EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The U.S. Naval Academy has a new mariachi band and it has a decided Borderland and El Paso flavor to it.

Midshipmen 2nd Class (junior) Sebastian Moses and Eric Esqueda, who are both from El Paso, started the musical group last year.

Moses, who went to Hanks High School, said he and one of his roommates came up with the idea for a mariachi band to represent the Naval Academy.

USNA Mariachi Marineros. Courtesy of USNA News Center.

“We saw a random picture of a mariachi band and started talking about how it would be cool if the school had one,” Moses said. “Then I decided, right then and there, to make it happen.”

Moses sent a text message to Esqueda, with whom he had played guitar when growing up in El Paso.

“He said he was down with it,” Moses said.

And it started to come to come together after that.

They sent out an email to the entire student body at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and 40 people said they were interested. About 30 people showed up for auditions and the field was narrowed down to 15 who are with the group now.

The group, now known as Mariachi Marineros, spreads Hispanic culture and music on the East Coast, they said.

“Within our band, we have a lot of different cultures,” said Esqueda, who went to Silva Health Magnet High School. “Also playing for the public is super cool. A lot of the public has never been exposed to mariachi music before.

“Just seeing their reaction to it and bringing them that culture (has been rewarding),” Esqueda said. “There aren’t that many mariachi bands here on the East Coast.”

They also said it is a source of bonding and a way to have some artistic expression at what can be a rigorous and academically difficult school, they said.

“It has been incredibly rewarding for me,” Moses said. “Up until the mariachi band started, I was incredibly focused on school, my grades and doing well.

“I didn’t feel I got to explore my more artistic side,” he added. “Now that I do that, while representing my culture, school and country, it is probably the best thing I’ve done while I’ve been here.”

Esqueda said he had stopped playing music for two or three years to focus on academics while at the Naval Academy.

“It’s been super nice to get back to playing music with other people, especially to bringing the culture and mariachi music to the East Coast,” Esqueda said. “It’s a super awesome experience.”

Moses and Esqueda said it will be highly unlikely for them to continue to be able to play mariachi music after they graduate and begin serving in the U.S. Navy as officers. What they want to do is establish the Naval Academy’s mariachi band with a solid foundation so it continues long after they leave Annapolis.

Midshipman Fourth Class (freshman) Emilee Antimo is also from El Paso, they said, and the future of the program is strong with people like her.

The mariachi group at the Naval Academy is one of 140 extracurricular activities and clubs at the school. Most are run by midshipmen, with faculty and staff oversight and mentorship.