We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Mariachi music in America

The whole doc is available only for registered users

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now

Mariachi is a custom of traditional music that has its pedigrees in Mexico and it began as a regional vernacular style in the central West Mexico. The early musicians formerly played it with string instruments and they clad in shirts and white chinos of country-dweller farmers. Most of the documents mentioning the presence of mariachi are just dated back to the mid of 19th epoch, but there is unknown adjoining the roots of the name (Joyner, 2008, p. 2).

Mariachi is more than music; it is the summation of an ethnic uprising communicated through an assemblage of musicians in iconic clothing combining the quintessence of Mexico and its populaces. It is a conglomeration of unique spiritual, traditional and cultural importance of the country that must not be underestimated. The name denotes musicians nowadays seen strolling the streets or in restaurants, dressed in silver speckled attires with extensive brimmed caps, playing a variation of musical apparatuses including guitars, trumpets, violins and basses. Their songs pass a message of affection, death, chauvinism, betrayal, iconic heroes, politics and faunas (Clark, 2005, p. 230).

Migrations which took place between 19th and 20th century involving the movement of people from rural areas to cities, together with the cultural advancement by the government of Mexico re-labelled Mariachi as Son style. The use of the re-labelled name was perpetuated in urban areas of Mexico, but its original name did not vanish. The music has influences from some other kind of music such as Waltzes as well as the use of silver charro attires and addition of trumpets. The national prominence of the style of the music began in the middle of the 20th century. It was endorsed through radio and mostly significantly used during inductions of presidents (Provenzano, 2000, p. 118).


           The name is allegedly derived from the word mariage which is of French ancestries. This dates from the French invasion to Mexico around 1860s with the relation of the presence of the music at weddings (Clark, 2005, 226). The explanation was very usual on travel brochures and record jackets. This was just a theory and it was criticized after the presence of papers that exhibited the existence of the word early before the French invasion.

The matter on the derivation of the name is still debatable, but many of the profound theories attach it to native offing. One of them attributes its origins to the name of woods from which the platform of the dance is made. Another asserts that the name originates from a native name of Pilla, a Mexican tree. In addition, another theory asserts that its origin is from Maria H which is a local image. Mariachi can be used to refer to the group of musicians, a single musician or the music (Salazar, 2008, p. 2).


           Before the Spanish arrival, the music was indigenously played using drums, horns, rattles and flutes. On arrival, Spanish introduced the use of harps, violins, woodwinds, guitars and brass instruments. These instruments replaced the indigenous instruments previously used in the music (Vogel, 2014, p. 35). The indigenous people quickly got acquainted in play and create instruments to obtain varied instrumental shapes with different tunes. Additionally, the Spanish gave offing to the idea of group musician, which was made up of a harp, two violins and numerous guitars.

Group concept paved way for numerous customary styles of Mexican music among them the famous son. It is this son style of music that gave rise to modern mariachi as its alternative. Initially, the persons capable of playing mariachi could highly secure employment in haciendas. This paved way for most of claims of origin of the music, which asserts that the modern mariachi music originated from Jalisco, and the most evident dissimilarity between son and the modern mariachi music is on the extent of modification (Clark, 2005, p. 229).

After the uprising in Mexico, many haciendas had to lay off workers, including mariachis. The group moved around playing the music for some fee, an occasion that dictated the incorporation of other music styles in mariachi. This correspondingly required them to showcase in public, an occasion that made them semiprofessional by the late 19th century. By the early 20th century, recording companies in United States were highly involved in recording music of rural origins, in numerous parts of the globe (Jácquez, 2006, p. 230). The music highly claimed attention in the city of Mexico in 1905, when an affluent hacienda family took a Mariachi to showcase for president Portirio.

Modern Growth

           The way the music was looked at changed and developed from the early 20th century onwards. The music was transformed to urban culture that was a new identity of Mexico from a countryside customary music. The first introduction of the music in the City of Mexico dates way back 1905. The Jalisco and other workers of the farm, who were mostly associated with the music, moved and settled in the city. The mariachi musicians orchestrated new culture of the music, such as performing in restaurants, bars, famous plazas. However, its traditional significance did not fade away. The music remained a significant piece of major occasions of family gatherings (Clark, 2005, p. 234).

