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Mariachi Spectacular Records

Identifier: MSS-521-BC

Scope and Content

The collection consists of advertisements and articles promoting the Mariachi Spectacular; programs, schedules and correspondence; performers biographies; and photographs of events, including broadcast videotapes. Texts of songs and full and partial scores of music performed are also a part of the collection. Audio and video tapes were added to the collection in August 2008. These tapes contain oral interviews with Miguel D. Martinez, Esteban Hernandez, Jesús Rodriguez de Hijar, Nicolás Torres Vasquez, Silvestre Vargas, Jonathan Clark, as well as audio and video of various programs related to the Mariachi Spectacular. The Mariachi Spectacular was sponsored by UNM's Department of Continuing Education. UNM's Oral History Program was also involved with this project.


  • 1984-1996

Language of Materials

English Spanish

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research; however, access to tapes in Box 2 require 2 week advance notification. These tapes will need to be duplicated before patrons can access them.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Institutional history

Mariachi is a distinctive musical style usually associated with Mexico. It originated, after the arrival of Cortes in the early 16th century, as a blending of the music and dance of the Spanish and Indian peoples. The original form of mariachi can still be found in the coastal plains of the state of Michoacan.

According to popular belief, however, mariachi as we know it today began in the 19th century in the state of Jalisco, to the west of the city of Guadalajara. There it was the regional version of the Spanish theatrical orchestra, which consisted of violins, harps and guitars. The principle repertory of these orchestras was the son, a mixture of folk traditions from Spain, Africa and Mexico, and it was music to be played, sung, and danced. Mariachi was almost unknown outside the region of Jalisco until the 1930s.

In 1934, the Mariachi Vargas de Tecaletlan was invited to play at the inauguration of President Lazaro Cardenas, one of whose great interests was to foster the native culture of Mexico. The popularity of mariachi then spread, and mariachi ensembles perform today throughout Mexico and the southwestern United States, as well as in urban centers with large Mexican-American populations.

Beginning in the 1930s, mariachi musicians also began wearing colorful outfits. They were the classic outfits associated with the jarabe, in particular the Jarabe Tapatio, or Mexican Hat Dance, which is also indigenous to the state of Jalisco. The men wore the outfit of the Jalisco horseman, or charro, the jacket and trousers intricately ornamented with embroidery, leather designs and silver buttons. The women wore a handwoven shawl and bright, sequined skirt.

The characteristic instruments of mariachi originally were violin, vihuela, jarana and harp. The harp was later replaced by a guitarron, and in the 1930s two trumpets and a female vocalist were added to the ensemble. The unmistakable sound of mariachi today is created by combining violins, trumpets and guitars, all standard European instruments, with two unique stringed folk instruments, the vihuela and the guitarron. The violins and trumpets play the melody, and the players also sing. The guitar and vihuela (a high-pitched round-backed guitar) provide the rhythmic drive in the ensemble while the guitarron (a deep-voiced round-backed guitar) serves as the bass. The ensemble may also include a Mexican folk harp, which can double the bass line or ornament the melody.

Since the 1930s many new musical ideas and styles have been assimilated into mariachi music, and in 1966, because of its widespread popularity, mariachi was incorporated into the mass of the Roman Catholic Church. Mariachis perform the son as well as other instrumental pieces for dancing, such as the polka and the waltz. Song styles include rancheras and boleros as well as cumbias, danzones, pasadobles, corridos, huapangos and even classical songs. The largest mariachi ensembles may have as many as thirteen of fourteen members, although the average is between seven and nine. Mariachi has continued largely through oral tradition, and although some musicians are musically literate, they generally perform without written music.

The Mariachi Spectacular was established as an annual event in 1991 by the UNM Division of Continuing Education. Its goal is to promote cultural understanding and to foster better community relations. The Mariachi Spectacular brings the best of the mariachi groups to Albuquerque while it offers a workshop series designed to develop the talents of local musicians. It is estimated that more than 20,000 persons have attended the event in its first two years. Both traditional and contemporary mariachi is performed in the Mariachi Spectacular.


2 boxes (1.35 cu.ft.)

Separated Material

Master audio and video tapes for items in box 1 are stored in B3.

Processing Information

Audio and video recordings as well as some printed materials were added in August 2008, at which time the collection was reorganized.
Finding Aid of the Mariachi Spectacular Records, 1984-1996 (bulk 1991-1993)
Processed by Staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 521 BC::Mariachi Spectacular Records)//EN" "nmu1mss521bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131