This blog will delve into the cultural and entertainment aspects of folklorico music and dance of Mexico. It also will host the show notes to the podcast titled "Arriba! Folkorico music and dance of Mexico."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Arriba! Folklorico music and dance of Mexico - Episode #1 - 2 July 2006: Introduction with the Jarabe Tapatio played by mariachis during Fiesta! 2006

This episode introduces the series of Arriba! Folklorico Music and Dance of Mexico.
The main topics discussed were:
  • A musical teaser introduction of the beginning of the song El Jarabe Tapatio, as played by the Mariachi Los Caporales and other mariachis in San Antonio, Texas, during the week-long celebration of Mexican Culture in April, 2006 -- this annual program is called Fiesta!
  • Setting the stage of the cultural setting of Mexico -- especially the mixture of cultures resulting from the many invasions during its history. These include the Spaniards, the French, the US Americans (during the Mexican War of 1846-1848), along with the settlement of the Germans and Poles.
  • The many cultures and subcultures for each region of the 30 modern states of Mexico are introduced -- ready for future episodes to go more into depth:
  1. El Norte
  2. La Huasteca
  3. Veracruz (Jarocho)
  4. Chiapas
  5. Michoacan
  6. Jalisco
  7. Los Aztecas (Tenochtitlan, ancient capital, which is now Mexico City)
  • A map of the regions is provided for you with an image, above.
  • The real benefit of future episodes will be the live interviews with different musicians from mariachis, conjuntos jarochos, conjuntos huastecos, conjuntos nortenos, and trios.
  • My background as a former professional folklorico dancer, director of a Ballet Folklorico Group, as well as an instructor in Southern California and professor at the University in California (where I taught the course called "A survey of Mexican folklore: music and dance from the Pre-Columbian era to the modern day").
  • Program ends with the final teaser of the final part of the musical piece, El Jarabe Tapatio, including an explanation of the diana.
  • There will be more to come in future episodes, so don't miss out.
  • You can listen to, or download, this episode as an mp3 file.

The more famous dances of Jalisco: La Negra and El Jarabe Tapatio

When the Charro would get to the town square or plaza (usually after the religious services) on a Sunday, there might be a small fiesta in the town square (which was usually in front of the church).

Around the fountain or the gazebo (kiosko), there would be some mariachis playing their music as part of the celebration. The ladies of the town would come out of the church and attend the festivities in the plaza. Since the young ladies were not allowed to converse in public with young men they did not know, they would stroll (usually arm-in-arm) with their chaperones (or alcahuetas), and they would travel in a circular path around the gazebo.

The young Charro would notice the pretty senorita with her chaperone and would then walk on the outer perimeter in the opposite direction of the ladies. When he would pass by them, he would tip his hat (sombrero) to them and wish them a good day in greeting. This would happen throughout the hour, and the Charro might then gather with his family or some of his male friends and companions. But if a young lady caught the attention of the Charro, he would then try to make his acquaintance -- even though he would not be allowed to speak to her alone or directly, due to custom and the chaperone -- in a manner than less formal and more casual.

When the music of the mariachis began to play some of the dances that were typical in the region (sones jaliscienses), the Charro would ask the senorita to dance. As they danced near the gazebo and near the music, the gentleman and lady would perform the heel-and-toe steps (plantas, tacones, puntas, etc.) in the spirit of the regional folklore and zapateado jalisciense. The ladies, with their bright dresses -- adorned with colorful ribbons and lace -- would perform the zapateado and also twirl in lovely turns, flaring their long, flowing skirts as they imitated the dove and the butterfly (faldeo).

The Charro might then become more bold and try to flirt with the young lady as they danced, since this may be the only time he would approach her in a casual and close manner. The young lady would have fun in being coquettish and flirt back with him, smiling and enticing him as they danced (coquetona). As they would pass each other in the choreography of the dance, the man would attempt to get as close to her as possible, trying to sneak a smile -- and in some cases, even a small kiss -- from her in passing, as they would flirt with each other (much to the chagrin of the chaperone).

In some sones jaliscienses, such as El son de la Negra, the flirting was exaggerated, the movement was the liveliest, and the rhythms of this vibrant dance would excite the emotion of those in the crowd who were looking on. At the end of the dance, the Charro would twirl his partner almost two revolutions, then cover both their heads with his wide-brim hat (sombrero), and finally sneak a small kiss from the young senorita.

