What began as a club has since grown into a student mariachi ensemble, Mariachi Los Correcaminos de MSU Denver.
Marialuisa Meza-Burgos grew up steeped in the beautiful sounds of her Chicano ancestry. Her father’s strummed Norteño tunes, echoes of his childhood in Mexico, served as the soundtrack of her own upbringing.
Though music always played a major role in her life, the Pueblo native remembers the exact moment when she knew it would be her future.
“I was like five or six, and we were at the Colorado State Fair,” Meza-Burgos recalled. “There was this woman singing Selena songs, and she invited all the little kids on stage. When she noticed I was singing, she handed me the microphone for a couple seconds … I thought, ‘This is so cool. I want to do this.’”
From that day forward, it was all singing lessons and concert performances, and countless jam sessions with her father. Her passion for music would eventually lead Meza-Burgos to become one of the pioneers of the mariachi revolution that has taken hold of Denver in recent years, and a leader in the city’s beloved Viva Southwest Mariachi Festival.
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Meza-Burgos became enamored with mariachi through the romantic Mexican melodies of groups such as Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, Mariachi Divas and Mariachi Mujer 2000.
“I was empowered by these female mariachi groups,” she said. “I saw that there were women who were making careers out of this. I was hooked on it.”
Meza-Burgos arrived at Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2011 to pursue a degree in Music. She describes the University’s program as “very rigorous,” and credits the professors for their high expectations, real-world experience and dedicated support.
In addition to a demanding class schedule, Meza-Burgos still made space for mariachi in her own time. She and a group of fellow mariachi-lovers played together, sometimes performing at campus events.
After a three-day trip to the legendary Mariachi Spectacular Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the friends decided to turn their passion for the music into an entry point for the Denver community to experience the magic of mariachi.
With support from the MSU Denver Music Department, Mariachi Los Correcaminos (Mariachi Roadrunners) was born.
What began as a club founded by Meza-Burgos and her friends has since grown into a student mariachi ensemble, through which dozens of students receive academic credit each year. The group is now under the expert direction of Affiliate Professor Lorenzo Trujillo, Ed.D., J.D., and performs at prestigious venues and events across the state, including the History Colorado museum and the Colorado Governor’s Mansion.
Meza-Burgos graduated in 2016, and today, continues to focus her life and career around mariachi.
In 2021, she joined the Latino Cultural Arts Center as music coordinator, and part of her role is to help facilitate the center’s annual Viva Southwest Mariachi Festival, a three-day event of workshops, concerts and student showcases. The 2022 festival, scheduled for Sept. 25 at the Denver Levitt Pavilion, will offer a headlining performance from a big name in mariachi for the first time, and a hand-picked group of students will get to play as the opening act. This new touch was Meza-Burgos’ idea.
“We can’t go back from here! It’s just going to keep getting better every single year,” she said. “I aspire for Viva Southwest to be the mariachi festival of this region.”
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While the festival is all about celebrating the culture, folklore and irresistible rhythms of mariachi music, it’s also about breaking down barriers and offering a stage to underrepresented communities, Meza Burgos said.
Despite overwhelming support from her friends and family, she also remembers how hard it was – and still is – to be a female performer of color.
“In mariachi, in theater, as a student — I definitely had to fight a lot, and I still am fighting for opportunities,” she said.
“I just want the world to know there are other stories to tell than just the ones you see on the Broadway stage or on television,” she added. “Sometimes we have to fight a little bit harder for that. But there is success with hard work, perseverance and dedication.”