To James Bravo, freshman music major at Texas A&M International University, Washington, D.C. seemed like such a far away city that he never imagined visiting.
So, when Bravo, also a member of TAMIU's award-winning mariachi ensemble, Mariachi Internacional, was invited by the City of Laredo this month to perform Mexico's traditional songs in front of politicians and dignitaries in the nation's capital, his heart filled with excitement.
Bravo and 16 other Mariachi Internacional members took their characteristic grito and enthusiasm along on the City's annual Washington Trip March 18-21, accompanying the mayor and city council members in promoting Laredo's future and needs.
Mariachi Internacional performed at the mayor's annual reception, where key political players were present to discuss numerous issues including the U.S.-Mexico border, education and immigration.
"It was an honor, going to Washington was a big thing," Bravo said, "Going to the capital, you feel its importance and also that of being ambassadors for TAMIU."
Mariachi Internacional's trip also served as a prelude to a performance they will give at the Laredo Entertainment Center along with Mexico's legendary Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, April 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Mariachi Vargas' appearance comes through a generous partnership by sponsors Sames Motor Company, Ford Motor Credit, Ford Salute to Education, the Laredo Entertainment Center and TAMIU.
Proceeds from ticket sales benefit TAMIU student scholarships. Tickets are $10, $15 and $25 and can be obtained at the Laredo Entertainment Center's LEC box office or at ticketmaster.com.
The concert caps off the University's two-day Fiesta de Mariachi, an annual mariachi competition scheduled at TAMIU April 25-26. The Fiesta de Mariachi, which includes mariachi workshops and a competition, is expected to draw 20 high schools and 10 middle schools from throughout Texas and the nation.
Dr. Rachel Y. Cruz, director of Mariachi Internacional, said students took advantage of being in Washington to explore historical sites.
"We did make it an educational experience," Dr. Cruz said, "We took tours of the Holocaust Museum, Washington Museum, Smithsonian museums, Aerospace Museum, American History Museum and the Natural Science Museum. I was very proud of our TAMIU students. Aside from the fact that they had an exemplary performance, they were model students and actually took great advantage of their time."
The journey also become memorable as the group watched on television accounts of the war that had just started.
"It wasn't a dull moment," Cruz said, "Washington is one of the most historic cities and an academic city,but at that particular time, it was active with protestors on the streets and these are things that none of us ever get to see."
For further information on Mariachi Internacional, or the upcoming Mariachi Vargas concert, please contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at 326-2180, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit offices located in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, room 268.
University office hours are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.