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Mariachi music makes meaningful return to Sunday mass

Groups returned to St. Augustine Cathedral in July
Mariachi groups are back inside St. Augustine Cathedral after more than a year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Posted at 6:29 AM, Oct 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 00:46:11-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Mariachi music is once again filling the air inside Tucson’s St. Augustine Cathedral.

Last spring, the pandemic forced churches to hold services without mariachi groups. But this summer, mariachis returned to remind worshippers how much their music means to Sunday mass.

“The church always looks like something in the world, and having the mariachi here really allows us to see what the church looks like here, in Arizona, in the Southwest,” said Father Alan Valencia, a priest at St. Augustine.

Mariachi Sonido de Mexico is one of the groups that was forced to stay at home for more than a year.

“It was actually really sad,” said Andrea Gallegos, who has been the group’s director for 16 years. “I mean, we had to learn how to adapt. And we would hold rehearsals or sectionals on Zoom. That was kind of difficult.

“And it kind of brought the morale down, I think, of all the mariachi music scene here in Tucson.”

That music has become a staple at Hispanic celebrations like quinceañeras, as well as memorials, funerals, and Sunday mass.

“Music always brings life to worship,” Valencia said.

Gallegos agrees.

“It just kind of puts you in that spiritual mood,” she said. “And for me, it helps me to just reflect and be in the moment of the mass. And it’s just a nice touch. It’s a beautiful touch.”

Now St. Augustine sees a different mariachi group play each week. Mariachi Sonido de Mexico, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in early 2022, plays every fourth Sunday at the Cathedral.

The group returned in July to a warm welcome.

“We had a lot of people come up and say, ‘You just really made my day, and it’s nice to hear live music again and to see young people that are involved in the church,’” Gallegos said. “And so, that makes me happy. That’s why we do what we do.”