Refugio Del Cid, who for more than 20 years taught mariachi music at Sunnyside High School after performing with some of Mexico’s top singers and mariachi groups in Los Angeles, died Saturday of complications from a stroke he suffered 10 days earlier. He was 73 years old.
Del Cid, who was commonly known as “Cuco” and called “maestro” by his students and mariachi peers, was passionate about teaching music. But it was not just teaching students the art and history of mariachi music: He encouraged students to embrace their education and to forge a professional life.
“I never imagined that one day I would be a teacher, but I did,” said Del Cid in a 2001 interview with the Arizona Daily Star. “I am very happy. This has given me the greatest joy and satisfaction in my life.”
The celebration of his life will be held on Monday, January 15, at St. Augustine's Cathedral, 192 S. Stone Ave., downtown Tucson. The viewing will be at 8:30 a.m., rosary at 9:30 a.m. and Mass at 10:30 a.m.
Del Cid directed Los Diablitos de Sunnyside High School, the performing mariachi ensemble. He also directed a professional group, Mariachi Herencia de Cuco Del Cid which, among other places, performed Sundays at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church’s 11 a.m. Mass. One of his last performances was on Dec. 12, the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, at the St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center on the University of Arizona campus.
On Monday, counselors were at Sunnyside High School to talk with students who last saw their maestro before they left for Christmas break, said Eugenia Favela, assistant superintendent for student services.
“His death is a very big loss for the community. He was beloved,” she said. “He was more than a teacher of music. He really worked with students on how to stand proudly.”
Del Cid grew up in Agua Prieta, Sonora, across from Douglas. He began as a mariachi as a child and by his early teen years was in Mexico City where he performed with some of the best-known singers of the day — Javer Solis and Antonio Aguilar. He came to Tucson and joined a mariachi group here, but soon was recruited to join Los Camperos de Nati Cano in Los Angeles.
After 18 years in Los Angeles, Del Cid returned to Tucson. Although he had no formal education, former Sunnyside High School Principal Raul Nido hired him to teach mariachi not long after the program was created.
“He was mariachi from head to toe,” Nido wrote in an email. “He was a gifted teacher who taught kids about life.”
Del Cid is survived by his wife, Irma, and his children, Refugio Del Cid Jr., Cecilia Rico and Belinda Reyna.