Secondary education student Darlene Chavez is a senior at Western New Mexico University. She serves as President of the Associated Students of WNMU and works as an education assistant at Aldo Leopold Charter School.
“From Deming, I chose WNMU for the music program, Mariachi Plata. After a while it became convenient that it was close to home. I didn’t have to move out,” she says.
Being part of a Hispanic Serving Institution is a privilege, Darlene says.
“The university’s designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution brings an understanding of who we are, the beauty of the culture, and the importance of getting to know us so we become a big family.”
Exposing others to Hispanic culture is part of what Darlene enjoys about mariachi.
“The majority of the world thinks of mariachi as a guy in a sombrero. It’s more than that. When you put on the mariachi traje, it’s worn with pride. You’re representing the culture of Mexico,” she says. “It’s nice to be able to show the beauty of the culture. A lot of the ignorance comes from not understanding the culture. I thank WNMU for helping get the culture out there.”
While she completed her music minor requirements and no longer performs with the WNMU group, Darlene does play violin with Mariachi Raíces de América.
“I’ve done two big shows with them, including one with the El Paso Symphony Orchestra,” she says. “We rehearse every Sunday in El Paso. I travel with Mariachi Plata directors Bryant and Michael, plus two other students who are in Mariachi Plata.”
Previously President of MEChA de WNMU, Darlene doesn’t have the time to be involved this year but says she still supports everything the group does.
“I like to show face at MEChA activities, especially as the student body president. It’s rare to have a Hispanic in a high position in general,” she says.
This piece is part of a series WNMU produced in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and Hispanic Serving Institution Week.