Last week I had the pleasure to attend Left Coast Crime in Monterey, California. Left Coast is a big mystery conference with participants from all over the country as well as from Canada and Europe. For four days I attended panels. I listened to well-known writers such as Sue Grafton and Cara Black. I heard Louise Penny and William Kent Kreuger. I was there to learn from these writers, emulate them, and be inspired by them.
But of course I had an agenda. I was also there to plug Mariachi Murder. When I moderated a panel on dialogue, I sneaked in some information about my own book. When I had the opportunity to introduce myself at a breakfast for new mystery writers, I explained that after spending twenty-five years in a mariachi, I had a lot of stories. I’d heard confessions. I’d heard marriage proposals. I’d heard murderous wishes of men desperate to be rid of their wives or their mothers-in-law. In short, my experiences had given me plenty of people to kill off in a murder series.
The funny thing was that for the rest of the conference, I got questions about the mariachi thing. “I thought only men played in mariachis,” ten different people said to me. I was astonished at their question. While it was a bit unusual for women to play in mariachis when I started playing in a group in 1987, it wasn’t new even at that time. And now it’s rather commonplace, at least in Arizona and California. (It’s still not commonplace in Mexico. Give the country another thirty years.)
I was surprised that I needed to set people straight. Some didn’t even seem to believe me. I had to whip out my promotional material in which I’m wearing a traje. Their response was not negative. No one thought women shouldn’t play in such a group; they were simply incredulous that women did so. I got this from men and women of all ages who were from the Midwest or back East.
I was happy to set them straight. I was happy to let them know that most groups are up-to-date in terms of equal opportunity employment. (Not all of them, of course.) But most of all,I got to celebrate the fact that I’m really, really lucky. Not only do I have the opportunity to play for a mariachi, but I even have the chance to write about it.
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