"6 Strings a Playing" Guitarrón Mexicano

Mariachi Player
People/Country Mexico
Instrument: Guitarrón Mexicano
Border: Talavera Pottery  
Corners: Maya huipiles pattern (Guatemala/ Mexico )

Hola/ Hello Buenos días/ Good Day

Music: In 2011, the iconic music of Mexico, Mariachi Music was added to the UNESCO Representative Heritage list. Once thought to be an indigenous Mexican word, the term Mariachi is now believed to be a mix of Spanish and Mestizo, dating back to the early 1800s. ( The arrival of Cortes, with European harps, violins and guitars  in the early 1500s influenced the traditional music of the country.)  Mestizo music is a mix of influences by Spanish conquistadors, Indigenous Mexicans, and African Slaves.

Originally, the Mariachi bands played traditional folk songs and corridos (Mexican ballads that told tales of bravery, love and outstanding deeds), but today, they have added a broader repertoire often based on popular requests.

The size of a Mariachi group and the combination of instruments in the groups have also varied over the years, and may often include two violins, two trumpets, one Spanish guitar, one vihuela (five-string, high pitched instrument), and one guitarrón, the deep-bodied six string instrument shown in the etching. While the guitarrón Mexicano may seems like a variation of a guitar, it is actually closer related to 16th century Spanish  bajo de uno, or fingernail-plucked bass.  The guitarrón is a fretless instrument with heavy gauge strings and provides the signature sound of Mariachi music.

Mariachi Attire: Perhaps the most recognizable parts of the traditional Mariachi folk costume, which has remained virtually unchanged for centuries, is the charro suit and the sombrero, a wide brimmed hat, usually made of straw or felt (rabbit or horse hair) . The mariachi musicians wear a “gala” or dress version of the national charro suit.  The charro has evolved from the 17th century outfit worn by Mexico’s indigenous horsemen. The Spanish introduce the horse to the American continent, but forbade indigenous people to ride without their permission. The native people were forbidden to dress like their Spanish “masters” and later “employers,” who didn’t want them confused with elite landowners. So a unique riding outfit evolved. It was a suit with a cropped jacket and tapered pants made from leather and suede and richly embroidered with images of local plants stitched with fibers from local plants and cacti. The Charro (rather like the American Cowboy) became a kind of folk hero, recognized for his expert horsemanship, strict code of conduct, and later for supporting the fight for Mexican independence. Today, the outfit is worn with national pride. Charros participate in the national sport, Charreada (Rodeo), which was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2016.

There are various styles of the charro suit, but the gala Mariachi is often black with silver fretting decoration. The sombrero is usually elaborately decorated (the decoration is called toquilla) often in silver  

Borders:  The side borders are taken for huipiles patterns.

Huipils/ Huipiles  (pronounced wee-peels) are the blouses (tunics) worn by indigenous Mayan women of Mexico and Central America, especially Guatemala. The patterns and designs of a huipil may identify an individual, her village and even some societal elements, such as whether she is married. These pattens are woven into the fabric on a back strap loom. Often embroidery elements are added. The finished garment is a true work of art. Today, it is one of the most popular pieces of women’s clothing worn in Mexico.  It is also part of the traditional dress of the Maya in Guatemala. Indigenous Maya make up more than half of the 12 million people who live in Guatemala. I’ve attached a picture of a huipiles weaving on a model of a back strap loom. (Other blogs from the “7 Looms a Weaving”  group will showcase back strap weaving cultures.)

Corners:  Talavera pottery patterns.  Talavera  pottery or ceramics are found both in Mexico and in Spain. The patterns and process have been passed down from the 16th century Spanish center Talavera de la Reina.  Both areas are on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.   Mexican Talavera, usually from Puebla and Tiaxcala, is a type of majolica or tin-glazed earthenware. Typically, the white base is painted with bold blue designs. Other bright colors are also added.   Because traditional Talavera was made by hand, using expensive cobalt pigment on natural clay, which had to be dried for several months, it was about three times more expensive than other earthenware. Today, only pieces from certified workshops in Mexico are allowed to be labeled Talavera .  Although the process for making this pottery is specific, complicated, and time-consuming, Talavera pottery is used for utilitarian products, such as bowls, cups, flowerpots and tiles.   I have never been to Mexico, but I was fortunate to acquire several small Talavera bowls at the largest Mexican market in America in San Antonio, Texas. I used the designs on these for the border inspiration.

And while I was in San Antonio, I visited the Alameda Museum to view the Smithsonian exhibit of huipiles weavings of the Mayan people of Guatemala, where I acquired the loom .  (See image below. Note the remarkable detail that is achieve with this thin-thread warp.) 

References and Links:
( Note: I do not endorse or mean to promote any of these sites.) 
  • Clark, Jonathan. D. 1996. A Brief History of the Mariachi Tradition. https://content.westmusic.com/resources/brief-history-of-mariachi/
  • Charro: a Brief History of how the Mexican cowboy became a national fashion model. 8/5/2018 HauteCutureFashion.com
  • A Brief History of Huipils https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/mexico/articles/a-brief-history-of-the-huipil-in-one-minute/
  • Guatemalan Huipils (with video): guatemalanhuipils.com/
  • Https://ipfs.io/ipfs/qmxoypizjw3wknfijnklwhcnl72vedxjqkddp1mxwo6uco/wiki/Guitarron_mexicano.html
  • Muhammad Danial Harith bin Zulkifli and Dhiviya Kannusamy. Guitarrón Mexicano
  • Traditional Instruments of the World. https://traditionalmusicalinstrumentsblog.wordpress.com
  • History of Mariachi. Puro Mariachi. http://www.mariachi.org/history.html
  • Illustrations of loom and huipiles and an explanation of the process and tradition. See these two nationalclothing.org articles for illustrations of loom and huipiles and an explanation of the process and tradition.
  • Traditional Mexican costume.Typical pieces of clothing in Mexico Nationalclothing.org/ 8/12/2014
  • Traditional blouse of Guatemala. Maya women weave their folk clothing on backstrap loom 2/4/2018
  • The craft of weaving huipiles – female tunics of Guatemala – might vanish because of a huge market of underpriced secondhand huipiles 2/4/2018  http://nationalclothing.org/america/82-guatemala/243-the-craft-of-weaving-huipiles-–-female-tunics-of-guatemala-–-might-vanish-because-of-a-huge-market-of-underpriced-secondhand-huipiles.html
  • Mariachi, string music, song and trumpet. Https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/mariachi-string-music-song-and-trumpet-00575
  • UNESCO: https://mariachimusic.com/about/history/

Talavera Pottery

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The Art and Writing of Barbara Rizza Mellin