of the mariachi is evident in everything about it, beginning with
the origin of it's name. One thought is that the name found it's
origin in the French word for wedding (mariage), another that
links it to a festival honoring Virgin Mary (Maria). Yet another,
that it is from a now dead native language, and originally referred
to the type of wood used to make instruments. Apparently, the
only thing certain about the name mariachi, is that there is no
certainty at all as to how it came to be known as such!
in mystery, is how mariachi came to represent all that it does.
Mariachi, it seems, is somewhat like a flag; whereas many threads
are woven together to depict the history and culture of it's nation.
Through the passage of time, mariachi music has taken on an image
all its own, an artful blend of legend and history.
had originally gone from hacienda to hacienda for work, and were
often well compensated. The revolution, and subsequent hard times,
didn't allow for the luxury of money spent paying for the entertainment
of the mariachis. Their role changed, and mariachis now traveled
between towns, bringing news, singing songs full of social content,
and depicting tales from the revolution. Poncho Villa even had
a band travel with him.
this time, the mariachis also began playing at fashionable public
venues. As their audience changed, so did their music. They added
in the violin and the trumpet, which became the most instantly
recognizable component of mariachi music. While the mariachi of
northern Mexico focused more on social commentary in their music,
the mariachi of southern Mexico remained more traditional, focusing
on nature and romance.
the early 1900's, the image of mariachi was being cemented as
both entertainers and chroniclers of the time. Mariachi music
was a proud representation of Mexico, a key piece in a developing
national identity, and their popularity soared. Radio introduced
their sound to a whole new expanse of listeners, and they further
gained a worldwide audience through depictions in movies in the
fifties. Though the popularity of the mariachi suffered abroad
in the sixties and seventies, by the eighties, it was enjoying
a resurgence. Now, the sound and sight of mariachi has wound itself
into our collective conscious as a symbol of all that is Mexico.