Mariachi goes beyond music, it is the sum of a cultural revolution expressed through a group of musicians, dressed in popular clothing (most recently charro suits) which encompasses the essence of Mexico and its people. It is something cultural, spiritual and traditional that is unique to this country, an experience not to be missed.
The word mariachi refers to the musicians now commonly seen in restaurants or strolling the streets, dressed in silver studded charro outfits with wide brimmed hats playing a variety of instruments which include violins, guitars, basses, vihuelas (a 5 string guitar) and trumpets.
Their songs speak about machismo, love, betrayal, death, politics, revolutionary heroes and even animals (one particularly famous song is "La Cucaracha").
The mariachi originated in the southern part of the state of JaliscoSometime in the 19th century. No one is sure where the name comes from although a variety of theories have been postulated and, depending on which best fits the postulators needs, are adhered to.
Mariachi Group on ParadeThe original theory held that mariachi was derived from the French word for wedding - mariage, because of the type of music played at these events. The only problem with this theory is that the music originates in a part of Mexico the French never visited and, even it they had, it began before their arrival in 1864.
Another theory states that the word comes from the indigenous name of the Pilla or Cirimo tree, whose wood is used to make guitars. If this were true then the word mariachi would be applied to the instrument itself and not to those who play it.
It has also been suggested that the name comes from a festival in honor of a virgin known as Maria H. (mah-ree-ah AH-chay) at which musicians played and that over time they were given this name.
The truth is that no one knows where the name originated, but it is one which is associated with a great deal of prestige not only in Mexico, but around the world.
The origins of the mariachi itself (the group, culture, music, etc.) are not much easier to trace. The mariachi is the sum of a cultural evolution that has taken place over the last century or so in Mexico.
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