Mucho Corazón

Stages in the Life of a Pioneer Female Mariachi

by Alicia Chavira-Prado (Author)
©2022 Monographs XIV, 230 Pages


In 1960s East Los Angeles, La Estrella de la Canción Romántica interpreted boleros and other music from the collective memory of Mexico. Though an untrained, local artist, her musical performance was as trans-racial, trans-class, trans-generational, and trans-national as the most celebrated artists of the music of latinidad. That stage of her artistic career would be key when she later helped deconstruct the machismo that framed the mariachi tradition, as a founding member of the first all-female mariachi group, Las Generalas.
Mucho Corazón, a biography/autoethnography written by the protagonist's daughter, relates the life- and performing stages of Aurora Prado Pastrano, who against overwhelming odds, followed her heart to become a bolerista, songwriter, and the first professional woman guitarrón player in United States history. Seamless storytelling advances the long-neglected history of Chicana grassroots artists. Framed by allusions to the music popular during her Texas-Mexican American childhood, her young adult life in Mexico, to her artistic rise in East Los Angeles, the story vividly exemplifies how gendered subjectivity infuses public performance of what the author coins "cultural music."
This is a resource on regional history and its music of the 1940s-1970s. Written for anyone interested in women’s participation in the production and performance of mariachi music in the United States, Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, and Latino music, and the cultural history of the Southwest, it is especially valuable to ethnomusicology, cultural studies, women’s history, women's and gender studies, Latinx studies, Chicanx studies, cultural anthropology, ethnology, and sociology, and accessible to levels from high school to higher education professionals.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Photos
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter One: Introduction: Mucho Corazón
  • Chapter Two: Sin un Amor: Life and Music in El Chamizal
  • Chapter Three: Llorarás, Llorarás: Life and Music in Juárez
  • Chapter Four: Mexican Education, the Golden Age of Cinema, and National Identity
  • Chapter Five: Naa, Na, Na, Na, Naa: The Chicano Movement and the Birth of the East Side Sound
  • Chapter Six: La Estrella de la Canción Romántica
  • Chapter Seven: Volver, Volver: Mariachi Music and Performance
  • Chapter Eight: My Participation in Mariachi Las Generalas: En Primera Voz
  • Chapter Nine: Mariachi Las Generalas
  • Epilogue: Fallaste Corazón: Legacies, Closures, and Failings of the Heart
  • Appendix A: Misa Panamericana/Order of Mass as Played by Mariachi Las Generalas
  • Appendix B: Aurora Prado Pastrano’s Collection of Old Popular Song Titles
  • Appendix C: Selected Song Lyrics
  • Index

←viii | ix→

List of Photos

Front cover photo: Aurora P. Pastrano with guitarrón, in mariachi regalia during her years with Mariachi Las Generalas, 1970s.

Back cover photo: Aurora Prado Pastrano and author. From the private photo collection of the author.

Photo 3.1: Aurora Prado, 1950s. From the author’s private collection.

Photo 3.2: Aurora Prado, c1955. From the author’s private photo collection.

Photo 5.1: Promotional photo of Amalia Mendoza’s performance at Teatro California, Los Angeles. From the private archives of Aurora Prado Pastrano, c1965.

Photo 5.2: The Big Beats. Joe Chavira, second from the left. At Millie’s Lounge in East Los Angeles, 1962. Provided to the author by Joe Chavira, from his private collection.

Photo 6.1: Aurora Prado, 1968. From her private collection.

Photo 6.2: Promotion of La Estrella, 1968. From the private archives of Aurora Prado Pastrano.

Photos 6.3 a, b: From the private archives of Aurora Prado Pastrano. 1968.←ix | x→

Photos 6.4 a, b: Aurora Prado, performing at a fundraising event supporting candidacy of Bobby Kennedy (photo background). At the State Ballroom, Los Angeles, April 27, 1968.

Photo 6.5: Conjunto Papaloápan album cover. From the private record collection of Aurora Prado Pastrano.

Photo 6.6: Promotional poster of Mother’s Day event sponsored by Thrift Furniture Co. Aurora Prado was among the performers on the program.

Photo 6.7: Promotional poster of performance program on Catalina Island, 1968. Aurora Prado, among the featured artists. From the private archives of Aurora Prado Pastrano.

