One of the traditional music genres in Mexico is Mariachi music. This music genre is very popular in Mexico, not just because for the songs, lyrics and sound, but mariachi plays important part in social events and big parties. Mexicans will hire a mariachi band to play  a couple popular songs at weddings, baptisms, birthday parties, quinceañeras, and more. In this blog we will explain you the origin of this musical genre, the meaning of mariachi, the typical music itself and the most practical part, where you can find this mariachi bands and hire them for a special occasion. So, when you are in Mexico you will have the chance to listen to some of the typical mariachi songs and get immerse yourself in the fascinating Mexican culture.


The meaning of “mariachi” is not very clear. It seems that there are different version about it’s origin. Some people think that the word mariachi comes from the French word mariage, which means marriage. Other people believe that mariachi comes from the Mayan word mariamchi, which means “the ones who have the same blood” or “my family”. And even nowadays, the origin of the word marichi remains a bit of a mystery.

In Mexico the word “mariachi” can refer to two things: the traditional music genre from Mexico and/or to the people who sing and play the typical instruments. Nowadays Mariachi has two main streams: traditional and modern. Just as a cultural fact to be aware of their relevance, in 2011 Mariachi was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage!


Traditional Mariachi (also known as rural mariachi) mariachi, was born in the 19th century. This version of mariachi still uses the traditional costume and instruments from Cocula (Image 1), the town where Mariachi was born, located at west of Mexico, in Jalisco. The traditional costumes are the clothes used by people living in the country side in haciendas or rancherías (Images 2, 3, 4). And the traditional music is played only with string instruments: guitars, vihuelas (like a small guitar with other tone), guitarrón (a big guitar that keeps the pace, like a bass) and, in some cases, tambora.


Modern mariachi (or urban mariachi), is the kind of marichi that is well known all over the world. The main differences between modern and traditional are the clothing, the use of different instruments and more than one of the same type of instrument (2 or 3 guitars, 2 or 3 violins, 2 or 3 trumpets, etc.) Modern Mariachi use guitarra, vihuela (Image 5), guitarrón (Image 6), violin and trumpets. About the clothing, the modern mariachis are more exotic than the traditional ones. Usually they wear white or black costumes with many ornaments (Image 7, 8) and the famous Mexican hat:“sombrero de charro” (Image 9).

Typically the songs that are played by Mariachi (modern or traditional) belong to the following genres:

  • rancheras
  • corridos
  • huapangos
  • sones jarochos
  • Mexican waltzes (regional and traditional music from different parts of Mexico)


Every single genre has its own characteristics. The first ranchera songs sang about the Mexican revolution, the country life, the family, the bars and love tragedies. Some famous singers are José Alfredo Jiménez, Pedro Infante and Vicente Fernández, who is actually still alive!


Corridos were created in the 18th century, and in the 19th century were muscalized by mariachi. Corridos are stories about Mexican heroes (Emiliano Zapata, Francisco Villa), episodes from the revolution or stories about love.


The huapangos are from Veracruz and most of the times is just music without lyrics. The most famous huapango is “Huapango de Moncayo


The next genre is Son Jarocho, also from Veracruz. The most famous song is “La Bamba” , the same song interpreted by Ritchie Valens. This subgenre is mainly danced and the lyrics do not always have importance.


Finally we have the waltzes, which are danced too, but played by mariachi.

Both marichi styles play those “genres”, but the modern introduced bolero to their repertory, creating a whole new genre: bolero ranchero, sung by many famous singers in Mexico, like Luis Miguel or Juan Gabriel.


If you come to Mexico City and you need a mariachi band you can go to Plaza Garibaldi, there you will find all kinds of different mariachi bands.  

Plaza Garibaldi is a square close to Mexico City’s historic center and  gathers 3 of the most traditional things in Mexico: gastronomy, tequila and Mariachi. Some nice bars/restaurants where you can enjoy typical Mexican food along with are these:

  • Salón Tenampa: opened in 1925, this place was the one where the current famous Mariachi singers were born.
  • Guadalajara de noche: this place gathers the gastronomy and the mariachi music with a traditional style to enjoy in family.
  • El pozole de Moctezuma: in this place you can try pozole along with mezcal.

If you are already there, you can visit the “Museo del tequila y el mezcal” (Tequila and Mezcal Museum). Here you will find the story about the typical Mexican drinks, the production process and a room dedicated to offer degustation. It easy to get there by You can get there by Uber or metro. (Image 12)


That price of a mariachi band depends on different things: first of all the number of mariachis in the mariachi band (6, 8, 10, 12, or more…), and if you want to hire them just for some songs or hire the band per hour. For example: for 1 hour (13 songs approximately) with 10 mariachis, the average price is $4,000 pesos (around $200 dollars), and if you really liked how they performed or if they were better than you were expecting, you can always give a tip.

Mariachis can go with you in your car if you need them at that specific moment, or they can go by their own transportation if you hire them for another day. They will sing for you (or with you) for a reasonable price.


Talking about songs, we can find a big repertory. Most of the traditional songs are interpreted by all the Mariachis (famous or not), and here, in Mexico, every single person knows at least 5 songs, no matter if you don’t like Mariachi music, you know those songs. The most famous ones are (not in this order but yes, famous):

  1. El Rey: written by José Alfredo Jiménez when he was traveling from a city to his town after an amorous deception. The song was dedicated to Alicia Juarez.
  2. Si nos dejan: a love song written (again) by José Alfredo Jiménez.
  3. Hermoso cariño: written by the Mexican composer Fernando Maldonado. A love song which describes the happiness of a man in love with a woman.
  4. El mariachi loco: written entirely by Ramón Palomar Arreola. This is just a happy song without any other lyrics than “El mariachi loco quiere bailar”. The translation is: the insane mariachi wants to dance.
  5. Ella (me cansé de rogarle): a very sad song which tells the story of a man in love left by his beloved woman. Composed by José Alfredo Jiménez and sang by too many other singers in history. One of them, Pedro Infante, who sang this song in his movie “La vida no vale nada” (the life is worthless).
  6. Cielo rojo: a huapango sad song composed by Juan Záizar and interpreted by Flor Silvestre.   
  7. Amor eterno: one of the most famous songs written by Juan Gabriel. This song was composed when Juan Gabriel’s mother passed away. Always interpreted in funerals, can be assumed as the Mexican Requiem for excellence. 

Do you know any of these famous mariachi songs? We would be happy accompany you to Plaza Garibaldi so you can see and listen to the famous Mexican mariachi bands yourself and try some of the delicious local food and a shot of tequila.

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