Strum your way home

//Photo by Max Gleiberman

Mariachi Bahía Azul de Western Washington University creates a community for Chicanx students to spread their culture.

By Evan Upchurch

The strong sense of community shared by members of the Mariachi Bahía Azul de Western Washington University was obvious at their Thursday, Jan. 10 meeting. Members of the club warmly greeted each other and were busy chatting between bouts of playing mariachi, enjoying the space for musicians of all experience levels to connect with their heritage and find belonging on campus.

Gaby Salazar, a Bellingham resident and club member, said mariachi music has been a way to reconnect with her roots and find community.

“Second-generation Chicanxs, sometimes we have a loss of our heritage. So, this is really a way for us to get back into it with no judgements,” Salazar said.

Salazar first learned the guitar in high school for extra credit but abandoned it shortly after. She credited the strumming patterns and simple songs in mariachi music with helping her pick up classical guitar again and reunite her with her heritage.

Alondra Sanchez, left, a Western alumnus, and Gaby Salazar take break between songs during a Mariachi Club practice on Jan. 10, 2018 in Fairhaven Auditorium. //Photo by Oliver Hamlin

“I feel that it reaches definitely students who might be new to the country or are first generation, second generation, but it also reaches the masses too because the arrangements of music blend so well together,” Salazar said. “I know that for our members that are not Latino, they really enjoy the community aspect of it. Whether they speak Spanish or not, they learn it as they go, so it’s a really great way to spread knowledge to others and also maintain that knowledge for others who grew up with it.”

Club co-lead Beatrice Davis, a third-year business management major who plays the guitarron and violin, previously played classical music and has enjoyed learning mariachi music and building relationships with other club members.

“I just really like the people here. I became friends with a lot of people in the club and I like the

atmosphere,” Davis said. “We’re all just having fun trying to do what we like.”

The club organized its first Mariachi Conference on campus last year, involving 42 student musicians from across Washington state and drawing in hundreds of students and community members.

Davis said she’s excited to be planning the club’s second annual conference, which will happen on April 14, and to have support from campus resources such as the music department.

“In the past years … we’ve been kind of ignored,” Davis said. “Since we’ve been doing more events and stuff, we’ve gotten noticed more which is super cool.”

The club’s presence has grown outside of the Mariachi Conference due to their appearances at events like the annual Ridin’ Low in the 360 Lowrider Show, Day of the Dead celebrations, a protest at a detention center in Tacoma and at other performances across Whatcom county and Washington state, according to Salazar.

This has made it easier for students like Ana Ramirez, a third-year political science major, to find a place to connect with mariachi music and Mexican culture.

Ramirez first learned about the club from a friend on campus and joined after taking a mariachi class offered through Fairhaven College.

“It’s been a really important space for me and a place where I can practice my culture in a way that I wouldn’t be able to in other clubs on campus,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said she often feels frustrated with issues involving race and culture at Western but feels at home with the mariachi club.

“A lot of white people on campus want to be colorblind, and so I feel like I can openly be Mexican in this space because of the mariachi club,” she said.

Through its events, the club has seen a growth in support of Latinx culture at Western, according to Ramirez.

“Especially with the conference that we had last year, there’s a lot of support for that throughout all of campus in a way that we haven’t really seen before for other forms of cultural performances,” Ramirez said.

The club is open to musicians of all levels, from beginning to experienced. They meet every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Fairhaven Auditorium, room 300A.

Western Washington students Alondra Jimenez, bottom and Ana Ramirez play violins during Mariachi Club practice on Jan. 10 in the Fairhaven Auditorium. //Photo by Oliver Hamlin

“You’ll see that anyone’s accepted into this group, whether it be community members [or] people who just share a passion for mariachi music,” Salazar said.

Gaby Salazar, a Bellingham resident and club member, said mariachi music has been a way to reconnect with her roots and find community.

“Second-generation Chicanxs, sometimes we have a loss of our heritage. So, this is really a way for us to get back into it with no judgements,” Salazar said.

Salazar first learned the guitar in high school for extra credit but abandoned it shortly after. She credited the strumming patterns and simple songs in mariachi music with helping her pick up classical guitar again and reunite with her heritage.

“I feel that it reaches definitely students who might be new to the country or are first generation, second generation, but it also reaches the masses too because the arrangements of music blend so well together,” Salazar said. “I know that for our members that are not Latino, they really enjoy the community aspect of it. Whether they speak Spanish or not, they learn it as they go, so it’s a really great way to spread knowledge to others and also maintain that knowledge for others who grew up with it.”

Club co-lead Beatrice Davis, a third-year business management major who plays the guitarron and violin, previously played classical music and has enjoyed learning mariachi music and building relationships with other club members.

“I just really like the people here, I became friends with a lot of people in the club and I like the

atmosphere,” Davis said. “We’re all just having fun trying to do what we like.”

The club organized its first Mariachi Conference held on campus last year, involving 42 student musicians from across Washington state and drawing in hundreds of students and community members.

Davis said she’s excited to be planning the club’s second annual conference, which will take place on April 14, 2019, and to have support from campus resources such as the music department.

“In the past years … we’ve been kind of ignored,” Davis said. “Since we’ve been doing more events and stuff, we’ve gotten noticed more which is super cool.”

The club’s presence has grown outside of the Mariachi Conference due to their appearances at events like the annual Ridin’ Low in the 360 Lowrider Show, Day of the Dead celebrations, a protest at a detention center in Tacoma and at other performances across Whatcom county and Washington state, according to Salazar.

This has made it easier for students like Ana Ramirez, a third-year political science major, to find a place to connect with mariachi music and Mexican culture.

Ramirez first learned about the club from a friend on campus and joined after taking a mariachi class offered through Fairhaven College.

“It’s been a really important space for me and a place where I can practice my culture in a way that I wouldn’t be able to in other clubs on campus,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said she often feels frustrated with issues involving race and culture at Western but feels at home with the mariachi club.

“A lot of white people on campus want to be colorblind, and so I feel like I can openly be Mexican in this space because of the mariachi club,” she said.

Through its events, the club has seen a growth in support of Latinx culture at Western, according to Ramirez.

“Especially with the conference that we had last year, there’s a lot of support for that throughout like all of campus in a way that we haven’t really seen before for other forms of cultural performances,” Ramirez said.

The club is open to musicians of all levels, from beginning to experienced. They meet every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Fairhaven Auditorium, room 300A.

“You’ll see that anyone’s accepted into this group, whether it be community members [or] people who just share a passion for mariachi music,” Salazar said.

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