Photo 7.1: Poster purchased by the author, of the International Mariachi Conference in Tucson, 2006. From the author’s private archives.

Photo 7.2: Program from the Mariachi Festival X (10th) Anniversary, June 19 & 20, 1999, at the Hollywood Bowl. From the author’s private archive collection.

Photo 8.1a: Aurora Prado Pastrano,performing as part of duo Las Golondrinas, at Azteca Restaurant, Los Angeles, c1985.

Photo 8.1b: Aurora Pastrano and Lupe Rodriguez, performing with their teacher, Maestro Larios, 1988.

Photo 8.2a, b: (a): Aurora Pastrano with Saulo Sedan (requintista), Los Diamantes. La Costa Restaurant. March 6, 1988. (b): Aurora Pastrano with Eduardo Novelo (lead vocals), Trio Montejo. La Costa Restaurant. March 06,1988.

Photo 8.3: Aurora Pastrano and Lupe Rodriguez, performing as duo Las Golondrinas, La Costa Restaurant. May 1988.

Photo 9.1: Mariachi Las Generalas, late 1970s. From the author’s private photo collection.

Photo 9.2: Mariachi Las Generalas, with instruments, c1970s. From the author’s private photo collection.

Photo 9.3: Poster of event in Bakersfield in which Las Generalas were to accompany famous singer Pepe Infante. November 19, 1982. From the private archives of Aurora Prado Pastrano.←x | xi→

Photo 9.4: Promotional poster of event featuring Mariachi Las Generalas. c1983. From the private archive collection of Aurora Prado Pastrano.

Photo 9.5: Promotional poster of event featuring Mariachi Las Generalas as guests of honor. January 28, 1983. From the private archive collection of Aurora Prado Pastrano.

Photo 9.6: Aurora Prado Pastrano, in Mariachi traje, 1994. From the private photo collection of the author.

Photo E.1: Aurora Prado Pastrano, examining her guitarrón. December 2020. From the private photo collection of the author.

Photo E.2: Aurora Prado Pastrano, up late playing the piano. December 2020. From the private photo collection of the author.

Photo E.3: Some of the Cancioneros in Aurora Prado Pastrano’s private collection.

Photo E.4: Aurora Prado Pastrano with David Chanes, in Yucaipa, CA. May 12, 2017. From the private photo collection of the author.

Photo E.5: Aurora Prado Pastrano, May 14, 2015. From the private photo collection of the author.

←xii | xiii→


I am grateful to several people whose encouragement to carry out this project brought it to fruition. I am most grateful for, and to, the man with whom I shared most of my life. Thank you, for the loving eyes that gleamed along with the crooked, knowing smile when I was happy, when I sang, when I got my way. By always believing in me, you helped me to believe in myself, to know that whatever I endeavored was worthwhile because it was my passion. Fate separated us from each other in our earthly existence in the last weeks of the book’s completion, ripping you away from me along with my heart and my soul. Even at your deathbed, you cheered me on to finish this project. Though our love is eternal, I know that until we meet again, I shall never again know such love, but part of its legacy is represented in this book.

I am deeply grateful to my mom, Aurora, for never letting life’s obstacles stop her from sharing her music with everyone around her. Through her love of music and performance she infused me with a sense of cultural knowing and belonging through which I experienced a world that I might never have known or appreciated otherwise. That music lives in my heart, my mind, my body and my sentimientos, feelings and understandings, that still help me make sense of an otherwise chaotic world. I am thankful to her also because, in spite of her aloofness toward being recognized in history for her musical contributions, she provided me important information for the documenting of her artistic life, and for allowing me to relate ←xiii | xiv→some of the most painful, private, but very relevant and enlightening parts of her life in this biography.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to the reviewers of the first draft of the manuscript, for their analytic insights in seeing the value of this project. Their critiques and generous comments were invaluable in helping me to focus my objectives and organize around them, and to reshape the earlier version into one that is far more worthy of the story it tells. While the work benefited significantly from their reviews, I take full responsibility for any shortcomings in this project.

I wish to thank also other persons whose voices helped enrich the breadth and meaning of this biographical/ethnographic account by allowing me to include interviews and conversations I had with them in telling this story. They include, Lupe and Sylvestre Rodriguez and their family, Eddie Chavira, Joe (Pepe) Chavira, David Chanes, and Ozzie Reinoso.

