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A Personal Mariachi Journey: Barbara Bustillos Cogswell, Documentary filmaker

The summer of 1969, I received a 4-year scholarship from the “United Mexican American Student” fund, to attend the University of Colorado, in Boulder. It was the same year when over 100 students from Denver West High school demanded the end of racial hatred toward Chicano students but were met by law-enforcement and beaten, which caught media attention. A frustrated Chicano civil rights activist, Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales (1921-2005), organized a statewide walkout. The demands were similar from leaders such as Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Reis Tejerina, and the start of Martin Luther King, Jr. 1968 “Poor People’s March” to Washington DC.

When I received a scholarship to the Tecnologico de Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico to study Mexican art, culture, and Spanish, I was beyond excited. Ironically, it was after the 1968 "Tlateloco Massacre," when the Mexican interior secretary Luis Echeverria Alvarez, ordered snipers to stop over 300 students killing, wounded, and arrested students and community organizers, just 2-weeks before the Summer Olympics, in Mexico City.

I was 18-years old, and my parents were concerned but they trusted my judgement traveling to Mexico without family. I knew it was going to be different compared to family reunions to Juarez and Namiquipa, Chihuahua, and I was determined not to lose their trust. I met with the other Chicano students, and we drove to the Monterrey border but some of the long-haired male students had to cut their hair to enter Mexico. Our plan was to avoid any confrontation and to protect the program for future scholarship recipients. This was the first CU university exchange program, and our teacher asked that they provide mentors within the Tecnologico administration and government employees. The exchange also included the opportunity for Mexican students to study at, CU. We also met with professors and students who survived the "Tlateloco" massacre in Mexico City, but it was the housekeepers and groundskeepers that became our daily guardians. Entering the dorm, the staff looked at us, since they had only seen Anglo summer school students from Boston. The workers immediately took us under their wings because they wanted us to succeed. They reminded us of the rules, housekeepers waking us up early, security lectured us when we were late, and occasionally they invited us to their home for a Sunday family barbecue. I loved seeing the elders entertaining the children playing guitar and singing songs about their revolution, love, and faith. The poverty was visible without electricity, homes with dirt floors but at the end of the day their beautiful singing under the moonlight near the river, gave me a feeling of pride and made me think of the Mexican student demonstrators and what they died for. This forever inspired me to not only document the Mariachi folklore but to film family stories, for nearly 30-years.

When I first attended the Las Cruces Mariachi festival, I loved the hospitality, student barbecues, the grassroot family atmosphere and international Mariachi teachers. It was beautiful naming Mariachi Cobre their Padrinos. Like all Mariachi festivals, The LCIMC experienced the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly, due to Covid-19 but zoom class were successful, funding was a challenge, but a high school auditorium was as great as a stadium and most important, Cobre continues to be their Padrinos. Congratulations to all on your 30th Anniversary!


For Immediate Press Release

Barbara Bustillos Cogswell, Documentary Filmmaker will be at the Mariachi festival from November 8-12. 2023

Screening: “LCIMC 30th Anniversary Film on Wednesday, November 8th at 4:00 PM at the Las Cruces Convention Center Exhibit Hall and prior to the concert Saturday, November 11th at 6 PM, Convention Center

Also screening: “Las Damas,” featuring her YouTube Mariachi Channel discussing the success and challenges of Female Mariachi groups.


YouTube stories Mariachi Memoirs - Bustillos & Company

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