Stamping Mariachi Music into History

Catherine A. Jones
 | January 31, 2024

The United States Postal Service debuted a new set of stamps featuring mariachi two years ago. And they’re still creating buzz. They’re stamped into the nation’s history, thanks to a Mexican artist’s unique vision.

The Postal Service had asked Artist Rafael López to design “a commemorative stamp representing Latin American culture in the United States,” NPR explains. It was Lopez’s idea to do something unique. He thought of a mariachi band. But not just one.

” … I went back to the director and I said, ‘what if we actually have five different musicians? You can’t fit five of them in one little step. I don’t think that’s enough honor, you know, to mariachi music,’” López told NPR.

The rest is history … stamp history.

Mariachi Music and Stamp History

Today, the mariachi stamps hold a special spot in the National Postal Museum and with the National Museum of the American Latino.

Even though new stamps featuring a variety of topics are debuted every year in the U.S., none are like these.

“It’s the first time a mariachi band is featured on U.S. stamps, according to the Postal Museum,” NPR reports, adding: “… for some in the Latino community, it’s recognition of how their heritage and culture are part of the American fabric.”

Just this month, the National Museum of the American Latino posted an announcement on social media reminding its followers of the artistically Latino stamps showcased online in the Postal Museum and as the subject of its official video, sponsored by the United States government. 

The announcement was welcomed by fans of the museum’s work in preserving Latino heritage.

“I am so proud to own the Mariachi US stamps. They are lovely work of art! #mariachi #chicana #grito 🇲🇽🇺🇸❤️ 🎻 🎺 🎶,” Sandra Martinez , M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction , MCT, commented.

President and Founder of Fonico, LLC, Herman Rodriguez-Bajandas, wrote: “As a music professional, a philatelist, and a fan, Love It!”

And Author Leticia Colon de Mejias commented: “YES so many of us, such diversity with in our Latino/a[‘s”

Meet the Artist Behind the Mariachi Stamps

Award-winning Mexican-born Artist Rafael López, who calls San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and San Diego, Calif. home, was commissioned to create stamps honoring Latino heritage for the U. S. Postal Service. Before the stamps, he was best known for his children’s book illustrations and many murals.

“Mariachi music is an emblem of Mexican cultural heritage with roots in the United States and followers around the globe,” Lopez explains on his official website.

In an interview with LAist, which is part of Southern California Public Radio, Rafael López, explained how he illustrated 13 stamps for U.S. Postal Service, including a set of Latin music legends. He told LAist that the key was choosing bold simple details.

His Mariachi Forever stamps focus on what López called the “five central instruments” of mariachi — the guitarra, guitarrón, vihuela, violin and the trumpet.

And he purposely included women musicians “to represent their inroads into the traditionally male-dominated genre.”

As for inspiration, López says he thought of vintage travel posters, musicians from San Miguel de Allende’s El Jardín or central plaza, and the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.

“They always lost the girls, went to a bar, got drunk and Mariachis magically appeared behind them, and you go, ‘Wait a minute, that never happens to me when I feel sad,’” López told LAist.

López says he researched Mariachi bands from Europe to Japan as well.

“That really made me so proud too, that Latinos contribute to something that many people from different cultures can can really take on as their own and learn to love it,” López said in his interview with LAist.

Lopez’s mariachi stamps are sold by the postal service, but they live in the nation’s history in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum’s exhibit focusing on “an exploration of Mexican mariachi music with a children’s book and museum objects …” Admission is always free.

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