The MECA mariachi program began in 1991 under the direction of Alfonso Guerra; the program began with a small ensemble which played a modest repertoire of three songs. Today, MECA's advanced mariachi ensemble, Mariachi MECA, is comprised of students who participate in MECA's After School Program and includes students from around HISD and neighboring school districts. Over the years, Mariachi MECA has played for U.S. Presidents, received awards at national mariachi competitions, performed at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and was designated an American Masterpieces Touring Ensemble by the National Endowment for the Arts for 2009. The ensemble has also been invited to perform in Mexico, Europe, and Asia. Through their many performances and cultural exchanges, Mariachi MECA students have come to understand how the arts can be used not only to celebrate culture, but how to understand how culture can create community in positive ways, knowledge their helps the students prepare for their own futures.