PALMVIEW — In between practices Friday, Mayra Garcia reminded her mariachi students to be early for their Saturday flights and gave pointers on how to store their instruments in airline overhead bins on the way to the nation’s capital.
“You do not want to damage your instrument on the way up there,” she said.
While Garcia’s students at Palmview High School have spent years practicing their craft and weeks preparing for this trip, most of the 22 mariachi students had never stepped onto a plane before Saturday.
The group — past state mariachi champions and runners-up — will take another big step today with a performance before thousands in Washington, D.C., and even more watching the 57th Inaugural Parade on television.
Along with 33 Palmview folklorico dance students, they’ll join 59 other organizations from across the nation celebrating President Barack Obama’s second swearing-in.
The student’s excitement about the trip is measured with an awareness of the significance their participation has for the Rio Grande Valley. The mariachi and folklorico group also is the only Texas representative in Monday’s festivities.
“Not many people get to go play at the presidential parade,” said freshman Jason Robles, who began playing the trumpet in seventh grade. “We’re very proud because we get to represent Texas and the Hispanic community, to show them a little bit of our culture.”
Noel Marquez, a senior guitar player in the group, said his first plane ride almost provided a second sense of excitement.
“I never thought joining this group we’d ever do something so big as playing in the Inaugural Parade or playing for the president,” he said.
After learning last month that they were selected for the ceremony, students have practiced and raised funds tirelessly.
With performances at La Plaza Mall and the Palmhurst Wal-Mart and bucket brigades at traffic intersections, the students raised more than $9,000 in the last week alone.
Classmates at the 2,300-student Palmview High School in Mission have gotten behind the fundraising efforts with their own donations. Juniors Samantha Aranda and Omar Garza joined scores of classmates who purchased tickets to a Friday talent show for a final mariachi and folklorico performance before the parade.
Aranda said students were excited both for the success of their friends on the team and for the national spotlight on the area.
“We’re all going to be watching,” Aranda said. “We’re all going to be supporting them.”
In between folding clothing for a T-shirt sale Friday, senior folklorico dancer Robert Barrera said the students in Washington this weekend were proud to represent not just the campus but the entire La Joya school district.
The trip is also an opportunity to expand the horizons of those students by showing them opportunities outside the Rio Grande Valley, said folklorico instructor Rolando Rodriguez.
After previous classes visited Nice, France, for international competitions, he said he saw every participating student go on to college.
This group will make room in its schedule for visits to the capital’s biggest monuments, if time allows, but Rodriguez joked that many students were more excited to see Beyonce — one of the stars scheduled to perform at the inauguration. The students will continue to receive attention Monday as Telemundo follows them for live coverage.
“These are high school kids that are holding on tight to their roots and being able to show everybody ‘I’m a Hispanic and I’m an American and I’m proud to be here supporting my president,’” Rodriguez said.
Ana Davila, a senior folklorico dancer, said the weeks leading up to the trip have been hectic between raising funds and organizing itineraries but said she was glad to go with this group of students.
“We’re traveling with students that we’ve been with for four years,” she said. “We’ve been like a family that’s stuck together for a while so it’s a cool experience.”