What do you think of when someone says “Mexico”? I bet one of the first things that comes to mind is the Mariachi and their large sombreros, the fancy silver buttons down their pant legs, and their large variety of instruments. A Mariachi band consists of three to twelve (or more) musicians playing violins, guitars, and trumpets. True Mariachi bands also have a guitarrón or a vihuela (5-string guitar) included in the ensemble. The songs they play are usually about love, life, and even revolutionary heroes. Three-piece groups are popular for serenading women, a very romantic gesture.
Mariachi began in Puerto Vallarta’s home state of Jalisco. With the introduction of instruments from the Spanish, the music took on a life of its own in true Mexican style and Mariachi as we know it was born. Some say the name “Mariachi” came from a French word meaning “marriage,” as this style of music was often played at wedding ceremonies. Others believe it came from a native word for the wood that was used in the construction of the instruments. The truth may never be known, but nevertheless, Mariachi is now known worldwide as the music of Mexico.
The most famous Mariachi band is Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan, founded by Don Gaspar Vargas in 1897 in Tecalitlan, Jalisco. Now in its fifth generation with thirteen members, the band plays a variety of traditional Mexican songs, as well as more modern music that has reached a wider audience. The first time Don Gaspar introduced a trumpet, it didn’t go over very well – the audience thought it was too loud. Ironically, today the trumpet is an integral part of much Mariachi music.
As you’re out dining in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll often see small three-person groups offering to play some of the most famous Mariachi songs. Sit back and enjoy!