72” x 72”
Oil on Linen
Born in 1920, to parents who fled the Mexican Revolution, Teresa Cuevas grew up in Topeka, Kansas. Playing the classical violin by age eight, she was invited to play in the Topeka High School Symphony. Graduating High School in the 1930’s Teresa found no opportunities. A young, talented, smart Latina had little chance of finding a good job. She married, had a troubled relationship and five children. She rejoined with her music and played in the church choir.
She later divorced her husband, and became more involved in her music. She discovered a love for Mariachi music, she called “Mariachi Fever”. She developed an all female Mariachi band in an era of all male dominated Mariachi music. Her group, called Mariachi Estrella, became a hit in Topeka, and began branching out, playing in other cities. The turn of events when they arrived in Kansas City to perform, proved fatal to the group of women just getting started in their music career.
At 7:05 pm on July 17th, 1981, as they walked along the second story skywalk at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the skywalk above them suddenly collapsed, and brought all of them down. Four of the members of Mariachi Estrella died in the accident which killed 114, and injured 200 others. Teresa Cuevas recovered from her crushed vertebra, concussion and severe bruising.
The music helped her recover, as she focused on teaching mariachi to her grandchildren, and continued to play in the church choir.
Mariachi is kept alive and new all female groups are forming in Topeka still, in the tradition of Teresa Cuevas’ group Mariachi Estrella.