Daniel García Ordaz is better known as The Poet Mariachi by his friends and peers. He is a poet, songwriter, letter writer, teacher, and veteran Navy Hospital Corpsman. His inspirations include Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes, as well as his eclectic taste in music. Working from his temporary COVID-19 home office/teaching space, set up in the family laundry room/snack closet, he manages the Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival (VIPF), (@rgvipf) and its annual anthology of poets from around the world.
Daniel began his lifelong love affair with words as a young boy, when he participated in his mother’s letter-writing tradition to family in Mexico. She would always leave a space in her letters for him to add a sentence or two, and when the relatives replied with a personal message to him in their next letter, he was hooked. This love was expanded to writing letters to fellow servicemen and women deployed overseas, members of his church, as well as friends and girlfriends. He often just sent letters of his own volition and didn’t really mind if they didn’t respond—although many did. Capturing an emotion or conveying an image was enough satisfaction for him. And reaching out to make that human to human connection.
Daniel also worked as a photographer for the local university paper, but realized that for many people, words and images combined can be more accessible, so he took up journalism. While in college, he scooped the New York Times, reporting on the discovery of the genetic protein that causes diabetes in study participants from along the Rio Grande Valley borderlands. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he was drawn to produce “In Memoriam,” a one-man art exhibit of original photos and paintings, each accompanied by a 9/11-connected poem, at the McAllen International Airport. After a stint as a news and features writer at the Valley Morning Star, where he wrote over 400 articles—many distributed by the Associated Press–he became an English teacher.
When asked what was the impetus for the VIPF, he referred back to NAFTA, and the huge impact that trade agreement had on the Valley’s economy. Overnight, cities exploded with visitors and new residents as well as businesses uncommon to the region. Whereas before there were few places for creatives to share their work, now libraries and cafes and museums were opening their doors to spoken word and art. And people came to listen. And the rest, as we like to say, is history. Now, the Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival, established in 2008, is a four-day poetry festival in deep South Texas held concurrently in two countries on the last full weekend in April.
Daniel teaches English at La Joya Early College High School and still helps organize VIPF and other literary events. He also edits and publishes books for adults, young adults (YA), and children. After earning an MFA in Creative Writing at UTRGV in 2017, he’s currently in school again, working online toward a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction at Texas Tech University. When you want to get something done, ask a busy person, right?
Art Spark Texas is working with Daniel to produce a virtual veterans one-day workshop in February 2021, and hopefully an in-person Veterans Retreat in South Texas in October 2021. Sign up for our veterans newsletter to be sure you receive the latest on these projects.
To learn more about Daniel, The Poet Mariachi, check out his listing at Poets & Writers Magazine.