Mariachi artist also works to install free internet in SW Detroit

- Mariachi has been a part of Rita Ramirez's life - well, all her life.

"It's what I grew up with. It's all I know. My parents immigrated from Mexico, so everything I was taught was my Mexican culture," she said.

It's a style of music that dates back to the 18th century featuring bands usually made up of mostly men. 

But times have changed. Ramirez is part of the first all-female Mariachi band in Michigan formed by self-taught guitar player Camilla Cantu.

"For a long time I played with a group that I felt like didn't hear my female voice," Cantu said. "So (they) didn't really respect the dynamic I was bringing to the table. So I wanted to split aside and create my own group that I felt like would value all woman musicians and vocalists."

Together they are Mariachi Femenil, all from southwest Detroit and proud to bring their Mexican culture to the masses.
 
"When I met Milla, I just grew in love with it," Ramirez said. "The first practice, we did a harmony and it was beautiful and empowering to see all these other females - at the time there was only two. But to collaborate, create music, create love, create culture in one space."

But Rita is not your typical Mariachi. She attends U of M Dearborn for a degree in international studies and communication, and when she is not studying she is working to connect her southwest Detroit community to the worldwide web.

"Anything that has to do with the Internet is now becoming, I call it - maybe it sounds drastic -- a human right because we do everything on the Internet," she said.

Forty percent of the people living in Detroit do not have Internet access, unable to apply for a job, study for school, check their children's grades, or read an article. Simple online tasks we often take for granted. 

But through the equitable Internet Initiative Project, digital stewards like Rita are giving residents online access.

Rita installs the equipment and also helps train the residents how to use it.

"Just being able to work with my community every day, being able to see smiling faces when they finally have Internet," she said.

She is only 22, but Rita is helping to eliminate the digital divide while empowering other young women and honoring her Mexican culture in a city she loves.

"Rita is honestly an inspiration. She does so much community work and goes far beyond just activism," Cantu said. "She truly just loves her city and she loves southwest Detroit."

"Everything is online now," said Ramirez. "So it is super important for a lot of these families that did not know they even had these resources and now they are discovering this whole world. 

"I've always loved my culture but just being onstage and perform my culture. It's beautiful, it's magic." 

To learn more about the effort to bring internet to southwest Detroit, go to https://www.gofundme.com/gigabit-detroit-amplify-the-wifi

To learn about Rita's mariachi group CLICK HERE.

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