we do back at home.

"I think it's very good for a community that just doesn't have Mariachi here."

And what does Mariachi have to do with the environment?

Mariachi is a piece of a culture that's foreign to many Americans, even though Latinos make up more than 16 percent of the total U.S. population, according to the 2010 federal census. And that number is only expected to grow.

Before we can make big changes in the environmental habits of our country, we need to understand our country.

Unfortunately, there is still too much racism. Some of it is overt, some of it is subtle, but all of it is unacceptable. And all of it will only make it harder for us to come together as a country and solve the great environmental crises of our time.

In my experience, racism is often a product of ignorance and fear. Sometimes we have a tendency to try to separate ourselves from the people we don't understand.

But, really, there's no separating ourselves from our neighbors, whether they're next door or one state down.

Especially from an environmental standpoint, their problems become our problems, their triumphs our triumphs, their music our music.

Las Colibri will perform at the festival's free Green Show on June 8.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or For past columns see

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