A sharp, strong note pierces the air, cutting through the thick humidity of a sticky Jaliscan summer night. The bark of the trumpet mingles with the warm rush of guitar chords and your dreams shatter into wakefulness. You stumble to the window and squint down into the dark street below.
Flashes of silver in the moonlight reveal the form of seven troubadours, clad in black with wide brimmed hats. To the front of the group, staring up at you with arms outstretched is Francisco come to proclaim his love in traditional Mexican style.
The mariachi tradition of wandering musical troupes began in the Mexican state of Jalisco in the late 1700s, as the indigenous and mestizo people of Mexico were able to find work in the Spanish haciendas. They played an early form of mariachi folk music called son that incorporated Spanish instruments.
It was only much more recently around the time of the Mexican independence that the elaborate costumes and courtship ritual emerged which still prevails to this day. It is not uncommon for a mariachi band to arrive at a party in the middle of the night so the guests can gather for a nostalgic, drunken sing-a-long.
In a country that has endured great hardship and has met oppression with fiery resistance, music holds an important place in Mexican history and culture. The mariachi sing of love, death, betrayal, revolution, failure and vice. Through their stirring melodies and poignant lyrics, we are humbled and united by the folly of humanity.
Gazing down at your hopeful love, you have a decision to make. Do you fall into his waiting embrace and declare your everlasting devotion? Or do you run to your mother’s room exclaiming the horror of this entirely inappropriate intrusion, to be marched back to the window by the matriarch with a jug of water to put out the fire of his passion once and for all?
Francisco, I do!