Our introduction to Mariachi in Mexico was an ear ringing, fantastic surprise. At a party, given in our honor upon arrival in the quaint town of Puerto Vallarta, we were greeted with an astounding and beautiful Cielto Lindo, also known as the other national anthem of Mexico. A large band, wearing identical costumes and enormous sombreros; decked with silver and bangles, each played a different instrument. All sizes of guitars; large violins; violas; a guitarrón, which is bass guitar; a slide trombone; coronets were included in the ensemble. We descended a staircase and were greeted by a circle of no less than a dozen musicians; those whose mouths were not attached to horns grinned from ear to ear. A soloist who also, when not singing, played violin, belted out the words of the song and though I had no clue to their meaning, I was aware of the joyful nature of the words. I didn’t realize it at the time but my life was about to change and this “pretty little heaven” would soon be my new home and I would have the pleasure of hearing Mariachi all over town.
Mariachi music is one of the prides of Jalisco, which is the home state of Puerto Vallarta. In Guadalajara, there is a whole plaza dedicated to their rousing, romantic music and each night it’s like a battle of the bands. Garibaldi Plaza is where to find Mariachi in Mexico City and it is in these squares people go to hire music for a party, wedding, baptism, etc. The musicians offer a tune and a business card and important transactions are conducted. In Puerto Vallarta, Mariachi Loco, on Lázaro Cárdenas in Old Town is a club where traditional Mexican music can be found most nights, as well as a variety of entertainment, including comedy shows and vaudevillian type acts.
The basis of the word Mariachi is the subject of discussion. Though some people believe it has French origins, based on the word mariage, founded on music often played at weddings, there is much disagreement as to how this is possible. The French never quite made it to the West Coast where Mariachi was born until the late 19th Century. It is more likely the name is derived from the wood of the pilla or cirimo trees, which is used to make most guitars in Mexico. An unconfirmed legend is the possibility the name comes from a once popular song for María H (ah-chay), which we believe makes the most sense.
Que es cómo es.