Getting candid with Cándida

Women’s studies department brings in summer visiting scholar

Ethnomusicologist Cándida Jáquez will give at least one oral presentation about women’s roles in Mexican mariachi music during her time at the University.
Ethnomusicologist Cándida Jáquez will give at least one oral presentation about women’s roles in Mexican mariachi music during her time at the University.

For ethnomusicologist Cándida Jáquez, her present life began as the result of an accidental encounter she still remembers vividly.

Jáquez is the women’s studies department’s visiting scholar for 2009 and will be on campus until September, acting as a resource for students and faculty who are interested in her areas of research.

Jáquez said she first became interested in music when she was in Grade 3.

She followed a friend to a music band meeting so she wouldn’t have to walk home alone after school. When the band teacher handed out sheets asking each child to pick an instrument, she copied her friend’s answer—clarinet—for fear of being kicked out of the meeting if she didn’t pick anything.

“The nice man [running the meeting] passed out a number of papers detailing when classes were held and what we were to do about instruments,” she said. “Now I had another problem: what was a clarinet and where was I going to get one?”

Jáquez brought the sheets home and showed them to her mother. A few days later, she and her father visited a local music store, where she bought her first clarinet.

Thirty years later, Jáquez teaches Latino popular music and Mexican traditional music at Scripps College in California.

Her research focuses on mariachi, a type of music group that originated on the streets of Mexico.

Mariachi bands typically include at least three violins, two trumpets, a Spanish guitar, a five-string guitar, an acoustic bass and occasionally a harp.

Growing up in a Mexican-American family in California, mariachi was familiar to her from a young age, she said.

“[The mariachi] is a very important part of a number of private and public celebrations and so it was something that was already in my ears,” she said.

Jaquez’s parents encouraged her to pursue post-secondary education, something they didn’t have the opportunity to do.

“They realized in their minds that it was a key issue for their children, in terms of them having a better future than the one that they had,” she said.

As children of migrant farm worker families in California, her parents followed crops around southern California with the change of seasons, a lifestyle of constant upheaval, she said.

It was when she was an undergraduate student at California State University that Jáquez became interested in Latin American music.

“When my mentor at the time, a Beethoven scholar, saw that I was interested in doing this for my senior paper, she referred me to an anthropologist who was also an ethnomusicologist,” she said.

Jáquez became an ethnomusicologist herself and her research has recently shifted to the study of women in the mariachi tradition.

“I’m interested in the ways in which the women within the mariachi tradition have really played a critical role in how mariachi continues,” she said, adding that, in the past, women’s role in mariachi music has largely been ignored.

“The oral histories that are told present it as primarily a male-dominated tradition and profession.”

All-women mariachi bands have existed for most of the last century, and women musicians have played an increasingly important role in teaching younger musicians, she said.

Jaquez said she hopes her time at Queen’s teaches her about Latin American populations in Canada, adding that she will give at least one oral presentation about her research during her time at the University.

“I would love to talk with any researchers who work on cultural issues for Latin American and Caribbean communities in Canada,” she said. “I’ve just barely started learning myself.”

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