Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with Mariachi Music

It that time of year! It is Cinco de Mayo (5th of May). I would like to share how I celebrate this holiday in my music classroom.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate Mexican music, Mexican food, and Mexican cultural arts. On television, we see many products such as avocados from Mexico, Cinco de Mayo dinner specials at Mexican restaurants, and even Mexican-style party favors on sale during this time of the year. Here, I will talk about the facts that you can use with your students about Cinco de Mayo and information you can use as you tell your students about what a Mariachi is.

“Cinco de Mayo” translated into English is May 5th. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day—that day is on September 16th. This day is an important day in Mexico because on May 5th, 1862, the French invaded the small town of Puebla Mexican, which started the Battle of Puebla, which last about three hours. The Mexican Army was able to defeat the French Army in this battle. After the Battle of Puebla, Mexico made Cinco de Mayo a national Mexican holiday to celebrate the national victory over the French. Today in the town of Puebla, Mexico, they celebrate Cinco de Mayo by having a big fiesta in town and a reenactment of the Battle of Puebla.

In the United States, we see Cinco De Mayo celebrations including Mexican food. Mariachi music is performed in big cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago. I teach Mariachi music at Wenatchee High School in Wenatchee, Washington, with over 50% of our school coming from Mexican descent. This is a busy time for our Mariachi program; we cannot keep up with the demand of requests from people in the community wanting Mariachi music for Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo

Photo courtesy of Ramon Rivera

I encourage you to use Cinco de Mayo as a way of bringing Mariachi music into your classroom. First, show your class a video of a Mariachi that can be easily found on YouTube. Here is a list of Mariachi bands that are the top groups in Mexico and the United States:

Mariachi music traditional songs include:

music program

Photo courtesy of Ramon Rivera


What Is Mariachi Music? 

Mariachi music is traditional folk music from Mexico that includes five different instruments. Mariachi music was born in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.


From What Part of Mexico is Mariachi Music?

Mariachi music is native to the region of the western states of Mexico that include Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacán, and Colima.


Photo courtesy of Ramon Rivera

What Are the Instruments in Mariachi Band?

The guitarron is the bass of the mariachi and is the most important part of the mariachi. This six-string bass guitar is played with two strings at the same time. The guitarrón strings are A, D, G, C, E, and A.

The vihuela is a creation of the Coca Indian of southwestern Jalisco in Mexico. The vihuela is a five-string guitar with a hump back. The vihuela is part of the armonia section of the mariachi. The vihuela strings are A, D, G, B, and E.

The trumpet is a standard instrument used in the mariachi. A mariachi has one to two trumpets in the band. The trumpets and violins play the melody of the mariachi songs.

The violin is a four-stringed instrument tuned in perfect fifths and is played with a bow. The violins and trumpets play the melody in a mariachi song. The strings on a violin are G, D, A, and E.

The guitar is a six-stringed instrument and is part of the armonia family in the mariachi. It plays the rhythms of the mariachi in different patterns. Strings on a guitar are: E, A, D, G, B, and E.


Image courtesy of Ramon Rivera

What Is the Mariachi Uniform (Traje de Charro)?


Mariachi Music Review

music education

Photo courtesy of Ramon Rivera

Cinco de Mayo is a great way of including Mariachi music in your classroom. A great way to add to the lesson is to have a Mexican food day. You can do something as simple as chips and salsa, or you can go all out with a Mexican taco bar. Next time your students see a Mariachi live or on television, they will be able to know where Mariachi music comes from, know which instruments are included, and name the parts of the uniform.

Read Ramon Rivera’s last blog, “Celebrate Day of the Dead with the New Disney●Pixar Movie ‘Coco’!

About the author:

music teacherRamon Rivera is a mariachi teacher at Pioneer Middle School and Wenatchee High School in Wenatchee, Washington. Wenatchee, in North Central Washington, is known as the Apple Capital of the United States. The student population in the two schools where Mr. Rivera teaches in Wenatchee is 51% Latino.

Ramon Rivera’s music program at Wenatchee High School is a Give A Note Foundation grant recipient. Ramon Rivera was also named a 2017 CMA Music Teacher of Excellence by the CMA Foundation in spring 2017.


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