In other customary dances, such as the jarabe tapatio (otherwise known in the USA and the rest of the world as the "Mexican Hat Dance"), the Charro would toss down his hat on the ground, and the couple would dance around it, with the Charro chasing her while doing the steps of the dance -- symbolizing the pursuit of man for woman. At the close of the dance, the lady would pick up the hat and lift it over her head -- a symbol of accepting the affection of her suitor, from the old tribal dance of the Huichole indigenous tribe, where the dance originated. The final bars of the dance would sound with the diana --a military march that signified victory. As in all jarabes mexicanos, the pursuit of man for woman ends in triumph for the couple. As this courtship dance finsihes with the symbol of marriage, the man kneels in front of his lady and the senorita holds his hat above her head -- the union of man and woman.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Mariachis povided music as the Charro and the Tapatia danced the sones jaliscienses

The other time when the Charro would wear his traje de gala was on Sunday mornings. After the religious services in the the town, he would gather with the rest of the townspeople in the town square (i.e., la plaza) near the gazebo (i.e., el kiosko). It would be here that the mariachi music would be playing the lively and rhythmic songs of Jalisco (sones jaliscienses). The Charro would invite one of the pretty senoritas to dance -- although she would be under the watchful eye of her chaperone (i.e., la alcahueta). Since it was not permitted for a young lady to speak to strangers, it was only while they were dancing that the Charro would converse -- and even flirt-- with the senorita, trying to sneak a kiss of affection during the moves of the dances. And, at the end of the dance, the Charro would show his bravery, as he would cover both his and her head with his hat (sombrero) and sneak a small kiss from the senorita tapatia.

However, today, in addition to the traditional traje de charro (traje de gala), more modern Mariachi bands wear derivatives of this outfit. For instance, from the purist point of view, the code of the Charro (el codigo del charro) dictates that the authentic outfit be plain; that the single solid color be black; and that the silver have the design of the Aztec calendar. In no way would adornments, other designs or other colors be allowed.
However, as time went on, not only were different colors and different designs of the silver used, but also even different outfits other than the original traje de charro. Some of these are known to be used by other foremen and ranch hands of the hacienda -- such as the caporal. And in some countries (other than Mexico) which have Mariachis that entertain in clubs and restaurants (e.g., Costa Rica and Venezuela), the musicians have taken quite a license to make the costumes more colorful, attractive, and even flashy. These modern musicians attempt to gain the eye of the tourists through popularity -- but it is a huge departure from the official code of the Charro and the original traje de charro - traje de gala.

The Charro and the Mariachis during the serenade

Sometimes the Charro would sing the romantic ballads himself during a serenade

In the olden days within the smaller towns and villages (los pueblos) of Jalisco, the Charro could be seen in this attire as he would take a troop of Mariachis with him to the window outside the house of his betrothed sweetheart, the pretty senorita of Jalisco (known as la tapatia).

These mariachi musicians typically had at least 8 instruments -- 3 violins, 2 trumpets, a guitarron (large bass guitar), a vihuela (a 5-string guitar) and a guitarra (a guitar). In even earlier times, the harp was used, but that was discontinued some years later.

The Charro would hire this band of singers and musicians so that they would deliver a serenata (i.e., serenade) at the window of the lady that the Charro was wooing. In many cases, the Charro himself, with his guitar, would sing romantic songs, declaring his affection and love for the pretty senorita, as he would beg to be her suitor.

Many times, this serenade was brought to the senorita's home very late in the middle of the night (usually after midnight). And so, in many towns, the words from the romantic ballad (bolero) would break the stillness of the night's silence with the music and the words from the beautiful song, Despierta...


Dulce amor de mi vida,


Si te encuentras dormida.

Escucha mi voz

Vibrar bajo de tu ventana,

En esta cancion

Te vengo a entrar el alma


Que interrumpe tu sueno,

Pero no pude mas

Y esta noche te vine a decir,

"Te quiero..."

[Despierta, composed by G. Ruiz, as interpreted by Jorge Negrete in Las 100 Clasicas Rancheras, Vol. 2, BMG Entertainment Mexico S.A. de V.V., 2001. Copyright (c), 2001, BMG Music]

Well, as time passed by, the Mariachis donned the attire so that they may accompany one so formally dressed for a special occasion (i.e., the Charro in courting his betrothed). So the formal attire of the "traje de gala" with its wide-brim sombrero would remain as the symbol and icon of the region of Jalisco in the annals of Mexican folklorico dance. And the mariachis would use this costume as their attire when they play the music of Mexico.

Podcast coming soon

Be advised that the podcast titled "Arriba! Folklorico music and dance of Mexico" will soon be available on iTunes and other podcatchers.

The first episode of the podcast is available now. Click here to listen to the mp3 link.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Arriba! Folklorico music and dance of Mexico