The 'Herrera Dynasty': 6 talented siblings, all accepted to UCLA

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It's a major accomplishment for one high school student to get into UCLA.
 
But the six Herrera siblings were able to do something that is a true rarity: Since 2000, they have all been accepted to UCLA.
 
The youngest of the family — Rebeca Isabel — recently found out that she'll be attending UCLA in the fall.
 
"Once I got accepted, it was a bit of a relief," said Rebeca, 17, who, like her five brothers, is a class valedictorian, a top high school athlete and a talented musician who plays in a popular Mexican norteo band with her siblings.
 
She said she never felt pressure from her family to get into UCLA. Nevertheless, she didn't want to be the one to break a family tradition that began in 2000, when her oldest sibling, Jorge Andres, 27, was accepted to UCLA. Jorge has since earned a bachelor's degree in Chicano studies and a master's in ethnomusicology and is currently working on a doctorate in ethnomusicology.
 
Jorge says that, like his siblings, he's been a UCLA fan since the day he was born. His uncle Andres Herrera, now an Oxnard, Calif., city councilman, played defensive back for the Bruins in the 1960s. He was a member of the football team that won the Rose Bowl in 1966 — and the Herreras have followed UCLA sports teams ever since.
 
But the siblings also chose UCLA because they grew up in Fillmore, a city in Ventura County, and wanted to stay close to home and family.
 
"We do everything together," said Luis Albino, 25, who has a bachelor's in ethnomusicology and a master's in Latin American studies. "We go to the gym together, the movies, and we work out together."
 
Said their mother, Oralia: "They'll even clean the yard together and pull weeds. Our neighbors say that we really do everything together."
 
Donning cowboy hats and leather jackets, the Herrera siblings also play together as Hermanos Herrera several times a week at Southern California dance halls, cultural events and colleges.
 
Like UCLA, Mexican music is in their blood.
 
Before Jorge Andres was even born, his father, also named Jorge, had a small harp made for him in Tijuana, Mexico.
 
By the time each child turned 3, Jorge Herrera had begun teaching them how to hold a harp or guitar and strum a few chords.
 
The father also played with his own brothers in Conjunto Hueyapan, a group featuring jarocho string music from the tropical Mexican state of Veracruz. The group continues to perform occasionally.
 
"We just idolized my father growing up," Luis said. "We used to go the performances and watch him and wanted to be just like him."
 
The younger Jorge recalled that Hermanos Herrera first played together when four of them opened for the Grammy–winning band Los Lobos at the Ventura Theater in 1988. The brothers were between 2 and 7 years old.
 
"Juan Pablo was dressed like us on stage, and he could barely stand up on his own," Jorge said.
 
The siblings have recorded six CDs in two Mexican musical styles — norteo, a northern Mexican style that features the accordion and saxophone, and huasteco, a fusion of indigenous and Spanish musical styles native to Veracruz.
 
Accolades have already come their way. Last year, Hermanos Herrera received a lifetime achievement award at the largest huasteco festival, held in Amatlan, Veracruz. A mural in the town honoring huasteco music includes a portrait of the band.
 
Steve Loza, a UCLA professor of ethnomusicology who has taught most of the Herreras, calls the siblings part of the "Herrera dynasty." He recalled their father's jarocho band performing at UCLA and noted that the Herreras' uncles, an aunt and several cousins also have attended UCLA.
 
"They are incredibly musically talented," Loza said. "They learned from so young and can switch easily from huasteco to norteo."
 
The Herreras also are a testament to the growing number of second- and third-generation Chicanos who retain their Mexican cultural roots.
 
"When I was growing up, it was unheard of for a young Chicano to play in a mariachi or norteo group," Loza, 56, said. "There was a lot of discrimination and this pressure to assimilate to so-called mainstream culture."
 
"Those attitudes have been changing," he added.
 
The Herreras credit their parents with their academic and musical success, saying they kept the siblings focused in school while encouraging them to pursue their sports and musical interests.
 
The system has certainly worked. In addition to Jorge's and Luis' academic accomplishments, Miguel Antonio, 23, earned a bachelor's in international development studies; Juan Pablo, 21, is a senior majoring in Latin American studies who plans to graduate in June; and Jose Marcelino, 19 is a sophomore who plans to major in economics and Latin American studies.
 
"You set the bars high and you don't accept anything lower than that," said their father. "The question was never whether they would go to college but where they would go to college."
 
 
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