Yes, there is a whole history of women mariachis. For a synopsis of mariachi women from the 30’s on up and some interesting photos–and the women’s mariachi costumes too!–check out The History of Women in Mariachi Music by Leonor Xochitl Perez and Laura Sobrino.
Two famous mariachi women are Juanita Ulloa who has a classically trained voice but also does mariachi music, and the amazing but tragic Lucha Reyes (1906-1944), who started out as a more classical singer.
Listen to Juanita Ulloa here. According to her website :
JUANITA is one of the USA’s rising star singer/songwriters in music from Spain and Latin America, especially Mexico. Ms. Ulloa specializes in the performance, promotion and study of both Classical and folkloric Hispanic vocal styles from Spain, Latin America and Mexico, and she began the unique “Operachi” style of singing, which combines Opera with Mariachi in a unique way, taking the role of women in mariachi to a new level of singing.
Ms. Ulloa is a Yale University graduate with eight prize winning CDs and three songbooks in libraries worldwide, with the world’s first ever Mariachi for Kids & Families CD slated for 2009. She has served as a musical ambassador for Peru and Mexico, entertaining dignitaries and ambassadors in Spain, Peru, Mexico and major cities in the USA, plus the LA Olympics. Ms. Ulloa teaches Hispanic voice and music as “Profe Juanita” at Texas State University, Northwest Vista College and the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Lucha sings “Ay Jalisco no te rajes”:
Lucha Reyes, also known as María de la Luz Flores Aceves (her maddeningly incomplete wiki, and her Spanish wiki) was a native of Guadalajara, Jalisco, the home town of the mariachis. She started singing in the circus at the age of thirteen and became a popular Mexican radio singer. In the 20’s she went on tour of Los Angeles and Europe as a soprano singer. After an illness, her voice changed and she began singing in the “ranchera-mariachi” style. Between 1937 and her death in 1943 at the age of 38, she was in six movies.
Some images of women mariachis (and a few with folklórico costumes). Can you spot Ronald Reagan?