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Mariachi Music Gains in Popularity




Hello, and welcome to As It Is from VOA Learning English!

I’m Christopher Cruise in Washington.

Today on the program we will tell you about -- and listen to -- different kinds of American music. We will report on the growing popularity of mariachi music -- especially in states along the border with Mexico.

“It is a combination of everything. Like, I believe it’s the melting pot of, of the world, and music-wise.”

Then we will tell you how some Americans used music to support -- and then fight -- an amendment to the United States Constitution.

“There are people who stop drinking alcohol. About one in five Americans take a temperance pledge -- that is, an anti-drinking pledge.”

More listeners to mariachi music, and how music played a part in an American constitutional debate: those are our subjects today on As It Is.

Mariachi Music Gains Popularity Across Ethnic Lines

Mariachi music has been popular among Mexican-Americans in the United States for more than a century. It is especially popular in Texas and other states along the border with Mexico. There are now mariachi groups in all parts of the U.S. and in some European and Asian nations.

Mariachi music has long been popular with the large Mexican-American population in San Antonio, Texas.
A Mariachi band plays at The Quail, a motorsports gathering, in Carmel, California, August 16, 2013.

A Mariachi band plays at The Quail, a motorsports gathering, in Carmel, California, August 16, 2013.


Among the young performers at a recent event was 12-year-old Ajani Rhames. She is not of Mexican ancestry. She is an African-American. She says she fell in love with the songs she heard in Mexican restaurants and on local radio stations.

“I like ‘Las Margaritas,’ which is about daisies and I like ‘El Pastor,’ which is about a shepherd.”

Concert producer Cynthia Munoz says Anani Rhames shows the appeal of mariachi music.

“She feels this very strong connection and love for the music and it sends a very powerful message to our entire community that this music is truly international.”

Singer William Carlton Wayne Galvez is an example of the ethnic mix of mariachi music. He describes himself as one-third Mexican, one-third Anglo and one-third African American. He says the music represents it all.
William Carlton Wayne Galvez sings at a mariachi event in San Antonio, Texas.

William Carlton Wayne Galvez sings at a mariachi event in San Antonio, Texas.


“It is a combination of everything. Like, I believe it is the melting pot of, of the world, and music-wise.”

Singers are at the center of mariachi concerts. Guitars, violins and horns are among the instruments that create the mariachi sound.

Texas public schools and state colleges have programs that provide training and a chance to perform in public.

Music Fuels the Fight Over Alcohol Ban

The U.S. Congress approved the 21st Amendment to the Constitution more than 80 years ago -- on December 5th, 1933. The amendment cancelled an earlier ban on the production and sale of alcohol in the country. It also marked the end of a political struggle that lasted more than 100 years. The struggle had been argued, in part, through music.

Many issues captured the attention of Americans in the years between the War for Independence in the late 1700s and the Civil War in the 1860s. They included the separation of state and religion, and US relations with France and England. While those and other issues came and went, the battle over one subject never stopped. That subject was alcohol.

The war against alcohol in the US started in the early 1800s. Before then, Americans had been heavy drinkers.

Scott Gac is a professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He wrote a book about reform in the 19th century. He says that in the 1820s and 1830s, American religious leaders began saying that God wanted people to take better care of themselves.

“So they start eating differently. There are people who actually became some of the first vegetarians in the United States. There are people who stop drinking alcohol. About one in five Americans take a temperance pledge -- that is, an anti-drinking pledge. The breadwinner in the family was going out, spending what little money he had, and thus creating poverty for his family. So, his, his wife had to work, his kids had to go out and beg on the street, so drunkenness was eating at the core of American families.”

Christian leaders were largely responsible for what became known as the “temperance movement.” As a result, many of the movement’s songs were based on popular Christian hymns. People sang these songs at meetings of groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Its members were known to go out and attack public drinking places with axes.
U.S. rrohibition agents destroy a bar in an undated photo held by the National Archives and Records Administration.

U.S. rrohibition agents destroy a bar in an undated photo held by the National Archives and Records Administration.


By 1900, more than half of the American states had gone “dry.” In other words, they restricted -- or even banned -- the sale of alcohol. Many other people opposed the restrictions. They also expressed themselves in song.

Soon after World War I, temperance supporters had enough votes in Congress to approve a nationwide ban on alcohol. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution banned “the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors.”

But the Constitution still protected people’s right to argue that the prohibition of alcohol was a bad idea. And they did.
Citizens in a bar celebrate the end of alcohol prohibition in the United States, December 5, 1933.

Citizens in a bar celebrate the end of alcohol prohibition in the United States, December 5, 1933.


The ban on alcohol lasted 13 years. By 1933, the anti-alcohol forces admitted defeat. Congress cancelled the 18th Amendment, and alcohol flowed freely again in the United States. And that, too, was cause for song.

And that’s our program for today.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

Thank you for joining me today on As It Is on The Voice of America.

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