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Los Changuitos Feos: Tucson's Iconic Youth Mariachi

Los Changuitos Feos: Tucson’s Iconic Youth Mariachi

The youth mariachi group Los Changuitos Feos has earned the reputation of being Arizona’s cradle of musicians and a breeding ground for Mexican music artists in the United States.

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Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos. Photo: Última Hora Noticias

From the ranks of this ensemble have emerged musicians who now play with renowned groups such as Mariachi Cobre, Los Camperos de Nati Cano, and Mariachi Sol de México. This collective was one of more than 20 groups that performed at the International Mariachi Conference in Tucson, Arizona. This event, now in its 32nd year, continues to be held at the border to preserve Mexican traditions.

The History of Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos

Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos of Tucson was founded in the summer of 1964 by a musically talented priest, Father Charles Rourke, under the auspices of the Catholic Youth Organization of All Saints Church in Tucson.

They began by performing at churches and local events before expanding their reach across the United States and Mexico. In 1969, Father Rourke left Tucson, and the group was reorganized with a board of directors, a musical director, and a chaplain responsible for their training and performance schedule. In 1970, Mayor Lew Davis proclaimed June 13 as “Los Changuitos Feos Day” in Tucson. They were recognized as “Ambassadors” in Mexico and various cities across the United States.

The group was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1981. The mission of this organization is to develop the artistic talents of its members, express pride in their music and culture, provide entertainment, bring joy to the city of Tucson, and contribute to college scholarship funds.

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One of the first photographs of Los Changuitos Feos. Photo: uglylittlemonkeys.com

Members of the group are eligible for a scholarship upon graduating from high school. The group has traveled extensively, participated in various mariachi conferences, and won numerous competitions at these events. They were invited to Washington, D.C. several times, most recently in 1997, when they participated in President Clinton’s Inaugural Parade.

Los Changuitos Feos of Tucson takes great pride in the recognition and accomplishments of its members. Known as the first youth mariachi in the United States, they have become an integral part of Tucson’s history and tradition, continuing to inspire for many years to come.

Uggly Little Monkeys: The documentary film that reveals the whole story

Ugly Little Monkeys is a documentary film directed by local Tucson filmmakers David Valdez and Enrique Castillo, chronicling the poignant story of the county’s first youth mariachi band: Los Changuitos Feos.

Valdez mentioned that he wanted to tell the story the right way, which meant addressing both the good and the bad, including allegations of sexual abuse by the group’s founder, Father Rourke, an Irish Catholic priest from Tucson. These stories are ultimately told by the original members themselves.

Valdez said that his inspiration for telling such a story partly comes from his late father, Joel Valdez, who passed away before the film was completed. Joel served as the group’s treasurer and mentor during its early days. Valdez also mentioned that he plans to submit the film to various film festivals in 2025.

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Ugly Little Monkeys Poster Film.
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