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#SundaySongs: Mexicana Hermosa

One gem in our collection is Mexican Orchestra, a painting by Raoul Dufy. Dufy was a Fauvist—a movement which emphasized strong color and spontaneous technique over representational painting. He developed a style distinctive for its lively use of line, and for stopping color short, or bleeding it across outlines, to create the sensation of movement.

Mexican Orchestra, c. 1951, Raoul Dufy (French, 1877–1953), Gouache and watercolor on paper, Gift of Sheila and Alvin Ukman, 1977.6.2.

This energetic and colorful painting was created around 1951, right around the time that Dufy traveled to Mexico and fell in love with mariachi bands. Dufy was raised in a family of musicians and music was a frequent subject of his work. After his trip to Mexico, he completed a series of works based on his visit.

A mariachi band in front of Mission San Gabriel, [s.d.], Los Angeles, California, USC Libraries Special Collections, CHS-46761.

Mariachi is a type of traditional Mexican folk music dating back as far as the 18th century. These groups of violin, guitar, stringed instruments and singers were hired to perform at weddings and other celebrations. Around the turn of the century, the music was popularized as mariachi bands performed at Mexican Independence celebrations, and around 1930-40 trumpets were added to mariachi ensembles. Today, mariachi is an important expression of Mexican identity. In the words of Michelle Barba and Amanda Soto, “A great mariachi is one that moves the emotions of the audience while understanding and representing the expressions of the Mexican people through music.”

For this week’s #SundaySong, I thought that a new-wave mariachi song by the Mexican folk and pop artist, Natalia Lafourcade would be the perfect accompaniment. Lafourcade was born in Mexico City into a family of musicians and artists.

Lafourcade’s song, Mexicana Hermosa, which also features Mexican singer Carlos Rivera, is a love song to her home country and comes from her Latin Grammy nominated Musas… album. Lafourcade says of the song,

I made a song for Mexico: “Beautiful Mexican.” Many Mexicans forgot that we are brothers. We are all one . . . I love being Mexican and I will always feel proud to be Mexican…

It is worth watching the video below so that you can see the full “Mexican orchestra” accompanying Lafourcade––the same mariachi band tradition that Dufy was inspired to depict in his painting.