I also wish to thank my wonderful, loving, children, Miguela and Sahuaro. While going through our grief, they unselfishly poured their love and support to help me reach the final steps of this book. Thank you also, kids, for critiquing those segments I shared with you from the first draft.

Finally, but never least, I thank my acquiring editor at Peter Lang Publishing, Laurence Pagacz, for seeing merit in my original manuscript submission, for his kind assistance with all my queries, and for his support and understanding in getting me through the final steps to publication.

←xiv | 1→

Chapter One

Introduction: Mucho Corazón

Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, late 1950s. Hearing her singing over the loud speaker at the church fair made my stomach cringe with anxiety. Mona, esa es tu mamá, la oyes? My friend came running to tell me while I played tag with a group of friends on the street in front of the church near our house. My friend was making sure I knew it was my mother singing on that platform stage, as if I had not already recognized her voice. I knew she had likely volunteered or asked the band to let her come up and sing a song with them. She would do this at different occasions and places, and even though I was only six or seven years old, I was embarrassed by her boldness. Maybe I felt that being an amateur left her open to possible ridicule. As children often do, I feared becoming the social casualty of my mother’s exposure to public criticism. To my relief, her listeners were always attentive and seemingly impressed, perhaps by her talent and her beauty or they were intrigued by her audacity. Still, I had hoped that the size of the fair’s crowd and the dimming light of dusk might keep the other kids from noticing it was my mother up there. More than dreading that my friends might tease me about my mother, I was afraid knowing that if my father found out about her singing on that stage, it would unleash his brutality. I cowered for her at the thought. She was well aware of his prohibitions: No going outside the house but for church service, marketing, and other necessities. No contact or unnecessary conversations with strangers, especially men. Her singing in public would fall well outside of his rules, if he ever ←1 | 2→found out. At home we mostly abided by his rules, and my mother seemed timid and submissive. But my mother never let him, nor any other obstacle, stop her from pursuing her love of music and performance. Her voice coming through the microphone at the fair betrayed no concern with potential consequences. What I heard was the love of music in her singing, in her blending of melody and lyrics like the music that we heard on the radio. This was one of those moments in which my mother’s singing, wrapped in her public performance, signified resistance, defiance and self-expression.

This is the story of Aurora Prado Pastrano, of the stages of her life and the stages of her public performance as a music artist. In the late 1960s’ East Los Angeles nightclub circuit, she became a bolero interpreter, known as La Estrella de la Canción Romántica, the “Star of the Romantic Song.” In performance, she was a self-representation of cultural identity and gendered subjectivity. In that stage of her artistic career, referring here to both a developmental period and performative site, she would develop an aesthetic that would ultimately help shape her stage persona as a pioneer female mariachi.

Aurora Prado Pastrano was the first professional female mariachi guitarrón player, and original member of arguably the first, all-female mariachi group in the United States, known as Las Generalas. In 1976, this grassroots group of women in East Los Angeles, the mariachi capitol outside of Mexico City, broke a cultural tradition that had defined mariachi performance strictly as a male domain. As trailblazers, they faced disapproval by their own families, disdain from male mariachis, and resistance from audiences accustomed to the male image, yet they ushered in a new era in Mexican American cultural history. They helped re-create the mariachi art into one that encompasses all genders in a more inclusive, diverse representation of our Mexican American identity and experience in what I call, our cultural music.


XIV, 230
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2022 (May)
Mariachi Women Cultural Music Mexican American Aurora Prado Pastrano East Los Angeles Las Generalas Chicana history Mexican music Chicano music Bolerista El Paso Juárez Chihuahua Chicana artists Alicia Chavira-Prado Stages in the Life of a Pioneer Female Mariachi Mucho Corazón Mexico
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. XIV, 230 pp., 28 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Alicia Chavira-Prado (Author)

Alicia Chavira-Prado (Ph.D., UCLA) is a former professor of cultural anthropology and Latino/a studies and university diversity and inclusion administrator. Her institutions included University of Houston, De Paul University, and Ohio University. She is the editor of The Feminist Alliance Project in Appalachia: Minoritized Experiences of Women Faculty and Administrators (Peter Lang, 2018).


Title: Mucho Corazón
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246 pages