Mariachi performers are what most of the world instantly identify with Mexico, whether they realize it or not: men in decorative suits and large brimmed hat and women in bright skirts and shawls.
The music is a unique combination of guitar, vihuela, guitarron, and trumpets. If a full orchestra is involved, you may see other instruments. The Guitarron, a 6-string acoustic bass, gives Mariachi music its unique sound. The most traditional of the Mariachi songs is the Mexican Hat Dance (Jarabe Tapatio); even when I was a child we learned this in school. And, if this music has found its way to Canada, then it has certainly permeated the culture of California.
For the Mariachi show we attended at Fiesta de Reyes, Mariachi was piped onto the stage and Zapateado dancers enhanced the music with their feet. There’s a lot of debate over the origins of this type of dance. It’s very very similar to Flamenco, which is thought to have originated in the hills of Sacromonte with the gypsies. However, others claim that Zapateado was the traditional dance of the indigenous peoples of Mexico long before colonization, and when the Spanish arrived in Mexico, they stole the dance and brought it back to Spain.