The History of Mariachi

Mariachi is a form of folk music from Mexico that began as a regional folk style called “Son Jaliscience” in the center west of the country. I was originally played only with string instruments and musicians dressed in the white pants and shirts of peasant farmers. From the 19th to 20th century, migrations from rural areas into cities, along with the Mexican government’s cultural promotion, gradually relabeled it as Son style, with its alternative name of “mariachi” becoming used for the urban form.

Modifications of the music include influences from other music such as polkas and waltzes, the addition of trumpets, and wearing the charro outfits.

By the 1950’s the Mariachi ensemble was becoming more flexible and orchestral without losing it’s traditional base.  The classical guitar, two trumpets and more violins were added to make the ensemble more adaptable and able to play different styles

But, still, an authentic mariachi group has 2 violins, 2 trumpets, 1 guitarrón, 1 guitar, and 1 vihuela. Complete mariachi groups have a minimum of 12 members with the standard 6 violins, 3 trumpets, 1 guitarrón, 1 guitar and 1 vihuela. A 13th member is often a harp, an extra violin, or an extra guitar.

The musical style began to take on national prominence in the first half of the 20th century, with its promotion at presidential inaugurations and on the radio in the 1920s. In 2011 UNESCO recognized mariachi as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.