The first incarnation of the group Mariachi Vargas de Tecatitlán began in 1898 as a quartet, and over the decades (and into the 21st century) the ensemble would become one of the most important in Mexican music history. For five generations Mariachi Vargas has endured as the quintessential mariachi, appearing in more than 200 films and making numerous recordings.
The origins of the mariachi orchestra date back to the Spanish-derived string groups of the early 19th century in the Mexican state of Jalisco, and now the mariachi orchestra serves as the basis of the regional Mexican son jaliciense form. By the early 20th century, mariachi groups had established their ensemble collection of violins, guitars (and guitar relatives) along with trumpets and the harp, were regarded as semiprofessional groups in and around Jalisco.
Founded in 1898, Mariachi Vargas emerged as one of the most celebrated mariachi groups, and acquired national success upon its presentation at the inaugural celebration of President Lázaro Cárdenas in 1934. Musical director Rubén Fuentes (who joined the group in 1944) would go on to arrange music for many of Mexico's celebrated singers and composers such as Lola Beltrán, Pedro Infante and José Alfredo Jiménez. The band's seminal work throughout the coming decades set the tone for many mariachi ensembles by insisting that all of the group's musicians know how to read music, resulting in a more refined and trained ensemble. Credited with modernizing the genre, Mariachi Vargas' meticulously crafted arrangements helped to propel the national pride for what would become Mexico's classical sound.
Mariachi Vargas became renowned as the definitive mariachi ensemble, and its classic sound has won the group numerous awards and accolades, including the title of "World's Best Mariachi" since the 1950s. The band actively participates in international mariachi festivals in order to promote the pride of the genre and encourage young mariachis to pursue lifelong careers.
Mariachi Vargas' appearance on Linda Rondstadt's well-received Canciones de Mi Padre won the vocalist a Grammy in 1987; she would later go on to tour with the group, exposing international audiences to the Mexican mariachi sound.