ELLSWORTH — In a time of much division on the politics of immigration, Veronica Robles has a message of love and unity. She just happens to deliver it wearing a bright red sombrero and singing mariachi music with a band of women behind her.
Robles and her all-female mariachi band visited Ellsworth on Tuesday, July 24, as part of a small New England tour. They’re hoping to spread awareness about their project, connect with local mariachi artists and “make people happy” with the traditional Mexican music.
A native of Mexico City, Robles moved to the United States in the 1990s, eventually settling in Boston. She admitted she was disheartened by much of the rhetoric about immigrants, especially Mexicans, made by President Trump and others in the last few years.
“We Mexicans are giving back to our communities,” she said.
Along those lines, she founded the Veronica Robles Cultural Center in East Boston, which aims to provide arts programs, particularly for low-income families in the area.
Mariachi music, however, remains a passion for Robles, who has been singing since age 14. She has sung in a number of predominantly male groups, and has long dreamed of starting a women’s ensemble. A full mariachi band can include over a dozen instruments, including violins, guitars, trumpets and the guitarrón.
Robles’s dream came to fruition this year, and her current touring band is composed of six women. The musicians are Mexican nationals, who Robles recruited at the Plaza Garibaldi, the hotbed for mariachi music located in Mexico City. She also held auditions for local musicians in Boston, and has another five artists training there who will eventually join the group.
“It’s also a cultural exchange for women,” she said.
To promote cultural exchange, the group is working on mariachi interpretation of other types of music. Robles said she enjoys performing American classics — Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind” and Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” are always popular — and the group is learning Chinese and Irish songs, among others.
“When people listen to Mariachi style of their own music, it will really bring them together,” she said.
The band also will be performing at the “We Are One” festival in Manchester, N.H., on Aug. 18 and at Fenway Park in Boston on Aug. 26.
Long term, Robles is thinking not just about the group’s performances, but about inspiring a new generation of mariachi singers. She wants more girls to take their shot at the genre, and would like to open up a mariachi school in Boston, where kids could learn the music in the same way they study any other instrument.
It might sound far-fetched, but so did an all-female mariachi group when Robles first proposed it.
“Now, see, here we are in Maine,” she said.