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Maria The Mexican, Influenced By Mariachi Roots

courtesy Maria the Mexican

The band Maria the Mexican describes its sound as Americana soul and Mexicana groove. Sisters Maria and Tess Cuevas got their start in Mariachi Estrella, an all-female mariachi band founded by their grandmother, the late TeresaCuevas. In 2011, they branched out to form Maria the Mexican, with guitarist Garrett Nordstrom.

The Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix talked to the two sisters about their mariachi roots and debut album called Moon Colored Jade.

Interview Highlights: Maria and Tess Cuevas

On musical influences from classic rock to mariachi

Maria Cuevas: My sister and I grew up listening to artists like Santana, Eric Clapton. Our father was very much into classic rock...

We grew up with basically mariachi rock in the home. We really took that sound and mixed it with Garrett (Nordstrom)'s sound. From his previous band and previous work, he really taught us how to groove. Because before that, we didn't really know much about those types of rhythms. 

On their grandmother as a survivor and a teacher

Tess Cuevas: Our grandmother started playing the violin when she was growing up. Her father actually insisted that she play the violin...After high school, she got married and she didn't play for quite a long time. And then when she and my grandfather divorced, she picked it back up. So at this point, she's in her 50s or 60s.

And then she was involved in the Hyatt accident in Kansas City, Mo. So, she was an older woman, but the entire group was females. She was pretty well-known; they were an up-and-coming band in Topeka, Kan., and they were getting a lot of press when that accident happened. Only she survived that accident.* 

After her recovery, which took a couple of years, she turned the mariachi into more of a learning experience. And she always had students coming in and out, so she could pass that on through teaching, and that's how my sister and I were involved.

*Eds note: Six of the seven members in Mariachi Estrella were at the Hyatt when the skybridge collapsed.  Both Teresa Cuevas and Rachel Galvan Sangalang survived.

Listen to the extended interview with Maria the Mexican, including Maria and Tess Cuevas and Garrett Nordstrom here. 

In 1984, Chuck Haddix aka Chuck Haddock joined the staff of KCUR as a jazz producer. The next year, he began producing the Fish Fry. You can reach him at haddixc@umsystem.edu.
Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.