Holy Cross Parish Chicago, Illinois
Unfortunately, due to Illinois state budget cuts and other funding issues, the parish has had to temporarily suspend the Mariachi Band. With the necessary funding and support, Holy Cross will reestablish this key program to help give young people in the Back of the Yards a creative and cultural outlet.
The Mariachi Band gave students in middle and high school an opportunity for cultural and musical expression since its founding in the early 2000s. Along with Holy Cross’ Marimba Ensemble and the Children’s Choir, the band gave the neighborhood’s young people the chance to uncover and nourish their musical talent.
The Mariachi Band didn’t just introduce youth to music; it also connected them to their heritage. The ensemble of 12–15 musicians—including vocalists, guitar, trumpet, and violin players—performed regularly at quinceañera Masses and other celebrations in the parish, making these events community-centered.
The Mariachi Band also gave young people the chance to see the world outside the neighborhood. Participants took field trips to see professional Mariachi groups and other musical performances around the city. These trips broadened their cultural horizons and knowledge of the world outside the neighborhood, and they also served as inspiration for these budding young musicians.
Arts programs like the Mariachi Band help divert at-risk young people from drugs, gangs, and the juvenile justice system while improving academic performance and building self-discipline, job skills, and communication. Just as importantly, creative expression can help youths see they have something constructive to contribute to their neighborhood and community.
Creative programs are especially important in communities like Back of the Yards where 36% of neighborhood members are living at or below the poverty line, compared to Chicago’s 21% average. Facing pervasive poverty, the Mariachi Band gave young people a source of support and hope, which they spread to the whole community.