Keeping mariachi spirit alive in Coastal Bend

Rosie and the Mariachi Amistad Nueva Generación, with Sandra Quiñones and Mathis High School graduates.

Rosie Maldonado is getting ready to celebrate 30 years of mariachi experience in South Texas, but that doesn’t mean she’s retiring. 

Quite the contrary! This fall the Beeville ISD hired her to teach mariachi at A.C. Jones High School—and to begin a mariachi program for second through fifth graders at Fadden-McKeown-Chambliss School. Rosie and her students will be entertaining us for years to come!

Rosie inherited her love of mariachi from her dad, Theodor Garza, who played guitar. Theodor began teaching Rosie to play guitar when she was 12 or 13.

In high school, Rosie played alto clarinet in band. After she graduated in 1973, she worked awhile, then married Johnny Maldonado, and they had twin boys, Alex and Albert. 

In 1989, Rosie enrolled at Bee County College (now Coastal Bend College), then transferred to Texas A&M-Kingsville, graduating in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in education and a specialty in music.

Her first teaching job was at St. Philip’s Episcopal School, where Susan Crumrine recommended her for the music teacher position. After five years there, she moved to Thomas Jefferson Middle School for a year, but was then asked to teach Adult Education for the BISD. She loved teaching ESL to immigrants, adult basic education and secondary education, wherever she was needed, and continued with that program until 2015, when it was ended.

She spent a couple of years helping her elderly parents before going back to teach music at St. Philip’s.

It was in 1989, while Rosie was at BCC, that she and husband Johnny became part of Mariachi Amistad, with Ernest Flores as director. They played for weddings, quinceañeras, birthdays and other special events. When the prison opened, Ernest was busy working there, so Rosie became director. Her ex-husband Johnny moved to Kingsville about 1995.

The members of that original group sang in the choir at St. James Catholic Church. When they began singing “Las Mañanitas” for parishioners’ birthdays, church members asked them to play for outside events and wanted to know how much they charged. They replied that they were not an organized group, but would play for free if they had time. People began putting money in their pockets.

When they decided to organize, they needed uniforms. Señor Morales from Mexico made black pants for the men and long black skirts for the women, with white jackets for weddings and black jackets for receptions. Mariachi uniforms are not cheap—those early ones cost around $275 each, and currently they are in the $500-$800 range. Mariachis have to be committed!

Mariachi Amistad was not Beeville’s first mariachi—Henry Medina, Balde Loya, Riley Vega, Jesse De Russe and a few others had organized one earlier—but Mariachi Amistad became the best known. 

When the original Mariachi Amistad began to break up, with some members moving and others getting married, Rosie recruited high school students: Fernando Cisneros, Tony de la Rosa, Ernest Flores, Gil Arisméndez, Anna de Hoyos, Guaddy López, Ricky Villarreal and a couple more. I taught several of those musicians in my high school Spanish classes back in the 1990s.

Mariachi Amistad played for daughter Mariana’s wedding reception in December 1999.

In 1996, Rosie and Fernando decided to enter a mariachi competition at Texas Lutheran College. They signed up for the amateur division, but the organizers said they were too good for amateurs and put them in the professional division. They won first place!

Rosie did mariachi vocal judging for the mariachi competition “El Dia de Mariachi” for about five years and was Mistress of Ceremonies in 2010.  Her music studio, “Institute of Rising Stars,” offered guitar, violin and vocal classes from 2003-2007.

During that time Mariachi Amistad transitioned into a salsa band,  “Lluvia de Estrellas.”  They opened for artists such as Flaco Jimenez, Little Joe and country artist Jaime Richards.

However, that group eventually moved on to other professions and locations.

During the two years Rosie was helping her parents, her friend Sandra Quiñones asked her to help with the mariachi program at Mathis High School, which was in danger of cancellation for lack of a teacher. Rosie and Sandra were able to save the program, which Sandra’s son thoroughly enjoyed.

From that group, Mariachi Amistad Nueva Generación was organized, and they now play regularly with Rosie and Sandra.

Rosie also helps Mariachi Fuego in Corpus Christi, which plays on weekends, often at La Playa Restaurant.

Rosie has performed with Corpus Christi Mariachi Super Classico, once accompanying mariachi artist Angeles Ochoa, and she performed at The Grand with Ricardo Castellón singing “Hay unos Ojos,” a song he recorded with mariachi singer Nydia Rojas.

It is appropriate that Rosie’s 30-year celebration takes place at The Grand, this Nov. 16, featuring Mariachi Celestial of Kingsville, directed by Juan Miguel Flores. Rosie and Mariachi Amistad Nueva Generación will also perform. 

The BCA is charging their normal admission: $10 at the door or a BCA season ticket for adults, and free admission for students through high school age and CBC students. 

Rosie is selling VIP tables to provide scholarship money for her mariachis, who are now college students. Those interested in purchasing a table may call her at 361-354-1532 and leave a message. 

Come to help Rosie celebrate an amazing 30 years of mariachi performance—and to cheer her on for many more!