Q&A: Mariachi Cardenal de Stanford celebrate Latinx heritage through music

Oct. 19, 2022, 9:46 p.m.

Mariachi Cardenal is the only Latinx music performing group at Stanford. It was founded at Casa Zapata during the 1994–1995 academic year and has since become an integral part of the Latinx community at Stanford. The Stanford Daily sat down with Mariachi Cardenal former director and lead trumpet Selaine Rodriguez ’23, current director Emiliano Corona ’24 and community member Alan Cuevas ’23 to discuss Mariachi Cardenal’s significance to the Stanford Latinx community. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

The Stanford Daily (TSD): What is the origin of Mariachi Cardenal? 

Selaine Rodriguez (SR): It was founded in the 1994–1995 school year by two or three people who came from the same hometown. They used to play mariachi in their hometown and decided to start one at Stanford themselves. Ever since then, we have been a large group composed of people from different musical, ethnic and racial backgrounds. It’s not necessarily a glove for people who identify as Mexican.

TSD: How did you first hear about Mariachi Cardenal? 

Emiliano Corona (EC): I started my freshman year at Stanford over Zoom, so I knew it was going to be difficult to find communities to join. I played guitar for a while, but I never really played in a group setting. So I thought Mariachi would be a great opportunity to get in that group setting and play different kinds of music. Since then, I have been able to play for the community and express my heritage in a way that I hadn’t been able to do before.

SR: I learned about Mariachi during admit weekend. I remember that they played for us at Frost. The Mariachi came out and I remember thinking, “Why don’t they have a trumpet?” I joined the marching band and Mariachi when I was a frosh, but I soon learned that I felt a lot more comfortable in Mariachi. I felt I was able to use my craft in a different way.

Q&A: Mariachi Cardenal de Stanford celebrate Latinx heritage through music
Mariachi Cardenal performs at the 2021 Latinx/Native American tailgate. The Mariachi can be seen serenading the community at different occasions and spots such as the New Student Orientation and parking lots. (Courtesy of Emiliano Corona)

TSD: Can you tell me about your first Mariachi performance? 

SR: I was scared for my life. I play trumpet, but I had never played mariachi music. They didn’t have any trumpet players, so they placed me and another freshman straight in the performance team. Our first performance was homecoming weekend, and I was also very stressed because my grandma visited me then. I remembered only half of the notes, but my family and the alumni really enjoyed it. I’ve learned that no matter how we play, people appreciate having the Mariachi here. 

EC: My first performance was for last year’s Faces of the Community, the diversity programming for incoming freshmen. I remember waiting in the green room and sweating buckets because I’ve never performed in a group, not to mention in front of a thousand frosh and in a professional setting at Frost. But once we got on stage, the nerves went away. All of a sudden, you are playing the music and you are in the moment. Having that cultural representation was just a beautiful experience, and many frosh said it made them feel more at home.

TSD: Can you explain what serenatas are? 

EC: Serenatas occur during Valentine’s Day or Valentine’s Day weekend. People ask for serenatas anywhere on campus, and it’s our job to bike across campus and serenade people with Mariachi songs of their choice throughout the day. It was generally one of the best days of my Stanford life: I remember every single performance, every location and every smiling face.

TSD: What are some of your hopes for Mariachi Cardenal this year?

SR: Mariachi is 10% playing the notes and 90% style: including your performance, stage presence and the style on every single note. I hope that as we go forward — now that we’re back to a post-pandemic normal at Stanford — that we are able to elevate Mariachi to the next level.

TSD: How do you see the role of Mariachi Cardenal in the Stanford community? 

Alan Cuevas: Mariachi is a very big part of the Stanford community. It reminds me of home. I’m from South Central LA, where we have a huge population of Latine immigrants and can often hear banda and mariachi. Being able to come here and listen to Mariachi Cardenal at this predominantly white institution meant a lot to me; it really helped me find community here. 

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Emiliano Corona’s class year as ’23 instead of ’24. The Daily regrets this error.

Ximena Sanchez Martinez '23 is a writer for the Arts & Life section. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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