World's Youngest Mariachi Singer Mateo, 7, Hopes to Inspire After 'Emotional' Serenade in Uvalde

"I love mariachi music because it represents Mexico," says Mateo Lopez, who is inspired by the likes of the late Vicente Fernández and more

Guinness World Record Holder Matteo Lopez Opens Up About His Love for Mariachi Music
Mateo Lopez. Photo: courtesy Lopez Family

Mateo Lopez, a 7-year-old musician who was named the world's youngest mariachi singer by the Guinness World Record, was born to perform.

From twirling his feet to a beat at just 2 years old to memorizing mariachi classics as a toddler and performing for massive crowds in Italy, the San Antonio, Texas native is carrying the torch for the next generation of mariachis.

In honor of his Guinness World Record, Mateo, along with his parents Janelle and Adalberto, spoke to PEOPLE about his love for mariachi and Mexico, giving back to his community and his dreams for the future.

"I just don't have words," Mateo says of the moment he learned he became the youngest mariachi singer. "All the words I had was that I was very excited, and I was very happy."

To mark the occasion, Mateo and his family were flown out to Milan in February to record a performance on the Italian Guinness World Records show.

"I do not have nerves at all," he says of performing in front of massive crowds. "It feels natural. [And] I love mariachi music because it represents Mexico."

Guinness World Record Holder Matteo Lopez Opens Up About His Love for Mariachi Music
Adalberto, Janelle and Mateo Lopez. courtesy Lopez Family

Mateo began his musical journey when he was 4 years old and "236 days," he says, when his father, Adalberto, 44, hired a guitar and singing instructor. Mateo now plays guitar, piano and the harp (he put on a small show for PEOPLE via Zoom during this interview).

In recent years, he's turned heads by competing on Mexico's version of America's Got Talent — he nabbed a golden buzzer on the show — and starring on NBC's Little Big Shots.

His parents say that as a baby, Mateo first showed signs of talent when he would "twirl his feet" in his carseat at any sign of music. From the moment he could speak, he began to memorize songs. "He [was] 2 years old. How do you explain that?" says Janelle, 42. "Most 2 year olds are remembering the 'Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round,' not mariachi songs."

Guinness World Record Holder Matteo Lopez Opens Up About His Love for Mariachi Music
Ariella, Adalberto, Janelle and Mateo Lopez. courtesy Lopez Family

One day, at his 17-year-old sister Ariella's quinceañera, the manager for the venue overheard Mateo singing and asked to give him the mic.

In that moment, Janelle couldn't believe what she was witnessing: "I just started bawling because I could not believe that my son, who was that small, could feel the music and sing the way he was singing at that moment."

Now, seeing how far he's come in such a short amount of time, Janelle says she's taken aback by the impact he's already made. "There's no feeling or there's no way for me to describe just how proud I am as a mom and how proud I am of him really embracing his culture, embracing the music and just sharing it with the world."

For Adalberto, Mateo's career is a redemption of sorts — for all of the time he spent embarrassed of his dad, who was also mariachi, as a young boy. "I was so embarrassed. I was so embarrassed because I would see my dad in this traje (mariachi suit) and I wanted nothing to do with the music," he recalls. "So, for it to come back full circle with my kids with something that I was so ashamed of at the time, it's more of a redemption."

"I just wish I had that same pride before my dad passed, because he would've really, really embraced that," he later adds. "I was a kid at that time, and I didn't know any better. And I grew up in a rough neighborhood. It wasn't like I was drinking Starbucks every morning. I was out with all my friends being rascals."

Feeling like he never truly belonged, he adds, "People don't understand that it's a very difficult situation." But with his son's talent and passion, he's learned to embrace mariachi.

And for the Lopez family, giving back to the community is just as important as Mateo's continued success.

Shortly after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, which left 21 dead, Mateo and his family traveled to the site with a group of mariachis. "This was purely about going there and sharing the love of the music and hopefully provide some sort of healing to a community that was just in a terrible, terrible situation and just lot of heartache," says Janelle.

"It just felt really heavy, really emotional. And with Mateo so little, it's hard for him to understand. We had a conversation with him when we got home from the school that night, just because we didn't want him to hear it from other kids at school and it be a different side to the true story," she says. "The beauty about what he did in Uvalde was, Mateo provided an aspect that none of the other mariachis could because he was a kid that was so close to those kids' age."

She later says that when being interviewed by a local reporter, Mateo said, "I hope that the kids in heaven can hear me."

As he grows up, Janelle and Adalberto are doing everything in their power to support their son's ever-growing career — but they're also determined to maintain a balance.

"What we don't want to do is burn [him] out or, as my husband always says, 'If the date comes where Mateo doesn't want to do it anymore, then that's what we have to support,'" says Janelle.

But for now, Mateo — who loves playing indoor and outdoor sports — is certain about his goals. "I want to be the biggest singer in the world," he says, before adding: "I also want to make pizzas."

Mateo currently has two songs out: "Mamá" and "Mexico Lindo y Querido."

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