Nati Cano's Childhood

This exclusive web extra features a performance by members of Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando re-enacting moments from the early life of famed mariachi musician Natividad "Nati" Cano. Featuring Adrian Asencio (as 7 year-old Nati Cano), Alejandro Ascencio (as 16 year-old Nati Cano), and Ernesto Lazaro, Daniel Zamora, and Gerardo Ascencio as the Mariachi Trio.

Natividad "Nati" Cano was born on July 23, 1933 in Ahuisculco, a small Mexican village thirty miles west of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco, the spiritual heart and birthplace of mariachi music. Nati Cano's family were jornaleros (day laborers) who played music to supplement their income. His grandfather, Catarino Cano, taught himself guitarrón (bass guitar), and his father, Sotero Cano, excelled at playing the full repertoire of mariachi stringed instruments.

Nati showed a natural musical talent at a young age. His first instrument was the vihuela (small rhythm guitar), which his father taught him when he was 6 years old. He was so talented that when he turned 8 his family enrolled him at the Academia de Música in Guadalajara to study the violin. While he loved learning at the Academia, he left at age 14 to join his father and help support his family by playing in local cantinas and cafes. "I lived following my father and grandfather around, and, obviously, I learned from them."

While his family struggled to make ends meet, Nati found that not everyone valued mariachi music as his family did: "I remember, I already knew how to read and in the cantinas I would see the signs at the entrance that would say, 'Women, uniformed personnel, beggars, street vendors, mariachis, and dogs not allowed.' At the time, I was simply the boy of the group. They sent me around to offer music to the tourists and clients in the cantinas. So you see, I had to walk across the room to get to where the clients were. And before getting to the middle of the room, they would say, 'No, no, no, no! Get out of here, get out of here!' That became deeply, deeply engraved in my mind."

Natividad 'Nati' Cano. Photo courtesy of Jesus 'Chuy' Guzman.

Such experiences convinced him to continue studying classical music and focus on perfecting his technique. While mariachi music had begun to grow in popularity due to exposure on the silver screen in the 1920s and '30s, mariachis in Mexico were associated with the music of rural laborers who had migrated to large urban centers like Mexico City in the wake of the Mexican Revolution. Due to this association, many looked down on mariachi music. But Nati had a fierce passion for the genre and made it his life goal to elevate its reputation.

Click here to see the full show!

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