January 10, 2018
The trumpet rings out its clear, shimmering call. The guitarron pulses its steady, throaty beat. Voices – vibrato lilting, joy apparent – sing a melody that has been sung for over a century. This is mariachi, the splendor of a living heritage – beautiful to listen to, dance to and enjoy. But, the greatest beauty of all? This is mariachi performed by children and teens from various schools in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Ernie Gonzales, a retired teacher, principal and current mariachi instructor has taught hundreds of students to play and sing mariachi music since the mid 1980’s when he started a mariachi group at Santa Fe Vo Tech. When he became a Principal, he instructed/directed the Kaune Elementary Mariachi and he currently instructs/directs Mariachi Conquistador at Milagro Middle School. Many of his former students have started their own mariachi groups or joined existing groups throughout New Mexico. Students credit the mariachi programs with giving them pride in culture and identity and for providing encouragement to continue their education.
Over the summer of 2017, Mr. Gonzales heard the three worst words any individual can hear, “You have Cancer”. He was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and began seeking treatment options. He eventually was accepted into a clinical trial at MD Anderson in Houston, TX, and began his treatments in early October. This is his best hope for long-term survival. But, he must travel to Houston every two weeks for these potentially life saving treatments. The Gonzales’ receive some assistance with travel, lodging, and meal expenses, but the true costs far exceed the assistance received and the ability of the Gonzales’ to cover with their retirement income. There is also an after-insurance amount due for each treatment