Forget mariachi's male-dominated culture. The all-female Flor de Toloache has officially caused a splash on the Mexican folk-music scene, and not just because of their gender.
Vocalist, violinist, and guitarrón Mireya Ramos founded the outfit as a three-piece in 2008, seeking an alternative to the all-men groups she’d been playing with. The band began performing on subway platforms and at bars and restaurants for free food and drinks; since then, they’ve grown to include 13 members, playing on average three to five nights a week at events throughout the city.
While remaining true to many of the elements that make up the mariachi tradition, the women of Flor de Toloache are not afraid to experiment. They're a diverse collective — both ethnically and musically — that draws from their various backgrounds (Dominican, Polish, German, Colombian) to play a fusion of traditional mariachi with soul, jazz, and pop.
Solidifying their mark on the mariachi culture, next month, Flor de Toloache will embark on a pilgrimage to the annual International Mariachi Festival of Guadalajara, the birthplace of this musical phenomenon. (This journey will also be the subject of an upcoming film by Sonia Fritz-Macias, titled Mariachi with Pants.)
Ahead of their trip, group leaders Ramos and Shae Fiol open up about breaking such a long-held stereotype, why their group doesn't wear skirts, and how working with male mariachi actually made them stronger.