Mariachis Transform Tucson is a project to create a new documentary film by Daniel Buckley by the close of 2014.
As the project title suggests, Tucson has been changed in huge ways since the birth of its first youth mariachi – Los Changuitos Feos (the Ugly Little Monkeys) – in 1964. In the mid sixties, Tucson’s city council was engaged in largely eradicating signs of Mexican culture in the downtown. It bulldozed barrios (neighborhoods), tore down traces of the Spanish presidio (fort) from its colonial days and put the wrecking ball to Mexican American business in downtown, all in the name of “Urban Renewal.”
School dropout rates were high in the Mexican American communities, and far fewer Mexican American kids graduated high school, let alone went on to college, than their Anglo counterparts. But after five decades of increasing numbers of mariachi and folklorico programs in Tucson schools, the trend has reversed. Kids are more engaged in school, graduate in higher numbers and more frequently go on to college. They have pride in themselves and their community, and the skills to succeed in life.
The attitudes of the town toward the Mexican side of its heritage have significantly changed as well. Mariachis and folklorico dancers have now joined the saguaro cactus as visual symbols of the community, and are ubiquitous at every major historic celebration in our city.
The film will show how Tucson’s mariachi and folklorico programs have changed Tucson socially, economically, politically and with respect to education, as well as how Tucson in turn has changed the mariachi and folklorico world at large.
Tucson-born singer Linda Ronstadt propelled mariachi music with her Canciones de Mi Padre and Mas Canciones recordings. The CDs sparked a global spike in interest in the culture. But it was at the Tucson International Mariachi Conference (TIMC) that the idea of creating those recordings, and the meeting with the mariachis featured on those CDs took place. TIMC stands as the longest continuously running mariachi conference in the world, and remains the model for others throughout the United States and Mexico.
Documentary maker Daniel Buckley has specialized in making films about the history and culture of Tucson’s Mexican American population through his Cine Plaza at the Fox series. A former music writer and video producer for the Tucson Citizen newspaper, he has spent over three decades researching, writing about and filming mariachis and folklorico dance. He is widely regarded as an expert in the music and dance.
His film will tell the story of Tucson’s mariachi evolution through interviews with the people who made it happen. It’s a transcendent, multi-generational story that includes interviews with parents, mariachis of numerous generations, educators, politicians, community activists and more.
In the end, all of the transcripts and raw footage from the film will be turned over to the Arizona Historical Society to be studied by researchers and future generations.
This Kickstarter project will get the ball running on multiple fronts. Though the film will end up costing $150,000 or more, this $15,000 first chunk will fund priority interviews with older subjects, travel to interview mariachi pioneers and major players no longer in Tucson, transcription costs, as well as Buckley’s time to digitize archival footage, organize materials and work to secure foundation and grant funds to complete the film in the next two years. This money will also help leverage funds from foundations and granting organizations because these dollars come from real people who are determined to make this happen.
It's more than a Tucson story. It's a success story America needs to hear. It's an uplifting tale of self-reliance and gradual transformation. This music and dance charmed a city once bent on pretending it had no Hispanic roots.
It’s a huge task, but Buckley has been building up to this project and salting away contacts, photos and footage for years.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge is the sheer enormity of the project. Historically it covers over 60 years of Tucson's history, and will involve interviews with well over 100 people.
Some pieces of the puzzle, including an interview with the last surviving member of Tucson's first mariachi, have already been completed. But some key people no longer live in Tucson, and transportation will be costly.
A great deal of time will also be needed to digitize old footage, including VHS tapes contributed by some of Tucson's mariachi and folklorico pioneers. Your help is vital to helping this project realize its tremendous potential, but Buckley is determined to make this fly.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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