At the same time, cultural promotions by the Mexican government, geared towards creating a common identity of the Mexicans after the revolution, was evident. This saw the promotion of mariachi to gain an international recognition as an identity symbol of Mexicans. To ensure this, radio was first used followed by sound recordings and films at a later date (Jácquez, 2006, p. 229). A nationwide network for radio broadcasting was built, which broadcasted mariachi music a production of the media as opposed to music for significant social events. For sound recording purposes, the music was modified severally. This made some songs lengthy, forcing the shortening of their tunes. The use of trumpets, which nearly replaced violins and the use of harps completely, was introduced into mariachi music, owing to the attractiveness of jazz melodies.

The mariachis who came from Jalisco state persisted to be the most highly rewarded. They represented the people of Mexico during the celebration of its independence in 1933, which took place in Mexico City. After the Mexican revolution, rings meant for charreada, which became a national sport of Mexican origin at the time, were made and the creation of charro associations of specialists followed (Clark, 2005, 227). When large haciendas broke up, charros no longer became economically viable and thus, they were in most cases taken as cultural identities that were highly utilized by film production in the half ages of 20th century.

The initial charro movies date back to around 1920s, but the leading mariachi song sung in motion pictures dates back to 1936. The main character in the film Tito Guizar sang mariachi to suggest beauty, power and virility. When the music was utilized in the film, it became popular and a benchmark for pride of Mexican ethnics in U.S. Its utilization in films also portrayed a negative picture of the music. The films attached the use of mariachi music with womanizing, drinking of tequila and machismo. This postulation was because the music was mostly played in clubs and was associated with the lower class in Mexican society of the early part of 20th century. The perception changed during the second half of the 20th century, but the affiliation of mariachi music with tequila did not vanish.

In the late part of 1940s and the early part of 1950s, the music and the musicians became highly professional, a situation which created a need for formal training. This was attributed to the success of Vargas, a famous mariachi. The appearance of these stars in films and the contracting of formal musicians lured other mariachis to formally integrate their music. The group grew slowly incorporating violins, classical guitars and trumpets to form orchestras, which maintained the typical base while incorporating new musical notions and styles. As the time went by, female mariachi singers and performers such as Lucha Villa and Lola emerged. During one fateful night, the iconic mariachi musician, Vargas, put Lola on stage at her teenage years. Her versions are today considered classical (Clark, 2005, p. 234).

As mariachi groups integrated other styles, numerous typical sounds of Cocula vanished with the popularity of the music on radio. New altering factors of traditions of Mexican and American societies have influenced the mariachi music significantly. However, studying of the typical pieces and production is required, to form a profound base of the mariachi music (Vogel, 2014, p. 29).. The Intercontinental festival of mariachi music is usually held for ten days every year, and it attracts over 600 mariachis that perform in recital halls and boulevards of the city.

In the city of Mexico, Garibaldi arcade is the epicenter of mariachi music. The arcade gets filled with mariachi performers who come to sell themselves out through their music, to secure hires for occasions such as initiations and weddings. In 2010, the arcade was renovated by the government to make its appearance more appealing to tourists. New paving was done, gardens were added, security cameras installed, a museum devoted to mariachi was built, more police apportioned, and frontages were painted. Although the presence of technology makes it easier for hiring these musicians, many individuals still favor coming to the façade to listens to the musicians and negotiate over the charge. Roughly 2,600 mariachi musicians possess union cards to labor in the arcade, but more than 4,000 of them may pass by on a demanding weekend. In 2011, the music was acknowledged as elusive cultural legacy fitting to another six of the list from Mexico (Salazar, 2008, p.2).


           The size of a given assembly of Mariachi differs, subject to the accessibility of musicians. The normal assembly today is made up of two trumpets, a minimum of eight violins, and a minimum of one guitar. Traditionally, mariachi guitars consist of vihuela, a high note, round-backed guitar for rhythm provision, and another guitar for providing bass tempo. Sometimes, a Mexican traditional harp, responsible for providing both ornamental tune and bass, is incorporated. Most of these instruments are Mexican variants of European musical appliances. In this music group, there is no specific singer who leads the songs like in other songs where members of the group take turns in leading. Different lead singers are assigned specific songs requiring different vocal sound qualities (Provenzano, 2000, p. 119).

