Courtesy Flor de Toloache
Courtesy Flor de Toloache
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The mariachi Flor de Toloache performs in the Hudson Valley

Por María Puente Flores
July 2023
On Sunday, July 15th, the Fisher Center at Bard College celebrates its twentieth anniversary with a free community day featuring activities for the whole family and a special event in partnership with La Voz magazine: the live concert of the Mariachi Flor de Toloache, winners of the Latin Grammy award. Mireya Ramos, the violinist, guitarrón player, vocalist, and founding member of the group, speaks here about this all-female mariachi band from New York City.
How did Flor de Toloache come about? 
It was born in 2008 in New York City. The idea came about because I was already doing mariachi. Being a mariachi was my first job as an independent musician, and through that experience, I reconnected with my Mexican roots and their diversity. I realized that there were very few women in New York City doing mariachi among all the mariachi groups that existed there (in 2001). I started playing with a traditional mariachi group where I was the only woman; we played in restaurants, weddings, and quinceañera parties. I found it strange that in such a progressive city, there was no all-female mariachi group like there was in California, Texas, Mexico, and Arizona. That's where the idea of forming this group began. In 2008, I finally mustered the courage to call Shae Fiol, who is the co-founder. I knew she had Latin roots, accompanied herself well, and had an incredible sound. I asked her if she wanted to form a group with me, and that's how it all started. At the beginning of Flor de Toloache, we played traditional songs at weddings, quinceañeras, Guadalupe festivities, masses, and even in the subway. We continued like that for many years until the first article about Flor de Toloache was published in the Daily News, followed by another article in The New York Times, along with a video of us. From there, doors started to open, and many people got to know us. Who are these women playing mariachi in New York? Moreover, we were all from different countries. It became a collective of women where each one added her own touch. It was beautiful to create a space where we all felt comfortable to create freely because the music industry is very challenging for women. You always have to prove that you know what you're doing. In 2014, we recorded our first album, which was nominated for a Latin Grammy, and that's when people outside of New York started to recognize us. That's when the traveling and tours began.

What would today's Mireya say to the Mireya before Flor de Toloache?
I would have liked to be a little more self-assured at that time. I would tell the Mireya from before not to lose patience, that our time will come. I would say, follow your heart because what you're doing is going to inspire many women and the next generation. Beautiful things are coming; keep moving forward. Because suddenly, after a show, someone tells you, "Hey, you changed my life."

Is it different to sing traditional mariachi repertoire compared to singing original compositions by Flor de Toloache?
Well, as they say in English, "I'm torn." When I sing a traditional ranchera, it fills me up because I remember my dad, my connection with him, memories with him. We had a Mexican restaurant in Puerto Rico, and he used to sing in the restaurant. All of that comes to mind; that's my connection. On the other hand, there are songs where the lyrics are very macho. We realized that just by changing the pronoun in some things, it felt better and more comfortable. Singing a song of your own is a sublime experience because you're leaving a part of yourself there on stage or captured on the record. It's an opportunity to tell your story, and women weren't allowed to do that for a long time in mariachi. I'm very grateful to be able to do it.

Do you have a message for those who come to see you at the Fisher Center?
Come with an open heart to enjoy and be ready to cheer and dance to come with an open heart to enjoy and be ready to cheer and dance to cumbias. We appreciate the support of the audience, both in-person and on digital platforms. We love connecting with everyone and sharing our music.

Flor de Toloache in concert
July 15th, 7:30pm, 60 Manor Avenue, Red Hook, NY 12571
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Fisher Center, in partnership with La Voz magazine. It is recommended to reserve a one-day pass ticket:

Translated from Spanish by Laura Perez Rangel

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La Voz, Cultura y noticias hispanas del Valle de Hudson



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