Maracas, sombreros and some tequila shots… These are all things that will sure be part of my celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day this weekend –Mexico’s Independence Day is September 16. It’s always exciting to celebrate this day and have some fun by showing some Mexican pride in what I call “the Mexican-wannabe way.”
As fun and exciting as this fiesta sounds, it’s actually not quite something that brings out my true Mexican spirit. To me, there’s really no meaning behind drinking tequila shots or shaking some maracas. Yes, tequila is a signature of Mexico, but drinking it will only get me drunk and forget why I’m celebrating. And maracas… Maracas didn’t even originate in Mexico! As much as I love shakers and their sound makes me want to get up and dance, they are actually characteristic of the music of other Latin American countries like Brazil, Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico.
If these so-called Mexican customs don’t bring out the best of my Mexican pride, you may wonder, then what does? One word: Mariachi.
Mariachi music has history. It speaks tradition, heritage and culture. Dating back to the year 1630, mariachi groups have brought to the world a colorful and cultural music form for almost 400 years. Although instrumentation and clothing have evolved since its early beginnings, the core style of mariachi music, son jaliscience, has remained throughout its existence.
El son jalisciense, now known as son style, originated in the state of Jalisco– hence its name. It was originally played with string instruments, such as guitars and harps, which were introduced by the Spanish. Back in the day, mariachis dressed in typical peasant clothing: white pants and shirts and huaraches— a type of Mexican sandals.
(El Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, the oldest and best mariachi in the world, performs “El Son de la Negra” in Japan).
As you can see on the video above, contemporary mariachis have changed to become better than they’ve ever been. The transition of mariachi music into its modern form began in the late 1800s, when European music arts such as opera, salon music and waltzes became firmly transplanted in Mexico. This is when mariachis would begin adapting charro outfits and incorporating waltz and polkas into their repertoire, playing with newly added instruments such as violins and trumpets.
With its upbeat styles such as cumbias and jarabes to its most despechadas –spiteful– rancheras and love boleros, mariachi music is the one thing that makes my Mexican heart tremble. It carries with it the best of Mexican culture, the roots of my mother’s mother and her mother’s mother, and one of my most precious legacies.
Maracas, sombreros and some tequila shots… Oh well, just play me a mariachi son and I’ll gladly drink some tequila shots wearing a sombrero and shaking las maracas feeling like I’m back in Mexican land. AY, AY, AY! ¡Felíz día de la independencia de México!