In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Mexico

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Theory and Methods
  • Bibliographies

Music Mexico
Alejandro L. Madrid
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 March 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0025


The systematic study of music was born out of the European projects of nation building at the end of the 19th century. The case of Latin America is not different; the link between the development of music scholarship and state policies of nationalism is also very strong. One could trace music scholarship in Mexico back to the efforts of a few dilettantes at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, but it was with the project of nation building that followed the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s that the systematic study of music solidified around scholars known as “musicographers” (largely folklorists and historians). It is no surprise that, at a time when intellectuals and politicians alike were concerned with defining a “national identity,” the work of Rubén M. Campos, Vicente T. Mendoza, and Daniel Castañeda, some of Mexico’s first “musicographers,” focused on the folk and indigenous traditions that they believed embodied the essence of “Mexicanness.” The study of concert art music, by scholars like Jesús C. Romero, was also defined according to issues of sonic representation of the nation. As the study of music solidified in Mexico toward the 1960s and 1970s, scholars continued to focus on folk and indigenous musics (as in most of Latin America, Mexican scholars used the term “popular music” to refer to these practices, which I avoid for the sake of clarity and uniformity of terminology with an international readership); early-20th-century art music (the so-called “nationalist” period); and later, the cataloguing of cathedral music from the colonial period. A glimpse at this bibliography shows how Mexican scholarship has privileged these types of musics to the detriment of 19th-century and more recent 20th-century music, or more critical and analytical approaches—which may question some of the assumptions upon which the idea of a “Mexican essence” may be built. In the 1990s, as in other parts of the world, interest in systematically engaging music produced for and by the entertainment industry came from journalists or scholars in fields like sociology and communications. Yet, throughout this scholarship, the nation-state remains the prevalent unit of interpretation of musical phenomena. Only recently—and very reluctantly—have Mexican music scholars opened their research agendas to question music not from the perspective of the nation-state but from the transnational experience of the people who make it and consume it.

General Overviews

This section offers works of largely historical character that attempt to cover the general spectrum of Mexican music or provide a general overview of a specific type of Mexican music tradition. The section is divided in three subsections: Art Music includes histories of Western art music in Mexico; Folk Music is about traditional indigenous and mestizo musics; and Popular Music is about musics related to the Mexican music industry.

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