The best-known alcohol to come from Mexico, tequila, is distilled in the Mexican state of Jalisco from the nectar of the blue agave. It’s said that this strong liquor warms a person up with even with just a small sip. The “charros”, sharply-dressed Mexican cowboys from the golden age of Mexican cinema, drank tequila before going out to serenade their lovers. It is with this same spirit that the band, Mariachi Agave Azul (Agave Azul), heats up the wintry city of Anchorage with traditional Mexican mariachi music. Agave Azul has grown, and the composition of its members has changed since its inception in 2011; but the group has always kept true to its original goal: to maintain the liveliness of the Mexican culture in Anchorage and share it with the community through its music. German Badillo, 25, is one of the original members of the group and plays the guitarrón, an acoustic bass with a deep body and six strings. German says with great pride that the band has surpassed the expectations that he had five years ago when he created the group along with three other friends who met at the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In the five years the band has existed, Agave Azul has had the opportunity to perform for President Obama, the comedian George Lopez, troops at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), the Anchorage Bucks baseball team, and for a number of other Anchorage events and special occasions. Agave Azul’s members currently number about a dozen, and range in age from 14 to 25. Some members were born in Mexico, and others were born in Alaska and have Mexican lineage, while other members have no connection to the Land of the Aztecs other than their passion for mariachi music. Agave Azul plays at events such as the Day of the Dead, celebration held each year at Out North Contemporary Art House. It also performs at weddings, fifteenth birthday celebrations, barbecues, family parties, and baptisms. Agave Azul may also be seen at celebrations for the Mexican Independence Day, as well as the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. During the summer months, the mariachis can find themselves performing every weekend. Javier Acuña, 18, sings and plays the violin. He thinks that there will always be a Mexican community here in Anchorage, and he hopes to keep celebrating the culture of his homeland. His sister, Bella, is the youngest member of the group at 14 years of age, and plays the violin. Leila Spelman, 25, is also a violinist and singer. Leila points out that those who grow up in Anchorage become accustomed to its cultural diversity. Leila is of Japanese, German, and Indonesian descent; she believes in the importance of sharing and celebrating diverse cultural backgrounds. Violinist, Georgina Azpilcueta, is 17 years old and was born in Mexico. As a new Anchorage resident, she notes that although there is a large Latino population in the city, information about its cultural activities is not widely available. She would like to see a better-connected Latino community. The support of some Latinos has been fundamental for the group. One of those is Indra Arriaga, whom the band would like to thank. Mariachi Agave Azul’s new generation of members guarantees a bright future for mariachi music in Alaska; and will continue to live as long as young people keep playing, sharing, and enjoying the tradition of Mexican mariachi music. For many Mexicans in Alaska, their homeland is very far, but these talented musicians know how to make it feel close to the heart.
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