With all that goes on in the downtown area of Cozumel for visitors to see, there is nothing more compelling on the streets of Cozumel than a strolling band of mariachis. With their meticulously detailed outfits, large sombreros and cowboy boots, mariachis are an unmistakeable element of Mexican culture. Carismatic and charming, the booming, harmonic voices of the mariachis sing in beautiful harmony with their rythmic instruments.
The Coca Indians who lived in the hills of the central part of Jalisco, knows as Cocula, are credited with the origin of the mariachi. Prior to the arrival of Cortéz the music of Mexico was simply played with rattles, drums, reed and clay flutes as well as conch-shell horns and was mainly a part of religious celebrations. After the arrival of Spaniards in Mexico, instruments imported by the Spanish included violins, guitars, harps, brass horns and woodwinds. The Indian and mestizo musicians not only learned to play European instruments but also built their own with unique shapes and tonalities. It was around 1531 the Cocas combined their native music with the Spanish harp and violin. Then in 1576 the guitarilla, the small guitar with only four strings, was added for a unique sound.
Music and dance were important elements of Spanish theatrical productions and were enormously popular during the colonial period. The typical Spanish theatrical orchestra of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries included violins, harp and guitars. It was from this group that several of the most distinctive regional ensembles of Mexico developed, including the Mariachi.
Musicologists and folklorists have argued for years over the origin of the word “mariachi.” While there will probably always be differing theories as to how the current word was derived by the Coca Indians, there is no question that mariachi and this style of music originated with the very artistic Coca tribe. Through the centuries more and more natives became interested in music. They learned to play has their fathers taught them, by ear. Musicians played and sang songs describing love, sorrow, famous deeds and heroes, horses and homes. Theirs was the "country music" of Mexico.
In the 1880's small groups of mariachis known as violines del cerro or "violins of the hills" began searching out occasions to play their music. They dressed in their best clothing consisting of a white shirt and pants with a red sash around the waist worn with simple sandals, large straw hats with ball fringe and a red sarape or black cotton blanket folded in half and draped over one shoulder. The dashing mariachi outfits we know today were to come much later.
In 1890's mariachis established their territory by traveling to nearby ranchers. In September, 1905, Juan Villaseñor, a ranch supervisor from the area of Cocula, took a group to Mexico City to play for President General Porfirio Diaz in celebration of "fiestas patrias" the 16th of September. This was the beginning of an Independence Day tradition that would grow stronger by the decade.
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 high-pitched, round-backed guitar (vihuela), a deep toned guitar (guitarrón) which serves as the bass of the ensemble, and a Mexican folk harp which ornaments the melody. Mariachi music is not just music to be played and sung. From the very beginning it was music to be danced.
By the 1930’s Mariachi musicians had begun wearing the charro costume we see today consisting of a waist-length jacket and tight wool pants which open slightly at the ankle to fit over a short riding boot. Both pants and jacket are often ornamented with embroidery, intricately cut leather designs or silver buttons or conchos in a variety of shapes. As noted earlier, prior to that time photographs show early Mariachis dressed in homespun white cotton pants and shirts and leather sandals, the clothes worn by most peasants in Jalisco.
The original mariachis played seated. Not until the first trumpet joined the group in the 1940s did they start standing. "El Trompetas," a musician simply known as "The Trumpeter," was a master of the instrument and changed the mariachi sound forever.
By the 1950’s the Mariachi ensemble had become a complete, adaptable orchestra with the ability to retain its traditional base while it was assimilating new musical ideas and styles. Mariachis often help celebrate the great moments in the lives of the Mexican people. With the serenade the Mariachi participate in the rite of courtship. In a society where the young members of opposite sexes were kept apart, the serenade was a means by which a young man could send a message of love to the woman of his heart. “Las Mañanitas” is the traditional song for saints days and birthdays. Mariachis are commonly hired for baptisms, weddings, patriotic holidays and even funerals.
Traditional Holiday Mariachi!
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If "Action" and "Speed" are what you seek in excursions then the Royal Swim is for you! Action and Speed pretty much describe this popular dolphin program! Get a handshake, a kiss and then you give them one. Feel the strength of your new friends as they push you across the water from the bottom of your feet in the thrilling foot-push. It is "the experience of a lifetime!"
US $169 Adults / US $89 Kids
Don't even get wet but dive to depths of 100 feet in a REAL submarine piloted by a professional and licensed crew and experience why Cozumel remains one of the top dive destinations in the world.
US $105 Adults / US $65 Kids
Sign up for an observation and education session about Cozumel's nesting sea turtles and the volunteer brigades that help in their conservation. Learn about these amazing creatures in the Fundacion de Paques & Museos program and help release hatching baby turtles as they make their way to the sea.
From US $43 to US $73 Per Person DONATION
I just wanted to let you know we really enjoyed our experience with the turtle salvation program this week. It was an amazing evening I will never forget. I will be sure to share the info with my local dive shops and SCUBA club when I return. I know that many others would love to participate and support the turtles. Thanks again and if you could pass along our appreciation to the biologists and other volunteers, we know it is all of your dedication that helps the turtles. J & D Lamb ~ Tucson, AZ
Just got back from our cruise and wanted to let you know how much fun we had at Chankanaab Park. My daughter, Emily, had the most wonderful dolphin experience and the $2.00 off coupon for me to get into the park worked like a charm. And, your confirmation email telling us about getting to the park was very helpful. Thank you for the experience! This was well organized and an absolutely perfect day in Cozumel for us! We (the old ladies in my family) are coming back in February, I'll be sure to connect with you again as we'll do the dolphin swim with you again. The Kershek Family ~ Wisconsin, USA
Two friends and I booked the dolphin swim AND got the manatee encounter for 15 minutes for thru Cozumel Insider. The manatee was FREE. The price, including the park, was only $88 when booked in advance. The park fee alone is $21...that's $77 PP for both a dolphin swim with about 11 others, incl. 4 children, AND the manatee. Our party of 3 were the only ones to get the manatee and she was a highlight of our trip. We got to feed her lettuce for almost 15 minutes as the guide explained her life to us. We are grateful for both experiences at such a great price. Thanks, Sherri. I can see where it's harder to find your story on your site. Can you repost it? It's very unusual and inspirational to others. Cheryl & Michael, MA C. Pimental ~ Hingham, MA USA
Just returned from Cozumel where we participated in the FP&M Turtle Salvation program and it was the highlight of our trip. Our guides picked us up at our hotel right on time. They were very nice and one spoke fantastic English. Being able to participate in the extraction of newly hatched baby sea turtles from their nests and then watching them scurry into the ocean was so amazing. There were 4 nests hatching that evening so we were interacting with baby turtles for several hours. Those little turtles are SO adorable and so VERY determined to get to the water. This activity exceeded our expectations. I would recommend it to anyone who loves nature and wants to help this endangered species. It is awesome that cozumelinsider.com donates its resources to handle the bookings for this activity to help raise funds for this great cause. Thanks for an awesome experience! T. Daily ~ Arizona
My family and I have returned to Cozumel many times - it's a favorite destination and we have watched it change over the past 20 years. The Cozumel Insider is a great publication - it's a wonderful way to keep up with the news about one of our favorite islands. We are preparing to visit again this August and the Insider has shown us some different activities to try, as well as helped to bring us up to date with local political and ecological happenings. We're delighted to see the interest in wildlife conservation throughout the area. Keep up the good work on this terrific site. D. McClean ~ unknown