Mariachi bands now seen more at funerals after COVID's impact on Hispanic community in Houston

Hispanics, who make up 45% of Houston's population, account for slightly more than half of the city's COVID deaths, officials say.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2021
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"It's really sad." One person who is mourning the loss of a family member said the mariachi band they had scheduled for a birthday celebration was now being used as a performance at a burial.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Hispanics are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 than white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In Houston, that means even mariachi bands, which usually play weddings and quinceañeras, are now mostly performing at funerals.

"Before COVID, we were doing once every two weeks or twice a month maybe," said Jose Antonio Solis, who heads Mariachi Mi Mexico. "Now, for example, this week, we have done three so far. And right after lockdown, we were doing five funerals a week."

Hispanics make up 45% of Houston's population, but slightly more than half of the city's COVID-19 deaths, according to the Houston Health Department.

WATCH: Measuring COVID-19's effect on our Hispanic and Latino communities

There are a lot of reasons for that, including limited access to health care and jobs that are more likely to involve contact with the public.

SEE RELATED STORY: How access paired with distrust is impacting Hispanic communities getting COVID-19 vaccine

About 41.6% of Hispanics in Houston are fully vaccinated, compared to the city's overall vaccination rate of 51.2%.

"I've been hearing from people that tell me, 'Oh, we were going to have mariachi for my mom's, my dad's, or grandma's birthday, but he passed away before we could celebrate it, so now we're going to do it at the burial.' It's really sad," said Solis.

The emotional style of music also affects those performing it.

"It just hits you, and even though you kind of get used to it, ever so often, something about the disease just reminds you of someone you love, someone you might have lost," said Jaime Ramos, one of the musicians. "It's heartbreaking."

"That's what the person who passed away wanted, and it's me paying respect to them," Solis said. "It's me saying, 'We're going to celebrate your life and all that happened before.'"

WATCH: Mariachi Luna Llena a melting pot of cultures

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