SAN ANTONIO — Mateo López is Mexicano and proud of it. When this 8-year-old mariachi takes the stage in his "traje de charro," the world listens. He’s in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s youngest mariachi at 4 years old.
Mateo captures the hearts of his gente (people) like he did on Dieciséis de Septiembre at the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio. The red, white and green papel picado waved as Mateo sang to the sea of people.
“Por mi nación Mexicana,” Mateo said to them.
He loves providing smiles to his gente.
“To provide smiles and keep them right here,” Mateo said, pointing to his chest. “Love smiles. They make me happy and I’m proud of myself.”
It would be an understatement to call Mateo a rising star. He’s already established, and he’s not even old enough to take standardized tests.
His mother, Janelle López, says Mateo attracts folks to him on and off the stage.
“It’s almost like people gravitate toward him and feel his spirit,” she said.
He’s performed in Italy, sang for the Mexico National team at the MLS All-Star game and most recently sang the national anthem for the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
“Wow, I’m so excited to sing for my favorite team,” Mateo said.
The mariachi cultura is in Mateo’s blood. His late abuelito (grandfather) was a legendary mariachi, but his father, Adalberto López, says there was a moment where he lost touch with the music.
“Actually, after my dad died, it went silent, but not for long because my daughter Ariella López picked up a violin at 5,” Adalberto López said.
She filled a void in this family, and years later, Mateo would continue this legacy.
“They both brought music and happiness, and joy all and everything that comes with music back into our lives,” Adalberto López said.
Mateo is committed to keeping this cultura alive. When he’s on the road to his vocal lessons, he is practicing his guitar or reading "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" in Spanish. He does this to keep his native tongue sharp to speak to his gente on the other side.
“Because if I didn’t know English, I would not understand one word they were saying,” Mateo said.
There are many people who don’t understand the lyrics but it doesn’t matter, mariachi music doesn’t see language barriers because it makes you feel. Even in times of turmoil, like when Mateo and 49 other musicians performed in Uvalde a week after 19 children around his age and two teachers were killed.
“Amor eterno inolvidable” echoed throughout Uvadle’s downtown square.
For the Mexican culture, those songs are played while mourning when folks transition to the next life.
Mateo was asked in Uvalde what it was like to be a part of that transition, knowing that he’s bringing some sort of peace.
He struggled with the heavy question and then answered it.
“To the kids, to the kids who have gone with God, and I just hope that they hear me,“ Mateo says.
Mateo’s the world’s youngest mariachi. He’s very busy, but his parents make it a point to allow him to be a kid.
“That’s where it’s like OK, he practices his guitar and then later he’s out there with dad playing baseball or we are going to play miniature golf,” Janelle López says.
Mateo says his parents inspire him to continue this cultura for generations to come.
“I’m super happy to have this culture and create it to sing it, to celebrate it,” Mateo says.