• Sit for a spell under a cottonwood tree and view the Franklin Mountains, seemingly nestled between the U.S. and Mexico flags in front of the visitor center. The two flags reflect our heritage; this land once belonging to Mexico and now to the U.S.


    National Memorial Texas

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    From June 1 through August 31, the consumption or possession of alcoholic beverages without a permit is prohibited. During Music Under the Stars concerts, alcohol may be purchased within the memorial boundary. More »

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Mariachi:  The Signature of Mexico

Mariachi Playing a Mariachi

Mariachi band playing at Chamizal National Memorial


New Orleans is famous for jazz and Scotland for its bagpipes. Mexico is famous for mariachi. A term which refers to the person, the group, and the music (a mariachi plays mariachi in a mariachi!), mariachi began in Jalisco, Mexico and has been thriving and surviving throughout the country for decades. Mexico’s native tongue is celebrated outside of the country as well. You won’t have a difficult time finding mariachi radio stations in the U.S. southwest. Mariachi was even played in the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games in China!

History of Mariachi
Mariachi began as a rural tradition in western Mexico, probably in the 1880s. Gradually, as more people went urban, mariachi became commonplace in the city. It was in 1898 in Mexico City that Mariachi Vargas, the oldest and one of the best-known mariachi groups in the world was founded. A few decades later, in 1934, at President Lazaro Cardenas' request, mariachis played at his inauguration. In recent decades, mariachi has become rather common in the United States, especially in the borderland.

Mariachi is played in numerous styles. The popular Mexican song Cielito Lindo (Beautiful Heaven), with its "ay, yay, yay, yay, yay, canta y no llores," is a classic version of the country style known as the ranchera. The Son is a common folk style, combining elements of African beat, Andalusian gypsy, and indigenous Mexican. Finally, the Jarabe style consists of music that many people dance to. The jarabe was established as the national dance of Mexico in 1924.

Perhaps what makes mariachi musicians most recognizable are their elaborate costumes. Musicians wear a three-piece suit, boots, and usually custom embroidered ties, belts, and buttons. No mariachi outfit is complete without the extremely wide-brimmed sombrero. The mariachi uniform evolved directly from the uniform worn by the gentleman cowboys, or charros, in the Mexican rodeo.

In traditional mariachi, instruments such as the acoustic guitar; bass guitar; high-pitched five-string guitar; violin; harp; and trumpet are played. The accordion and harmonica are common in many contemporary groups. In mariachi, it's common for every band member to not only play an instrument, but also sing.

Song Topics
Song topics in mariachi are diverse, ranging from love and happiness to heartbreak and anger. The ranchera genre of mariachi includes songs about lost love and longing as well as pride and joy. The jarab­e style promotes dating and courtship. Another style, known as the corrido, tells stories that can be either historical or fiction.

Regional Differences
Many Mexican states and regions have a popular mariachi style. In the southeastern state of Veracruz, the son jarocho is famous for its improvisations and flashy solos. In central Mexican states such as San Luis Potosi and Hidalgo, the Huapango is a popular mariachi variant. In the Huapango style, the violin represents the backbone of a complex rhythm.

Modern Form
Modern mariachi is performed much like traditional mariachi. However, many contemporary mariachis use nontraditional instruments such as the harmonica and accordion. Many Mexican-Americans, as well as other cultures throughout the world, view mariachi as a direct link to traditional Mexico, to a celebration, or to a cultural identity.

When Can I See Mariachi at Chamizal National Memorial?
Live mariachi performances are commonplace at Chamizal National Memorial. Mariachis accompany most ballet folklórico groups onstage and it's tradition for the Music under the Stars summer concert series to have a mariachi perform at the last concert of the year in mid-August. Check the memorial's calendar of events page to see when the music of Mexico will be performed next. Viva mariachi!

Text largely based on Patricia Greathouse's Mariachi, published in 2009 by Gibbs Smith Publishers.


To return to the Cultural Performances home page, click here.


Historia del Mariachi
El mariachi empezo como una tradicion rural en el oeste de Mexico probablemente en 1880. Gradualmente como la gente se volvio mas urabana, el mariachi se hizo un lugar comun en la ciudad. Fue en 1898 en Mexico, D.F. que el Mariachi Vargas, el mas viejo y reconocido grupo de mariachi en el mundo, fue fundado. Unas pocas decadas mas tarde, en 1934, a peticion de el Presidente Lazaro cardenas, el mariachi toco en su inauracion. En recientes decadas el mariachi se ha tornado preferentemente comun en los Estado Unidos especialmente en la zona fronteriza.

El mariachi toca en numerosos estilos. La cancion Mexicana Cielito Lindo con su "ay, yay, yay, yay, canto y no llores" es la clasica version de un estilo campesino como rancheras. El son es un estilo folklorico comun combinando los elementos de el compas Africano, gitano de Andalucia, y indigenas Mexicanos. Finalmente el jarabe consiste de musica que mucha gente baila. El jarabe fue establecido como baile nacional de Mexico en 1924.

Quiza lo que hace a los musicos de el mariachi mas reconocibles son sus detallados vestuarios. Los musicos traen puesto un traje de tres piezas botas y por lo general con corbatas, cinturones, y botones hechos a la medida. No traje de mariachi esta completo sin la extremada al ancha de el sombrero. El uniforme de el mariachi envuelve directamente el uniforme usado por los caballeros vaqueros ó charros en el rodeo Mexicano.

En el tradicional mariachi, los instrumentos tales como la guitarra acustica, la guitarra bajo de cinco cuerdas con tono alto, el violin, el harpa, y la trompeta son tocados. La acordion y la harmonica son comunes en muchos grupos contemporaneos. De mariachi, es comun que en todas las bandas que los miembros no solo toquen un instrumento pero que tambien canten.

Temas de Canciones
Los temas de las conciones de el mariachi son distintas, van desde amor y felicidad hasta angustia y dolor y enojo. El estilo ranchero de el mariachi incluye canciones sobre amores perdidos y añoranzas como tambien de orgullo y felicidad. El estilo jarabe estimula las citas de amor y enamoramiento. Otro estilo conocido como el corrido, habla de historias que pueden ser historicas ó ficcion.

Diferencias Regionales
En muchos estados Mexicanos y regiones tienen un estilo de marichi popular. En el suroeste de Veracruz, el son jarocho es famoso por sus improvisaciones y sus recampageantes solos. En los estados de el centro tales como San Luis Potosi y Hidalgo, el huapango es una variante popular ed el mariachi. En el estilo huapango, el violin representa la columna-vertebral de un ritmo multiple.

Forma Moderna

El mariachi moderno actua mucho como el mariachi tradicional. Sin embargo muchos mariachis contemporaneos usan instrumentos no tradicionales como la harmonica y el acordeon.Muchos Mexico-Americanos, tambien como otras culturas por todo el mundo, miran a el mariachi como una conexcion directa de el Mexico tradicional, como a la celebracion ó identidad cultural.

Cuando Puedo Ver Mariachi en el Chamizal National Memorial?

Las actuaciones de el mariachi en vivo es un lugar comun en el Chamizal National Memorial. Los mariachis acompañan a la mayoria de grupos folkloricos en el excenario y es una tradicion para la serie de conciertos de Music Under the Stars de tener la actuacion de el mariachi en el ultimo concierto de el año amediados de agosto. Revisa la pagina de el Calendario de Eventos de el Chamizal. Viva mariachi!

Did You Know?

Boundary Markers

The land that Chamizal sits on belonged to Mexico until the 1960s. You can walk along the historic US-Mexico border when you visit the memorial. More...