from the San Jose Mercury News

Foot-stomping pee wee mariachi takes center stage at annual San Jose festival


By Joe Rodriguez Mercury News 

How do you teach traditional Mexican music, a complex and unique sound ever since the first Aztec and Spaniard put their flute and guitar together five centuries ago, to the modern American pee wee set?

“You start with the songs, use lots of language and engage their parents,” says Maria Luis Colmenarez, director of the Pee Wee Mariachi program.

The refashioned San Jose Mariachi and Latin Music Festival threw a fiesta Sunday at the city’s Children’s Discovery Museum, kicking off the big week of events for the annual mariachi celebration. The big hit appeared to be the 45-minute crash courses in musica y danza folklorica for children 5 and younger.

Midway into the morning’s first session, 3-year-old Rocco Marron had his zapateado, or footwork, down pat. The band was playing, “La Iguana,” a tune from Veracruz that asks dancers, young or old, to get down on all fours and mimic a dancing reptile. His little brother, 1-year-old Nico, liked that part better than the fancy footwork.

Nevermind that “Iguana” is not a mariachi tune or that the band members were wearing tropical, white guayabera shirts and not huge sombreros. The band, El Mosquito, played jarocho music from coastal Mexico, but when you’re 3 years old and having a good time, who’s going to split musical hairs?


Pee Wee Mariachi is a new, ongoing program run by Mexican Heritage Corp., the festival sponsor which lately has added modern Latino music to the event and moved it downtown from its former base in East San Jose. Wishing to reach very young children, the organization found a natural venue and host at the children’s museum and a financial sponsor in “First 5,” Santa Clara County’s health education program focused on families with youngsters 5 and younger.


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