Originally published June 27, 2012 at 11:25 a.m., updated May 2, 2013 at 3:51 p.m.
"Mariachi High" documents a year in the life of Mariachi Halcon, a top-ranked competitive high-school mariachi band in the rural ranching town of Zapata, Texas.
Using the band and its music as a lens, this spirited documentary focuses on Mexican-American teenagers pursuing excellence and finding strength in themselves, as well as a connection to their cultural heritage.
Despite the economic challenges in Zapata and its school district, charismatic mariachi director Adrian Padilla creates a championship-level music ensemble that can compete against larger, more privileged schools from around Texas.
The determined students in Mariachi Halcon are not only gifted musicians, but also gifted students –among Zapata High School’s academic top 10 percent. In the past five years, all of the students who spent four years in Mariachi Halcon graduated from high school and went on to an institution of higher learning.
“At a time when Latinos have the highest dropout rate in the country and when arts education continues to be under attack, we found a story of teens who pursue excellence through their cultural heritage despite some very real challenges,” says "Mariachi High" producer and director Ilana Trachtman. “This is an exuberant story about ambitious and talented Mexican-American teenagers — whom you hardly ever see on screen.”