Gustavo A. Santiago is one of the most important arrangers in mariachi music. “I was born listening to mariachi music,” says the musician whose father was a long time member of the legendary Mariachi Tapatío de José Marmolejo. Gustavo began his mariachi career playing nights in Plaza Garibaldi while studying during the daytime at schools like the Conservatorio Nacional and the Escuela Nacional de Música. In the mid-1950s, Silvestre Vargas invited Santiago to his second-string Mariachi Guadalajara. A few years later, he became a member of the famous Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.
Concurrent with his performance and musical studies, Gustavo began writing musical arrangements, over five thousand of which have been recorded. Among Mexican artists he has arranged for are Antonio and Pepe Aguilar, Felipe Arriaga, Charro Avitia, Aída Cuevas, Lola Beltrán, Chelo, Cristian Castro, Flor Silvestre, Juan Gabriel, Lucero, Manolo Muñoz, Juan Mendoza, Ángeles Ochoa, Julio Preciado, Cornelio Reyna, Juan Valentín, Alberto Vázquez, Lucha Villa, and Hermanos Záizar. International artists he has written for include Nat King Cole, Rocío Dúrcal, Raphael, and Camilo Sesto. Mariachis that have recorded his arrangements include Vargas de Tecalitlán, Oro y Plata, and América de Alfredo Serna.
Two Gustavo A. Santiago arrangements were recently chosen as themes for popular Mexican soap operas: “Me Voy a Quitar de en Medio” for La Mentira (sung by Vicente Fernández) and “La Mitad que me Faltaba” for Niña, Amada Mía (sung by Alejandro Fernández). One of his more recent discoveries is vocalist Paquita la del Barrio, for whom he has written all of her mariachi arrangements.