Fronteras: 'El Mejor Mariachi Del Mundo' & A Tribute To Emilio Navaira | Texas Public Radio

Fronteras: 'El Mejor Mariachi Del Mundo' & A Tribute To Emilio Navaira

Jan 18, 2019

Not everyone is born with a love for mariachi music. But it’s hard not to appreciate it when “el mejor mariachi del mundo” is your foundation. Jonathan Palomar and Debra Torres share with us how the genre is thriving and celebrated at the annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza (0:17).

Then, Texas Public Radio’s Jack Morgan has a conversation with the sons of the late Tejano music legend Emilio Navaira (15:12).


Jonathan Palomar and Debra Torres.
Credit Norma Martinez / Texas Public Radio

El Mejor Mariachi Del Mundo

Mariachi music dates back to the 18th century, and varies according to region. But what doesn’t vary is the spirit and the heart behind the music.

FRONTERAS EXTRA: Mariachi Vargas De Tecalitlán

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán is considered “el mejor mariachi del mundo,” which traslates to the best mariachi group in the world. Nearly a century after the group’s founding in 1897, it partnered with the city of San Antonio when it held its first international mariachi conference in 1979.

Then in 1995, Mariachi Vargas was brought back — this time as the namesake — of the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza, which has since been hosted every year in the Alamo City. The seven-day extravaganza is the longest-running mariachi music festival in Texas and features instrumentalists and singers from around the world.

Polmar is a guitarist with Mariachi Vargas and Torres is from Muñoz Public Relations and the founder of Mariachi Flor de Jalisco — an all-female mariachi group.

Diego and Emilio Navaira.
Credit Jack Morgan / Texas Public Radio

Navaira Sons Carrying The Legacy Of Their Father

Emilio Navaira – known to his fans simply as “Emilio” – was a Tejano music legend. A winner of a Grammy, Latin Grammy, and several Tejano Music Awards, he was one of the few Tejano artists to see success in the U.S. and Mexico. In the 90s, he began to embrace and record country music, reaching a whole other audience.

Emilio Navaira died at age 53 in 2016 of cardiovascular disease at his home in New Braunfels, about 30 miles northeast of San Antonio. Two of Navaira’s sons — Diego and Emilio — have carried on the music-making tradition of their father. Emilio, the younger brother, plays drums, and Diego plays guitar.

Jan. 31, the brothers will be performing with their dad’s old band and several dozen instrumentalists from the San Antonio Symphony. It’s being billed as “A Tribute to Emilio Navaira.”

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1, and Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter @terrazas_lauren