Mariachi in the United States

Before coming to America, Mariachi has already been established as a unique wave in music, rooted in Mexican culture and rituals. However, transferring to Los Angeles in the late 1950s and early 1960s, this music evolved and developed some new features. Los Angeles became sort of an epicenter of Latino music coming from Mexico, Columbia, and wider regions.

The first venue where public was able to hear and see mariachi was La Fonda, opened in 1969, which became the historical landmark. The first mariachis to perform at this place were Los Camperos (de Nati Cano). Their goal was to present this music as an art form to the wider audience in the USA. Celebrating Mexican heritage and its lively style has taken its course from there and persevered till today.

The Influence in the US

Originally (and we are talking about the 19th century), Mariachi band consisted of only 4 instruments:  two violins, vihuela (a small, guitar-like instrument with five strings), and guitarrón (a large, six-string bass version of the vihuela). This music is related to southern Jalisco region. Nevertheless, as it often happens, almost every region where this type of music became popular has made a certain impact on the original set of rules. Interestingly, what has stood the test of time is the fact that mariachi band does not have a lead singer.  Every song can be performed by a different member of the band, depending on his own character, preferences and singing skills.

The importance of this particular style in music has been confirmed by introducing mariachi music to universities. Los Angeles Institute of Ethnomusicology was the first academic institution to acknowledge the artistic characteristic of mariachis, back in 1961. Nowadays, many universities in the USA offer classes in mariachi music. Festivals are organized throughout the states, and their music is hailed as one of the most harmonious and rhythmic sounds worldwide.

Mariachi Fun Facts

  • Mariachi is on UNESCO list of Intangible (Living) Cultural Heritages.
  • Apart from universities, Mariachis have managed to enter into primary school programs as well, and even to replace certain subjects.
  • Mariachi does not include just the music, but the dance as well. It is called “Jarabe tapatio” (sombrero hat dance)
  • One of the first places where mariachi bend performed live for wider audience was Plaza Garibaldi, where – it was said – some 4,000 bends could take turns during one weekend.
  • The mariachi outfit we all know today was invented in the 1920s and 1930s. The original clothes that mariachi wore were regular peasant clothes.
  • The original term for this type of music was “Son Jalisciense” (as per the place of origin: Jalisco). The term “Mariachi” relates to the fact that many believed the name originates from the French word “mariage” (marriage), because these bands performed at weddings.

We have our own addition in celebration of Mexican heritage. Have you played “The Mariachi 5” yet? If not, try spinning those reels now.

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