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Airport Sendoff for Mariachi Ocelotetlán Traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia  
 
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – MAY 7, 2013 – Over the past year, Mariachi Ocelotetlán has borrowed the James Bond title song, “To Russia with Love,” as its own theme in preparation for a long-awaited trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. The crowd-pleasing mariachi ensemble of The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College departs on its once-in-a-lifetime journey on Monday, May 13.
Mariachi Ocelotetlan
Well-wishers are encouraged to gather at 11 a.m. that day in the lobby of the Brownsville/South Padre Airport for a send-off celebration that will culminate in a blessing for safe travels by Fr. Armand Mathew, OMI. 
 
Mariachi Ocelotetlán has been invited by the Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia to perform at the university during the White Nights festivities that take place during the long summer days at northern latitudes. 
 
“This has been a dream-in-the-works for a long time,” said Antonio Briseño, Associate Professor of Music and Director of Mariachi Studies, who will accompany the group of 12 students on the trip. “Our musicians are honored to be invited to perform at this prestigious university, and they have been practicing with all their heart. Plus, the musicians have worked very hard to be able to afford the airfare and all other costs of a trip of this magnitude.”
 
The group’s main source of fundraising has been performing at events. Aside from their fall and spring concerts at The Arts Center, the student musicians have played for City of Brownsville events, the Brownsville Economic Development Council, Wal-Mart events, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, weddings and quinceañeras.  
 
“I’m a little bit scared about being half a world away from home and my family, but at the same time I’m super excited about visiting and exploring a place I’ve never been” said Natalie Olivares from Mercedes. “I think both my mom and dad are a little apprehensive, but most of all they are thrilled about me being able to participate in this trip.”
 
Olivares, a freshman education major who graduated from Mercedes High School in 2012, plays violin in the mariachi ensemble. She is one of three freshmen selected to go on the trip.
 
“My mom and grandmother have been so wonderful, making chocolate chip cookies, lady fingers, banana bread and carrot cake to help raise my pocket money for the trip,” Olivares said.
 
Ricardo Carmona from Los Fresnos is already a world traveler, having spent five years in the U.S. Navy.
“I’ve been to lots of places in the Pacific, plus South America, the Caribbean, the Horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf, but never to Europe – I’m very excited about this trip,” Carmona said.
 
Dr. Alla Paroiatnikova, Executive Director of Global Engagement shared information with the students about traveling in Russia.
Dr. Alla Paroiatnikova, Executive Director of Global Engagement shared information with the students about traveling in Russia.
Carmona returned to the Rio Grande Valley to pick up where he left off on his college degree, and he is majoring in international business.
 
“Our group will share our rich Mexican-American culture with the students and others that we meet, and in turn, we will learn a lot about their culture,” Carmona said. “From my point of view as a business major, I’ll be interested in looking at the retail businesses when we have free time. I am sure our group will be good representatives of not only the U.S. but good ambassadors for Texas and our university.”
 
The students have had three orientation sessions with Dr. Alla Paroiatnikova, Executive Director of Global Engagement. One was a nuts-and-bolts session covering hairdryers and electrical adaptors, money exchange, time changes, and a recommendation not to travel with good or sentimental jewelry.
 
A second lesson focused on culture and briefings on historical sites the group will visit. The third one was an introduction to the Cyrillic alphabet along with and helpful words and phrases such as good morning and thank you. 
 
The students will stay at the Herzen University Hotel, in the heart of the city. Among the historical sites they will visit are Peterhof, one of the summer palaces and gardens of Russian emperors, Cathedral of the Savior on Spilled Blood, Saint Isaac's Cathedral, Kazan Cathedral, the Peter and Paul Fortress, Stroganoff Palace and the Hermitage State Museum. They also have tickets to attend a performance of “Tosca” at the Mikhailovsky Theatre. 
 
In addition to Briseño, Dr. Lucy Willis, Professor of Modern Languages, will accompany the group as a volunteer chaperone.
“My good friend and travelling buddy will be going with me,” Willis said. “We both love to travel, and we have taken some great international trips together. This will be the first time to Russia for both of us, and we are thrilled and feel so fortunate that the timing is working out for us.”
 
Willis said she is especially pleased for the students to have this golden opportunity.
 
“As Dr. Alla told the group during the orientation, ‘Don’t spend your time on this trip looking at your phones trying to text and send emails – keep your eyes up – everything you see will have historic significance. Carpe diem,’” she said. 
 
Follow Mariachi Ocelotetlán as they travel to Russia on Facebook.
 

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