In memoriam: Laura Garciacano Sobrino, alumna became the 'Mariachi Queen'

Porter College graduate became the first woman to play in some of the nation's most prestigious mariachi groups

Laura Garciacano Sobrino
Laura Garciacano Sobrino (Photos courtesy Olga Najéra-Ramirez)
Sobrino with with Guadalajara dancer and choreographer Rafael Zamarripa when she was inducted into the Tucscon International Mariachi Hall of Fame.

Laura Garciacano Sobrino (Porter, ’81, individual music major), who became one of the best-known female mariachi musicians in the United States and Mexico, died May 21 in Whittier, Ca., at age 60.

Trained in classical violin from age 8 in elementary school, she began focusing on Mexican regional folk music at UC Santa Cruz and joined Grupo Folklórico Los Mejicas on campus. The group is dedicating its 43rd annual spring concert this Friday and Saturday at the Theater Arts Mainstage Theater in her memory.

Sobrino was born Laura Garcia in Watsonville and graduated from Aptos High School before attending UC Santa Cruz.  She quickly discovered that she had a special gift for Mexican music, remembers anthropology professor Olga Najéra-Ramírez, who danced with the group as a UCSC student and serves as faculty advisor.

“Laura was an amazing and talented woman,” she said. “This is a great loss to the community and to me personally.”  

“Even as an undergraduate, Laura was already leading music workshops on mariachi music, huasteca music, jarocho music, and norteño music,” Najéra-Ramirez said.  In preparation for her BA thesis, she chose to study mariachi music, working as an apprentice with some of the best mariachi musicians in the world.  

After UCSC, she became the first woman to play in some of the nation's most prestigious mariachi groups. She was the first musical director of the first all-female mariachi show group in the U.S., Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles.  In 1995, the Los Angeles Times dubbed her the "Mariachi Queen."

She was a violinist for Mariachi Mujer 2000 and served as musical director.  In 2004, she was inducted into the Tucson International Mariachi Hall of Fame and was subsequently included in the "Latinas, the Spirit of California" exhibit at the California State Museum.

Sobrino taught in the music department at UC Riverside since 2006.

“Laura’s accomplishments as an extraordinary and devoted music teacher are evident in the number and quality of students whom she has trained, including recording artists Nydia Rojas (Arista Records) and Tatiana Bolaños (Sony International),” Najéra-Ramirez said.