Mariachi vocals are influenced by different flairs such as huapango style, son which is an aggressive style, bolero which is a romantic style among other styles. The voices of singers in mariachi must be high so as to be recognized out of the sound of instruments, because they are habitually not intensified. The vocal style gives emphasis to the quality of opera and performance of instruments that demonstrates a virtuous level of precision reflecting on a high level melodic training. The traditional mariachi groups were composed of men, but female incorporation is highly accepted and welcome (Clark, 2005, p. 236).

Mariachi groups usually plays the requests of the audience therefore, they must know a vast collection of songs. Most of their tunes talk about love, death, machismo, revolutionary heroes, and animals such as cockroaches, betrayal, and their life in the country. These mariachi groups are in most cases related to family and spiritual festivities. Las Mananitas is one of the famous tunes played by mariachis during birthdays and patron saints’ festivities. Today in Mexico, the mariachi tunes are even found in parts of Catholic Church mass. The most famous folk tune incorporated in mass is Kyrie Eleison which is sung in Spanish. The innovation commenced in Canada facilitated by father Jean Marc and it spread from small churches to Cathedrals (Salazar, 2008, p. 2).

Mariachi Vargas

           It is one of the oldest and the most renowned mariachi collaborative in the dawn years of 1890s by Gaspar Vargas. The collaborative moved from Jalisco to the city of Mexico, where they performed for the audience present in the inauguration ceremony of Lazaro Cardenas. The collaborative became famous with incorporation of some iconic singers such as Pedro Infante, Luis Miguel and Lola. Its first footage was registered in the year 1937 which ensured their appearance in more than 200 motion pictures of the 20th century (Jácquez, 2006, p. 231).

In 21st century, mariachi Vargas hired trained musicians and directors all of whom were very vital in ensuring a standardize mariachi performances which included assembling traditional songs and composing new ones that were afterwards performed by a number of iconic performers in the middle of the 20th century. Vargas collaborative still exists, dating its history from one generation to the other, with 1890s as its starting point. These generations have upheld the legitimacy of the collaborative with the musical evolution. One of the Vargas affiliated to the collaborative passed away in 1985 as the last legendary of the group. The consideration of the present group as the actual one comes from the idea of transitory of composition from one generation to the other, a similar occasion of how the original mariachi was learned (Vogel, 2014, p. 84).

Mariachi in United States and Other Locations

           The act of promoting mariachi as a Mexican cultural identity has facilitated the establishment of mariachi collaborates in many republics. Such republics include; Sweden, Aruba, Peru, Egypt, Ecuador, Spain, Colombia and Croatia. These groups and many others participate in annual exhibition of International Mariachi. The music commands a huge following in United States with most of groups touring all over the country occasionally. In academics, there is a provision for training facilitated by renowned mariachi collaborates and it provides an opportunity for winning prizes (Clarks, 2005, p. 228).

The pioneer mariachi collaborates present in the United Sates arose from California. One of the renowned musicians of the time was Nati Cano who was brought up in Jalisco and in 1959, he migrated to Los Angeles. He performed in numerous Mariachi collaborates where his role was to back other singer, but he had a vision that mariachi could do on its own. He started a café by the name La Fonda in 1969 in Los Angeles. The café acted as a platform for featuring his own mariachi assembly which he titled Los Camperos as portion of a dinner performance. The breakthrough of his innovativeness and the musical collection in general motivated countless mariachi assemblies in the United States (Provenzano, 2000, p.118).

