views updated


Mariachi, an ensemble usually consisting of three violins, a six-string guitar, a bass (guitarrón), and two trumpets; also a member of such a group. Although the exact origins of mariachis are disputed and are variously traced to the Coca Indians, the French Intervention serenaders, or to colonial string bands, they have come to be regarded as typically Mexican. Local bands flourished in the west-central state of Jalisco in the late 1800s. They began to travel during the 1910 revolution and later became popular over Radio XEW. Sometime between 1860 and 1930 Gaspar Vargas began the Mariachi Vargas (de Tecalitlán), which was continued and expanded by his son Sylvestre. Early band members played by ear, but later musicians read music, especially after Rubén Fuentes became the arranger.

In the 1940s village mariachis and popular mariachis diverged in style, although both remained wandering troubadours who played for tips. In the 1950s bands began to experiment with new instruments (marimba, harp, clarinet, accordion, and organ), diversify their repertory, and arrange their music for concert halls. The best-known tunes are "La Negra" and "Guadalajara."

See alsoMusic: Popular Music and Dance .


See New Grove Dictionary of Music (1980).

Claes Af Geijerstam, Popular Music in Mexico (1976).

Additional Bibliography

Nevin, Jeff. Virtuoso Mariachi. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2002.

Ochoa, Alvaro. Mitote, fandango, y mariacheros. Zamora, Michoacán: El Colegio de Michoacán, 1994.

Sheehy, Daniel Edward. Mariachi Music in America: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

                                     Guy Bensusan

About this article


Updated About content Print Article Share Article