"Mariachi music, to Mexican people, is like an element of who they are. We grew up with it. It’s part of us. It’s part of our family. And we all have, 'Oh my mother loves that song.' And, 'Oh wait, that’s my dad’s favorite song.' And then it becomes part of us."
—Judith Kamel, member of Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles
COMPAÑERAS is an intimate profile of America’s first all-female mariachi band: Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles. Since 1994, this 12-member group has been taking on a male-dominated musical tradition and building the popularity of mariachi music.
Alternating between heart-stirring performances and behind-the-scenes band drama, the film reveals the intense, passionate world of female mariachi. Interwoven throughout are the stories of two women: 19-year-old Angelica, a devoted groupie of Reyna who comes to Los Angeles to fulfill her dream of auditioning for the group, and Cindy, the group’s leader and the only non-Latina, who struggles to assert her authority over the other members without alienating everyone.
As the stories of Cindy and Angelica unfold over the course of the film, we witness other members of the group struggling with issues universal to women everywhere: how to balance family life with career, how to achieve equal pay, how to deal with emotional conflict and how to balance competing priorities.
Musically stunning and emotionally compelling, this intimate film sheds light not only on a unique and fascinating Mexican tradition, but also on larger issues of gender and culture in American society.
Filmmaker Elizabeth Massie provided updates in January 2008 on what the members of Reyna have been up to since filming ended.
The members in the band are always in flux, but in brief, here are updates on some of the main characters:
Cindy has started her own mariachi school and has several hundred students. She and her husband have their own mariachi band, Mariachi California, and they play parties and events regularly. Her son Bruce is now four years old.
After getting married, Angelica left the band and moved back to Albuquerque with her husband. But after seven months, they missed the mariachi music scene in L.A .too much, so they have just recently moved back.
Cathy also left the band and now regularly performs with the very popular Mariachi Divas (another all-female group) in Los Angeles.
Laura has graduated not only from high school but also from college since we started the film. She is working as a realtor in her mother’s company, but would love to go solo as a professional singer one day. She is still one of the band’s star vocalists.
Since we started filming, Cindy had her son; Sylvia had two more children; Carmen had a baby boy, as did Luisa and Maricela. Leticia, Maricela and Angelica have all gotten married.
Jose plans to record a new album with the group, including several songs featured in the film.
Get the DVD >>