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A pricey passion: How local groups pay expensive costs preparing for Tucson International Mariachi Conference

La Frontera's Tucson International Mariachi Conference kicks off May 1st with workshops, performances bringing groups to experience Mariachi in the Southwest
Posted at 6:39 PM, Apr 22, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Starting May 1, La Frontera's Tucson International Mariachi Conference will bring in Mariachi groups and fans from all over.

From workshops to performances, it's something local groups from Southern Arizona must prepare for well in advance, especially because of the costs.

Jaime Valenzuela is the director of Mariachi Estrella Juvenil, and held a fundraiser to afford the costs of new trajes, or uniforms, for the conference.

“The average cost [for trajes] is about $350 to $700. The new trajes that we're purchasing are on the expensive side," said Valenzuela.

Valenzuela is also the director of Davis Billingual Magnet Elementary School's mariachi group. He's been playing in mariachi groups since his father introduced him to the art.

“A childhood memory I have is my dad coming home with this suitcase everyday with broken instruments. And one day I asked him, ‘Dad, what do you do?' I was four. He said ‘I'm a music teacher',” recalls Valenzuela.

Now, it's a passion he shares with his many students. Mariachi Estrella Juvenil is a community group, so they have to raise money to participate in events. Valenzuela helps them reach their goals to meet the costs of participating in conferences, which can be anywhere from $115 to $165.

The costs can add up quickly for parents when trying to prepare for one of their biggest events of the year.

“But because of our fundraising, our networking, and the generosity of the community, we're able to usually cut those costs in half for the parents," said Larry Garcia, President of the Mariachi Estrella Juvenil group.

For students, the passion goes beyond the costs and work they have to put in to afford the conferences.

“It is a difficult task, but it's amazing in the process because we get to perform, and meet people that love mariachi just as much as we do,” said Sasha Leyva.

“It's a beautiful thing. We love it, we enjoy it. We love everybody who helps and comes out with us,” said Lyana Garcia.

For more information on the conference, visit

Reyna Preciado is a reporter for KGUN 9, she joined the KGUN 9 team in July of 2022 after graduating Arizona State University. Share your story ideas with Reyna by emailing or by connecting on Instagram, or Twitter.