Facing the Music: Female Empowerment in a Male-Dominated Industry

EvCC student Ruby Rosario-Méndez shares how her mariachi band is changing the game.


Courtesy photo from Ruby Rosario-Méndez.

In addition to singing, Ruby Rosario-Méndez also plays the violin.

Ruby Rosario-Méndez found her voice at 3 years old and hasn’t stopped singing since. 

Ruby performing at 8 years old. (Courtesy photo from Ruby Rosario-Méndez.)

Her father noticed her talent when she was toddling around the house singing into her little plastic microphone. He immediately started making the calls to help her get a spot singing in the mariachi band that played at her church.

Rosario-Méndez says mariachi originated in Jalisco, Mexico and “throughout time they’ve incorporated different instruments, but today the main instruments are guitar, bass (which is called guitarrón), vihuela, violins and trumpets.” After being in mariachi bands she felt didn’t value the opinions of all the members, she started her own.

Mariachi Arrieros was formed in September of this year and is non-traditional in the sense that it has several female members, including Rosario-Méndez and her two younger sisters. 

“Here in the state of Washington, there are not many females that are in mariachi bands. Like here on the western side, you can probably count all of the females like with both hands. That’s how few women there are. The mariachi genre and industry is dominated by men.”

Performing in a male-dominated industry has its challenges, and Rosario-Méndez has learned she can’t let her guard down. Singing at celebrations with drunk clients poses an extra threat, and she has a strict no-drinking policy for herself so she is not made vulnerable to inappropriate advances. Despite her vigilance, she still deals with harassment.

“There’s been many times that I’ll be singing, and there will be people that pull us out to dance. You know, that’s completely normal, but also there’s some men that will not let go at all. And that’s when I start panicking a little,” says Rosario-Méndez. “And I have to be polite, but also strong to handle all of this. That’s why when it comes to dancing, I try not to. I try to avoid it at all costs.”

Rosario-Méndez and her younger sisters, all under 21-years-old, are often offered alcohol and drugs. They keep firm in their abstinence in order to stay safe. Rowdy clients aren’t the only problem, however. 

Other musicians pose a different kind of threat, including rumors fueled by envy and inappropriate flirtations. As soon as Rosario-Méndez turned 18, a fellow musician started messaging her asking for nude photos.

Her younger sisters have also dealt with this harassment. “One of them was 14 and the other one was 15 or 16, and this one man offered [nude] pictures. Like they are minors! It didn’t come out until this year… they did not know how to even handle that,” says Rosario-Méndez. “That person and a bunch of other people were the same ones talking [negatively] about the mariachi band when it first started. There’s a lot of envy… you can’t exactly trust anybody. As a woman, it’s even worse.”

Mariachi Arrieros. Ruby Rosario-Méndez and her sisters are in the band, and face difficulties as women. She is in the front row on the far left. (Courtesy photo from Ruby Rosario-Méndez.)

Despite the risks, her supportive family, passion for music and desire to inspire young girls keep Rosario-Méndez afloat in the music industry. 

“As a female musician I’ve seen so many little girls, and they’ll see me and be like ‘I want to be like her!’ and it’s really inspiring. It makes you want to keep doing what you do… these girls could be the next big artist and maybe I won’t get there, but maybe they will,” says Rosario-Méndez. “As women, we should support each other and have that unity.”

If you or someone you know needs support with sexual harassment, Allison Werling of EvCC TRiO Student Support Services has provided resources:

National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline, 800.656.HOPE (4673)


Women Against Abuse: A Resource for Survivors and Allies 

Center for American Progress: Where Change Happens 


Everett Community College, Counseling and Student Success; Email [email protected] to meet with an EvCC Counselor