Word spread throughout the area about the invitation to the Homestead-Miami Mariachi Conservatory to play at the Mexican Cultural Institute Gala Friday July 19, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Eddie Garza, Executive Director of the Mariachi Conservatory, and everyone at the Mexican-American Council (MAC) were thrilled at the opportunity for these talented students to be placed in such a spotlight.
In sharing that pride, individuals and organizations stepped forward to help provide funds to cover travel costs for the selected students, ages eight to fifteen, and eight adults who accompanied them. Two days before the planned departure of July 17th, they needed another $500. In making those final preparations prior to leaving, Garza was asked if they’d met their goal. “We did! I’m so energized and lifted by the way our community supported the kids.”
Part of keeping the costs down though was to drive straight through each way rather than stopping overnight. Anyone who’s made the trip from Homestead to Washington, D.C. knows what that’s like. It was, however, all an adventure for the students. “Please wake me up when we get to Georgia,” one boy requested. “I’ve never been out of Florida.” This was true for most of them and in taking rest breaks, the bus driver tried to make sure he was in a different state each time. Enrique Santos, a friend of Garza, is highly placed in the nationally syndicated “IheartLatino,”
associated with “IheartRadio”. Garza sent video highlights of the trip up and Santos enthusiastically broadcast them to thousands of listeners.
As previously reported in this paper, U.S. Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell had made arrangements for other events to include a performance at the U.S. Capitol as well as a tour of the historic building.
The original plan to do everything on Friday, July 19th was modified to split the activities between Thursday and Friday. “The Capitol Police were great,” Garza and Marilu Villa, their Program Manager, said. “They admitted they’d never scanned musical instruments before.” In fact, the larger instruments barely fit through the security scanners and each student was given a replica badge as a memento. Staff from the Representative’s office took them from there and the procession was on. Music filled the hallways until they came into an office cleared for their performance. They soon drew a crowd and after, the students were able to go into the Chamber and for lunch in the Congressional cafeteria. Not surprisingly, they were the only children/teens present.
Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell not only posed individually for a photo with every student, she shared the news on her government website, “DC welcomed a taste of Miami w/ MAC’s Homestead-Miami Mariachi Conservatory performing in the office. They were so fun & even helped us celebrate my daughter Siena’s birthday. Wish they could stop by every day.”
Rest was something that could come later, and the students were excited to visit multiple monuments. The official tour of the Capitol Building took place on Friday and their guide was a woman who’d been conducting tours for more than twenty years. She customized her talk to put a “Florida spin” among the details and pointed out the statue in honor of Dr. John Gorrie of Florida. He was the man who first conceived of a practical way to create air conditioning.
Although the instructors are usually on stage with the students, they stood to the side for the performance at the Capitol. The students performed so well on their own, the decision was made to follow the same pattern for the “main event” at the Mexican Cultural Institute that evening. Once again, the crowd grew until the large room was filled and shouts of, “Encore!”, extended the performance to more than forty minutes.
A particularly complex piece, “Granada”, had been stringently practiced specifically for the event and applause reverberated with approval. The Director of the Institute strongly hinted at an invitation to return in 2020 when they will celebrate their centennial.
An individual who also posted updates to Facebook was Larry Roth, member of Homestead City Council, and founder of This is For The Kids Foundation. As he explained, “Alisa and I have supported the Mariachi Academy from the beginning and when asked if we could make the trip we were honored. These kids have really worked hard, they are beginning to get noticed for their talents, and we wanted to be there to support them.”
The bus rolled back into Homestead, Sunday, July 21st, to proud families and friends, eagerly waiting to hear about the memorable few days.