The mystique 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!

Also shrouded 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.

Mariachis 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.

Around 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.

During 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.

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