When Mark Cantu, another performer, was younger, Spanish was spoken in his home only when his parents wanted to say something they didn’t want children to hear. Yet when he heard mariachi music, something in it spoke to him. His father bought him a $50 violin from a pawnshop, and he supported himself in college playing weekend gigs in Laredo.
Christopher Andrew Perez, a violinist, was home from Utah, where he studies medicine. He saw the Facebook post and texted Mr. San Miguel to ask if he could play, too. “I always find my way back to it,” Mr. Perez, 25, said.
The musicians believe their music contains a certain power. Even the most experienced performers struggle to translate that sensation into words. But mariachi allows them to convey an array of emotion, even within a single song: joy, pride, love, yearning, sadness. In turn, the music resonates with listeners contending with the same emotions.
The prevailing sentiments now: hurt, anger.
“It can still make you swallow hard and get choked up,” Mr. San Miguel said. “You can take out some emotion on an instrument.”
Mr. Cantu, a public school music teacher, compared performing mariachi music with method acting. Being able to draw on life experiences similar to what is in the music — love, loss, victory — helps deepen the performance. “We’re all actors,” he said. “We get dressed up. We put on the whole suit. You can press play on a device, but you can’t get the experience.”
The performers are acquainted with grief. Members of the mariachi community often gather to play at funerals for parents, spouses and other relatives of performers who have died. And as the coronavirus pandemic ripped through the Mexican American community, mariachi groups were called on to perform. “We have played so many funerals,” Ms. Gonzalez said.