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SPRINGVILLE, Utah (AP) — Two Utah siblings have continued their family’s tradition of playing mariachi music by performing the energetic, Mexican music at events throughout the state.
Sam Castillo and Karlysue Castillo Pereyra formed a mariachi group in 2016 after moving to Provo to attend Brigham Young University, the Deseret News reports.
They were taught to sing and play the violin at an early age by their father and grandfather, who played mariachi music growing up in western Mexico, where mariachi music is said to have originated.
Their father, Jesus Castillo, moved to Nebraska to work in Nebraska as a factory worker.
“My dad was one of the first immigrants to go to my hometown,” Castillo said.
Jesus Castillo wanted to make sure his children appreciated their Mexican culture and introduced them to mariachi music. By the time they were teenagers, Castillo and Castillo Pereyra were playing shows across Nebraska.
They formed the mariachi group “Karlysue y Trio Los Charros” in 2016. Castillo Pereyra sings and plays the violin, while her brother plays the violin and trumpet. Two other band members, Arturo Feuntes and Castillo Pereyra’s husband, Sam Pereyra, play the guitarron and the vihuela, a small guitar-like mariachi instrument.
Castillo Pereyra met her husband at BYU when he performed with a different mariachi group.
Mariachi music is experiencing a rebirth in the U.S. Southwest as a form of storytelling and a strong symbol of Mexican culture after emerging in the U.S. by the 1950s due to its popularity in films.
Esperanza Elementary School in West Valley City features Utah’s largest mariachi music program.
“When I came here 42 years ago from Mexico, there was nothing,” said Eulogio Alejandre, the school’s principal. “There was nothing that would remind us of the culture of Mexico.”
The music has become increasingly popular and strengthened students’ family life, he added.
“All kinds of people are gravitating to mariachi music, because it really is a cultural phenomenon from Mexico, and it reminds people in the U.S. of their roots,” Alejandre said.
The group recently wrapped up their busy summer season, when they play a lot of weddings, festivals, quinceaneras, corporate parties and BYU events.
Castillo Pereyra said the music is empowering and increasingly popular with non-Latino audiences. It’s common to all-female or all-male mariachi groups, but mixed-gender groups like theirs are rare, she said.
“Being a woman, sometimes I don’t even think about the fact that it’s out of the ordinary that a woman is leading the group,” Castillo Pereyra said.
Sam Castillo said many people don’t realize how diverse mariachi music can be, evoking love, happiness, vulnerability, grief or longing.
While Castillo is busy studying neuroscience and psychology at BYU and Castillo Pereyra is occupied with raising a family, both siblings said they would never stop playing mariachi music.
“Everyone wants to have that job that they love going to and for us, that’s what mariachi is,” Castillo Pereyra said. “It feels really good that we’re doing something with our culture.”