'Because we knew we could': Mariachi Flor de Toloache on Mariachi music and tearing down machismo

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Mariachi Flor de Toloache, New York City's first and only all-female Mariachi band, has been featured in the New York Times, NPR, MTV, NBC, The New Yorker, Univision, Telemundo, The Wall Street Journal and more. The band exemplifies New York's cultural diversity as the 12-member ensemble's transnational backgrounds represents Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Colombia, Germany, Italy and the United States.

Next month the band will be performing at the legendary Apollo Theatre with world-renowned Mexican-American artist, Lila Downs and in November, Mariachi Flor de Toloache will be embarking on a European tour in support of The Arcs newest album, Yours, Dreamily.

I sat down with Mariachi Flor de Toloache's co-directors, Mireya Ramos and Shae Fiol at the Ottendorfer Public library in New York City this past summer where they shared the history of Mariachi music, the founding of the band, and tearing down Machismo culture.


Founded in 2008, Mariachi Flor de Toloache is New York City's First and only All-Female Mariachi band. As presented in the New York Times, NPR, MTV, NBC, The New Yorker, Univision, Telemundo, The Wall Street Journal and more, Mariachi Flor De Toloache is codirected by lead singers Mireya I. Ramos (founder) and Shae Fiol (original member). Reminiscent of the early days, the group started as a trio featuring the traditional Mariachi instruments harp, violin and vihuela (5-string guitar). Today, the band has grown up to 12 members, featuring all of the traditional instruments essential in Mariachi: violins, trumpets, guitar, guitarrón (acoustic bass) and vihuela, as well as some surprising elements such as flute and cajón (percussion). Representing NYC's cultural melting pot, the members' backgrounds span the globe, defining the band's unique sound and appearance -- from Mexico to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Colombia, Germany, Italy and the United States!

The result of this cultural bouquet is an edgy, versatile and fresh take on traditional Mexican music. They coalesce as would a band of sisters, with grace and vibrant beauty, casting a spell over their audiences not unlike the legendary Toloache flower still being used in Mexico as a love potion. While working to preserve centuries old Mariachi tradition, their exotic melange of traditional and contemporary styles pushes the boundaries of the genre and brings Mariachi music to a modern global audience. Their intoxicating performances have illuminated world-renowned stages in India, Spain, Bahrain and in state-side venues such as NYC's Blue Note and Summer Stage, LA's Dodger's Stadium and Washington, D.C.'s The Kennedy Center. Most recently, they have been invited to attend The 2015 International Mariachi Festival of Guadalajara, Mexico, while their Debut album is on track to be nominated for a Latin Grammy for Album of the Year. They have also been recording and performing with Grammy-winning Black Keys' Dan Auerbach on his new project, The Arcs, slated for release in September 2015.


Fiercest thank you to my guests, Mireya Ramos and Shae Fiol, as well as to Elysse Cloma, whose talent and generosity made this episode possible. 

MsRepresent: Behind the Face, a Fierce Woman can also be found at msrepresentpodcast.com

Intro/outro music:  "Rainbow" by Emilie Simon. Remix from the original.

Additional music:  

"Dicen" Written by Mireya Ramos, performed by Mariachi Flor de Toloache.  

"Let Down" Written by Shae Fiol, performed by Mariachi Flor de Toloache  

"Elfant Supernova" by Menage Quad.  

"A tua choradeira é meio salário em lenços" by Stealing Orchestra & Rafael Dionísio. Remix from the original.  

"I Guess So" by Steve Combs. Remix from the original.  

"Retro Soul" composed by Ben Sound

"General Mixup March" by the Arthur Pryors Band. Remix from the original.

Photo by Andrei Averbuch

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