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Las Dahlias Carve Out Space For Women in Male-Dominated Mariachi

Throughout its history, the uniquely Mexican sound of mariachi has been a male-dominated genre. However, in recent years, women have stepped out of the shadows to establish their place in the industry by creating all-female ensembles like the Colorado-based Las Dahlias. 

Las Dahlias has broken away from the typical imagery of mariachi, with men dressed in sombreros and embroidered suits. The ensemble is composed of six female musicians: Alejandra Mayorga on violin and vocals, Diana Lechuga on guitarrón, Mari Meza on vihuela and vocals, Pricilla Arasaki and Dolores Ramirez on violin and Alice Hansen on trumpet. 

“As female mariachi musicians, we are making our place at the table,” Ramirez said. For an all-female mariachi group to be able to do this, it’s different, at least here in Colorado.”

Originally founded by Teresita Lozano, Valeria Carlos, Roberta Maldonado and current member Ramirez, the group began to share its music through performances at universities and museums across the state. After Lozano, Carlos and Maldonado parted ways, Ramirez and Arasaki decided to continue sharing their passion for mariachi as Las Dahlias. 

“We all have different trajectories,” Ramirez said. “We got to a point where we had to decide if we would sunset Las Dahlias as it was, or if we would reinvent ourselves and make another attempt at playing as a mariachi group.”

Working in a male-dominated industry has proven its challenges for the group, one being the difficulty of finding female musicians in Colorado. “There are a ton of trumpet players, a ton of violinists, but they are all men,” Mayorga said. Although they’ve faced hardships of being an exclusively female group and having male substitutions from time to time, they strongly believe in keeping their primary members female. 

“There was a group before us and I always felt like we should honor that group. That group built its roots on the basis of being an all-female musical group and I think it’s important for us to continue that tradition,” Meza said. 

The women dedicate a day out of the week to rehearse their song catalog in a space full of instruments dedicated to creating music. Ramirez said her husband is also in a group and they both welcome their group members to their home to rehearse. Before beginning rehearsal, the women take the time to catch up, share life updates and laughs. 

“The dedication that we all show for this group, the way that we show up for each other and the way we work together makes us better musicians and collaborators,” Meza said. 

When they begin rehearsal they fill the space with the beautiful sounds of violins, trumpet, guitarrón, and vocals. They take the time to listen to each other and share feedback to better prepare them for their performances. Each member of Las Dahlias brings uniqueness to the group, which has evolved into a sisterhood of women passionate about their work and the music they create.  

“We all collaborate because we are all here authentically,” Mayorga said. “It’s not always going to be easy, but if you are yourself and stay true to yourself things will line up for you, as Las Dahlias that’s what makes us such a special group.”

Las Dahlias have had the opportunity to perform at events across the state like Gov. Jared Polis’ “Blue Sneaker Ball,” the giant traveling doll Lele’s arrival in Colorado, and just recently at Casa Bonita, which has now been added to their recurring bookings. 

“We are becoming one of the groups that is frequently requested to play there,” Meza said about their experience performing at Casa Bonita. “Yes, it is fun to be a part of the hype, but it also makes a statement as to where we are moving as women and how we are taking ownership of places that are normally dominated by men and white institutions as well.” 

Las Dahlias practice their song catalog at Ramirez’s home on Aug. 29. Video by Daianee Galindo.

Aside from sharing their beautiful repertoire, Las Dahlias has made it their mission to not only transform the mariachi industry but also to serve communities and mentor future generations. The women all come from different backgrounds and when not performing they occupy themselves with their careers, non-profit work, being mothers, teaching music and many other responsibilities. They said they are all teachers in one way or another and want to continue to educate folks on the history of mariachi as well as empower women along the way.  

“Mariachi education is definitely growing right now in Colorado,” Arasaki said. “There are more and more programs, and I think we can be a really valuable resource for them to make sure it’s authentic but also to share real stories and experiences.”

Las Dahlias plan to continue serving their community and are partnering with a nonprofit organization to perform at the upcoming Growing Home Fundraiser. They said they want to fulfill their mission by partnering with other organizations and maximizing the impact of sharing their roots, culture and music, while still helping others. They look forward to serving as models and mentors for upcoming generations and are open to being a resource for women who are interested in the industry. 

“We’ve been approached a couple of times by young female musicians that want to learn from us, and I appreciate that so much because it’s like we are giving off a welcoming spirit and we want others to feel empowered as well,” Meza said.

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