Mariachi music is one of the most recognizable forms of Mexican music. For many Mexicans, mariachi music is a quintessential part of their culture, standing as a proud reminder of their beautiful heritage and history. As such, it should come as no surprise that UNESCO have protected mariachi music as part of Mexico’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.
But how did the tradition of mariachi begin?
It is generally accepted that the origins of mariachi music as we know it today can be traced to the period following the Spanish conquest of Mexico when stringed instruments were brought to the country. Traditional European instruments were combined with the music of the indigenous people as well as the rhythms of African slaves who accompanied the Spanish invaders. Throughout the colonial period — roughly 1519 to 1810 —, mariachi music began to take shape, and by the 1850s the music began to sound like we know it today.
In the 1850s, mariachi was very popular in rural areas and on ranches. Small ensembles quickly formed, usually comprised of violins, guitars, and a harp. Most groups were unable to travel far from their communities, so mariachi music evolved differently in each Mexican region. Hence why there is no one accepted birthplace for mariachi, though the Mexican state of Jalisco commonly claims to hold the roots of the music.
In the first half of the 20th century, mariachi music evolved once more to encompass a more orchestral sound. Trumpets, extra violins, a vihuela (small guitar) and a guitarrón (upright bass guitar) were added to allow for a more diverse musical style. It was around this time that mariachis found nationwide fame in movies and on the radio, and even took part in presidential inaugurations. By the 1950s, the modern mariachi ensemble was fully shaped; these bands had more in common with those you might see playing at birthdays, weddings, celebrations, on holidays, or even at funerals in Mexico today.
Mariachi music is a tradition which is very dear to many Mexican people and is a symbol of the rich beauty of this wonderful country.