Mariachi music originated in Guadalajara, so it's not surprising there's still tons of it around town. The word mariachi comes from the French word "mariage"; this romantic music was originally played at weddings--but only on stringed instruments, though nowadays bands are known for their brass.
Mariachis still play at weddings, and also at any other festive occasion or even on the one-song whim of a passer-by. Band members are easy to spot in their spangled tight suits, with embroidery or metal embellishments up the sides of their trousers or skirts; they wear matching jackets, big bow ties, gleaming belt buckles and (sometimes) big sombreros.
Besides the trumpets and violins, you might hear the small "vihuela" guitar or the big bass "guitarron." One of the most famous mariachi songs is "Cielito Lindo" with the line: "Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores" (sing and don't cry). Another biggie you'll almost always hear in Guadalajara, usually at the rousing finish of a performance, is about the city itself: "Guadalajara, Guadalajara, tienes el alma de provinciana, hueles a limpia rosa temprana" (Guadalajara, Guadalajara, you have a provincial soul, you smell like a clean/fresh early rose).
If you can't attend the Encuentro Internacional del Mariachis (www.mariachi-jalisco.com.mx) in early September, when mariachi bands from around the world flock to Guadalajara, you can still catch performances almost daily around town or pay for a private performance yourself.
Spruced up and rededicated in December 2009, the Plaza de los Mariachis is in a fairly seedy neighborhood just east of downtown, but mariachi bands are there every day and night, standing around trying to drum up business, more so after 10 p.m. You can hire a band to play at your table in one of the sidewalk caf├ęs or restaurants there for 100 pesos or more a song. Mariachi bands also play in the bandstand of Plaza de las Armas.
Free performances are regularly scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesdays, but many is the 7 p.m. Wednesday when the band is not there but the audience is. So don't pin your hopes on these free performances. You can also watch mariachi bands perform in theme restaurants. One of the most popular and accessible is Casa Bariachi (Av. Vallarta 2221, tel: 33/3616-9900 or 33/3615-0029), with performances at 3:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Monday - Saturday.
The Plaza de los Mariachis is just east of Calzada Independencia, between Javier Mina and Alvaro Obreg├│n. Look for the signs and the mariachi players standing around.
Plaza de los Mariachis, Guadalajara
Relative price: Budget
Travel Skills: beginner/easy.
Other places to go around here:Mercado Libertad (San Juan de Dios), Templo de San Juan de Dios