All-female mariachi band hoping to break gender stereotypes

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM/Border Report) — Members of an all-female mariachi group in El Paso are using their voice and talent to erase gender stereotypes and break racial barriers.

Mariachi Femenil Flores Mexicanas perform at the KTSM studio in West El Paso.

Mariachi Femenil Flores Mexicanas has been playing mariachi in El Paso for the past two decades. One of the biggest hurdles for the all-female group is singing songs that were traditionally sung by men.

“It’s a male-dominated genre, so everybody looks at you like you can’t be as good as an all-male group,” said Lilly Sanchez, the singer, owner and director of Mariachi Femenil Flores Mexicanas. “Sometimes the chorus do suffer cause you need that low bottom base, but we make it work.”

Yesenia Rodriguez, who plays violin for the group, agrees. “Especially like learning the keys and stuff for a female voice is very different from learning keys and stuff from male voices,” she said.

However, the ladies said they don’t want to be the same as other mariachi groups. They stand out with their turquoise, pink and royal blue outfits.

“I think color choice helps us stand out a lot. I hadn’t really seen, well until I joined this group, I never really saw like a turquoise traje,” said Karyme Perea, a member of Mariachi Femenil Flores Mexicanas.

Lilly Sanchez, front, and members of Mariachi Femenil Flores Mexicanas during a photo shoot for Vogue Mexico in Downtown El Paso. (Courtesy of Mariachi Femenil Flores Mexicanas)

The Flores Mexicanas were recently featured in Vogue Mexico, in an article that centered around the mass shooting that left 22 people dead Aug. 3 at an El Paso Walmart. The suspected gunmen told investigators that he drove nine hours from suburban Dallas with the sole purpose of targeting Mexicans.

“What’s more Mexican than a mariachi outfit?” Sanchez told Vogue, describing the fear she and her bandmembers felt having a target on their back.

The band was traveling to a show in Albuquerque that day. Despite their anger, fear and sorrow, the group followed through with its performance.

“After the show, we returned to cry with the rest of the city,” Sanchez said.

While playing music has provided some healing for the group, it also inspired them to play their hearts out and let out a little rage.

“To teach those racist people that they won’t break us, that they won’t hurt us that way,” Sanchez said. “We are going to continue doing what we have to do because it is part of our culture and heart — that’s something nobody can take away from us.”

Aside from the shooting, the Vogue piece tells the history of the group and Sanchez’s experience as an immigrants. The authors also also interviewed our seamstress and artist for the outifts featured in the article.

The kind of exposure we had after that was amazing,” Sanchez said. “The experience was once in a lifetime. It really set a standard for our group. And now we have quite a reputation to live up to.”

In the fall of 2019, the band embarked on a tour of the Southwest. They opened for international singer Lila Downs, further proof that women mariachi bands can be successful in a male-dominated industry.

“They either don’t take you seriously or they just think that you can’t accomplish anything so it’s nice to prove them wrong,” said Rodriguez, another violinist for the group.

La Flores Mexicanas perform from 8-10 p.m. every Friday at Tacos Chinampa on Mesa Street. You can also catch them from to time at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino. You can also book them here.

Courtesy of Mariachi Femenil Flores Mexicanas.

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