If you’ve ever been to Mexican restaurant with live music, there is a good chance that you’ve gotten to hear the famous mariachis. These roaming musicians, easy to spot in their sombreros and black and silver charro clothing, are the best-known of all kinds of Mexican music.
In fact, mariachis and their music may be one of the most recognized Latin art forms worldwide. Since 2011, this form of music has been recognized as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Importance of Mariachi
Mariachis themselves are an important part of any Mexican celebration: weddings, quinceañeras (15th birthday parties), birthdays, celebrating Mother’s Day in Mexico, etc. They even play in churches on feast days in celebration of saints and the Virgin Mary.
here is the story of mariachis, they figured heavily in the movies of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, spreading their popularity throughout Latin America.
You can find mariachis as a significant part of celebrations in many countries outside of Mexico, including the southwestern United States and other regions with large Hispanic populations. Indeed, the festival Mariachi USA is over its 25th year.
Origins of Mariachi Music
As a form of mestizo folk music, its origins are not fully known. Jalisco is often considered to be the home of mariachi, although it is possible that it originated throughout the entire region of western Mexico: Jalisco, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Aguascalientes, Colima, and Michoacán.
The first written mention of mariachis is in the mid-1800s, in a letter by a priest. In it, he complained about the noise that these folk musicians made.
The most common instruments in a mariachi ensemble are: guitarrón (bass guitar), guitar, vihuela (small guitar), violin, and trumpet.
Although for many of us, the horn section of a mariachi is one of its most iconic aspects, they were only added to the mariachi ensemble in the early 1900s, due to the influence of recording devices and radio.
Origins of the Word “Mariachi”
There are actually a number of theories about the origins of the word “mariachi.” For many years the word was thought to come from the French word for marriage (mariage), due to the popularity of mariachis at weddings. This explanation has now fallen out of favor.
The word is now considered to be of indigenous origin.
One explanation holds that The Coca tribe, which spoke a version of Nahuatl, had a religious song called “María ce son,” which eventually became Mariachi and “son,” or song.
“Mariachi” itself came to mean “el indio está contento” – the Indian (native American) is happy.
Other possible origins of the name include derivations of the name of a local wood, which, according to theory, was used to make either guitars or the dance platform for the groups.
“Mariachi” is unique word because it can refer to the group of performers, to an individual musician, or to the music they play (son de mariachi) even though, mariachis play a number of kinds of music, including polkas, corridos, rancheras, boleros, and huapangos.
If you have a favorite traditional Mexican song, don’t hesitate to ask: there is a very good chance these accomplished musicians will know it.