Today, a good number of public schools in United States teach mariachi as part of orchestra classes. The first orchestra class commenced in 1961 with the University of California being the first institution of higher learning to offer these sessions. This led to the creation of students’ organizations in several parts of California followed by Texas: the host of the first mariachi fiesta of 1979. Since then, academic programs have grown and mariachi fiestas which host students offering mariachi lessons and workshops are eminent (Vogel, 2014, p. 26). The limitation of school programs to certain borders such as Tucson have been abolished, a situation that have faciliated the spread of these programs to the southwest and other regions of the country more so in 1990s. Today, there are over 500 schools giving sessions accompanied by native and national competitions. In several schools in United States, mariachi assemblages have substituted school orchestras. Some professional ensembles such as the Cobre, popularly known for performing at Disney World, expend time teaching in communal schools.

In regions with high concentration of Mexican-American people, mariachis get hired both inside and outside the ethnic groupings for social occasions. The most significant venue for music outside the school boundaries is during mariachi festivals dominant in Tucson area which started in 1982, and Fresno area as well. This International Mariachi is an avenue for showcasing of more than 500 educational institutions, ranging from elementary, high schools and tertiary players. In 1991, International Mariachi Symposium was established in Las Vegas, and its proceedings are televised on TVs every time the conference is held (Salazar, 2008, p. 3).

Much of the printed mariachi music is predestined for populaces who are previously acquainted with the music to act as a chaperon for understanding and correctly comprehending the meaning. Also closely related to the issue is the problem encountered by institutions when hiring mariachi tutors. In most cases, the existing tutors fall short of the required credentials. Owing to this fact, most institutions employ trained musicians that are without mariachi’s backgrounds. The concern of customary mariachis is that normalization will lead to preservation and hamper inventiveness (Vogel, 2014, p. 15).

Several other modifications on the mariachi music is the integration of elegances of different artists such as Glenn Miller and Elvis Presley. Similarly, the issue of boosting of female participation into formation of mariachi groups. There is a mariachi music band comprised of female performers founded in New York. Similar bands are present in other countries such as in United Kingdom, which performs customary Mexican Mariachi compositions as well as English mariachi compositions. Due to the presence of many mariachi bands and performers, there are a number of shops involved in making and distributing the attires used in performance. These attires are a famous brand in United States and other parts of the world where mariachi culture exists, and they cost a fortune (Clark, 2005, p. 232).

Dancing Styles

           The most used mariachi dance performance style is Zapateado, a form of distinctive footwork adopted from Spanish. It is comprised of the drubbing movements on an elevated dais which often offers the drumbeat rhythm of mariachi music. The performers expertly drive the resoles of their boots into the dance flooring. The dance performance may differ in accordance with the location of the performer. Another style affiliated to mariachi compositions is jarabe which is universally identified as “Mexican hat dance” in English. It is now the nationwide dance in Mexico which is extremely fashioned with approved movements and outfits (Jácquez, 2006, p. 230).


           In conclusion, mariachi dance is a Mexican customary composition, which postulated their cultural identities. Because of several interactions with many other outsiders, the music styles have changed incorporating other exotic aspects outside the Mexican culture. Today, the music groups incorporate women mariachis in their performance. Mariachi music has spread to other parts of the world, becoming a cultural identity of Mexican origins with time. As discussed above, mariachi music in Mexico, United States and other places have come a long way to be where it is today and will continue changing in style with time.


Clark, S. 2005. ‘Mariachi Music As A Symbol Of Mexican Culture In The United States’. International Journal Of Music Education 23 (3): 227-237. doi:10.1177/0255761405058237.

Jácquez, Cándida F. 2006. ‘Mariachi Music In America: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture (Review)’. Latin American Music Review 27 (2): 229-232. doi:10.1353/lat.2007.0004.

Joyner, David Lee. American Popular Music. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2008.

Provenzano, Tom. 2000. ‘Much Ado about Nothing: Mariachi Style (Review)’. Theatre Journal 52 (1): 118-119. doi:10.1353/tj.2000.0025.

Salazar, Lauryn. 2008. ‘Mariachi Music In America: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. By Daniel Sheehy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.’. Journal Of The Society For American Music 2 (03). doi:10.1017/s1752196308081261.

Vogel, D. 2014. ‘”Are You Only An Applauder?” American Music Correspondence Schools In The Early Twentieth Century’. Journal Of Research In Music Education. doi:10.1177/0022429414554230.

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59