Flor De Toloache
As the first and only all-female mariachi in NYC, Flor De Toloache is breaking boundaries as a part of the Third Culture Generation. Mireya Ramos grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, listening to her father play with the local mariachi as well as in the family restaurant. He invited her to the stage as a child where she discovered her own broad musical talents.
But as a woman, she was allowed to be a vocalist and nothing else. When she eventually migrated to New York City, she was amazed by the diversity of culture. But one thing was missing. “I just couldn’t believe that in such an important city there wasn’t an all-female mariachi.”
She vowed to correct this absence.
Partnering with her bi-cultural friend, Shae Fiol, a Cuban-American woman who grew up in Massachusetts, the paired artists broke through the male-dominated music scene and created Flor De Toloache. Not only did they take stage as lead vocalists and instrumentalists, but all of their music is original.
“A lot of the female mariachis don’t write their own music,” Mireya explains. As women, it was important to them that what they were singing and playing reflected their authentic expressions as women.
Not only is Flor De Toloache breaking boundaries as women, the group of six also celebrates its mixed cultural identities. Mexicans in their audiences often stiffen when they see a white woman with straight hair playing the vihuela, a complex double-stringed Mexican guitar. Shae laughs it off – “Some are also shocked seeing women wearing metal studded mariachi pants. As if we need to ask the men’s permission.” A similar chauvinism is shown toward Mireya as a hybrid of African and Latina with corkscrew curls.
“A lot of us exist between many worlds,” Shae says. “We’re comfortable together because we understand that none of us is born American.” But all of them were born women and are unabashed about performing while pregnant or touring with a young child.
Flor De Toloache continues to charge fearlessly into the future of multicultural music with beautiful voices, subtle instrumentation, and appearances around the world.
“Hopefully,” Mireya says, “it’ll become normal to see women on stage.”