Tuesday, December 21, 2021

By Victoria Brito Morales

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Just like an arpeggio, two UTRGV freshman singers scored the top two highest spots at the 27th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza.

Natalie Carmona, an exercise science major, and Jenika Montes, an integrated science major, were victors of the College/University category of the competition.

The event, held annually in San Antonio, showcases the talents of elementary, middle school, high school and college/university mariachi musicians. Held Dec. 3-4, it is the largest and most competitive competition of its kind and attracts mariachis from all over the world.

Last year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the competitions were held virtually. This year, it returned to the main stage at the Lila Crocker Theatre in San Antonio.

For the contest, contestants submit a video audition in the preliminary phase of the competition. These entries are judged by members of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. Then, finalists are invited to belt it out on the main stage for the final round of the competition.



The champion of the college/university category and McAllen native, Carmona, is member of the UTRGV Mariachi Aztlán. She has been singing since she was a young child.

Carmona competed with the song “Ay Mi Mexico” by Mariachi Divas. Her crescendo to the top spot comes after previously competing in the last four competitions. Last year, she also placed first, but in the high school category.

“I feel very honored to have placed first in the college division because this was my first year competing in the university level and in the university level everyone is very well skilled and were older and had more experience than myself,” Carmona said.

Montes, a classmate of Carmona’s from McAllen High School and a member of the UTRGV Mariachi Juvenil, came in second place. Last year, she competed for the first time in the high school category and came in third place.

“Music has always been a passion of mine since I was very young, I started in mariachi probably like a year and a half ago,” Montes said.

For the competition, she also sang a song by Mariachi Divas called “Es Mentira.”

“It was my first time competing in person so to be able to get second place is crazy,” Montes said. “I can't even explain it.”

Dr. Dahlia Guerra, UTRGV assistant vice president of Public Art, who founded the Mariachi Aztlán said Carmona and Montes showed the forte of the mariachi talent at UTRGV.

 “Not only did our fabulous students win first and second place, but the Mariachi Aztlán were invited guests to perform at the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Concert with Lupita Infante, granddaughter of the beloved Mexican icon, Pedro Infante,” Guerra said.

For more information on the Mariachi Ensembles at UTRGV, visit utrgv.edu/music/academic/ensembles/mariachi.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.