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Mexican Mariachi Music

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Mariachi Band in Guadalajara Photo by Gerardo Gonzalez, licensed under Creative Commons

Mariachi:

A Mariachi band is a Mexican musical group consisting of four or more musicians that wear charro suits. Mariachi is said to have originated in the state of Jalisco, in the city of Cocula, near Guadalajara, as well as surrounding states of western Mexico. Mariachi is now popular throughout Mexico and the Southwest United States, and is considered representative of Mexican music and culture. Mariachi was recognized by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2011.

Origins of the Word Mariachi:

There are different theories as to the provenance of the word mariachi. Some say it comes from the French word mariage because it was the type of music played at weddings, other refute this theory (apparently the word was in use in Mexico before the arrival of the French). Others claim that it comes from a native language, Coca, in this language mariachi is the name of the type of wood used to make the platform on which musicians would stand to perform.

Mariachi Instruments:

The traditional mariachi band was made up of at least two violins, a guitar, a guitarrón (large bass guitar) and a vihuela (similar to a guitar but with a round back). Nowadays mariachi bands also usually include trumpets, and sometimes a harp.

The Mariachi Costume:

Since the 1930s the charro suit, or traje de charro has been worn by mariachis. A charro is a Mexican cowboy from the state of Jalisco. The charro suit that mariachis wear consists of a waist-length jacket, bow tie, fitted pants, short boots and a wide-brimmed sombrero. The suits are elaborately decorated with silver or gold buttons and embroidered designs.

Where to Hear Mariachi Music:

You can hear mariachi music at almost any destination in Mexico, but two places that are famous for mariachis are the Plaza de los Mariachis in Guadalajara and Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City. In these plazas you will find itinerant mariachis that you can hire to play a few songs.

Mariachi Songs:

Hiring a mariachi band to perform a song or two for you is a great way to spend an evening. If you are in a plaza or a restaurant and there is a mariachi band performing, you can request a specific song. Here are a few song titles you might consider:
  • Las Mañanitas (if someone in your party is celebrating a birthday or other important event such as an anniversary)
  • Mexico Lindo y Querido
  • El Rey
  • Cielito Lindo
  • El Jarabe Tapatío

Read more about the Music of Mexico - Son, Ranchera and Mariachi, from About.com's Guide to Latin Music.

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