Charros, Chinas, and Mariachis
Charro and China
A charro is a traditional cowboy of Mexico. The traditional charro is known for colorful clothing and participating in charreadas, a type of rodeo. The charreada is the National Sport in Mexico. There are more charros in the state of Jalisco than any other state in Mexico. Jalisco has also won more national championships than any other state. The women wear the china poblana dress which includes a hand-woven shawl and bright sequined skirt.
The word “mariachi” is a term that can be used to describe the individual musician, the ensemble or the musical genre itself. In the complete Mariachi group today there are as many as six to eight violins, two trumpets, and a guitar- all standard European instruments. Then there is a highitched, round-backed guitar called the vihuela (veeWHAY-lah), which when strummed in the traditional manner gives the Mariachi its typical rhythmic vitality; a deep-voiced guitar called the guitarrón (gwee-tahrROHN) which serves as the bass of the ensemble; and a Mexican folk harp, which usually doubles the base line, but also ornaments the melody. While these three instruments have European origins, in their present form they are strictly Mexican.
The music of the mariachi band is a mixture of different indigenous, as well as European and African, elements. From Europe, it borrowed many of the dance forms such as the waltz and the fandango. From Africa, it borrowed dance rhythms and melodic ideas. The forms found in mariachi music are, without a doubt, the most important element of the style. Mariachi song forms (such as the bolero, canción ranchera, son, huapango, joropo, and danzón) are always dictated by the rhythmic patterns that are performed by the guitar section of the group. This is one of the few musical genres in which text does not indicate form.
Mariachi music is one of the few styles of indigenous music that serves both a utilitarian and an entertainment function. The mariachi band is used for many different occasions, such as dances, weddings, and funerals. It is not unusual to find the group serenading a young woman on the occasion of her birthday, celebrating a saint’s day, or singing to the mother of one of the band members on her birthday. People who enjoy mariachi music like it because it rekindles old memories, takes them to places that are far away, or brings back scenes of childhood.
Source: Amalia Hernandez' Ballet Folklorico de Mexico Teacher Resource Guide