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Filled with passion, rhythm, and stories of life, love, and loss, mariachi music is an integral element of Mexican American culture that has found fans worldwide.

“Mariachi” refers to several things: to the music itself; to an individual musician or an ensemble of musicians; and, used as an adjective, to anything identified with the music, be it dance or costume or culture. We spoke with art director Derry Noyes and artist Rafael López about the journey to create these vibrant Mariachi Forever® stamps. 

“The best part of each stamp assignment is the learning curve,” says Noyes, “and Rafael was the perfect partner for this assignment. We quickly realized one stamp would not be enough. Instead, he illustrated five stamps representing each member of a traditional mariachi band.”

“Mariachi is a part of my culture,” López says, “and I dove deep into its history to bring as much detail as possible to these well-loved characters.” 

First, López studied old photographs of mariachi and watched films from the 1930s, known today as “The Golden Age” of Mexican cinema. Every day he worked on the project, mariachi music played in the background.

Artist Rafael López explored several creative directions for his mariachi musicians. He started with pencil sketches of their silhouettes, then added detail and color before working digitally.

López dressed his band members in traditional costumes called the traje de charro. He then selected some of the genre’s most iconic instruments — guitar, guitarrón, vihuela, violin, and trumpet — for each performer and intentionally included a female singer and violin player.

“More women are becoming mariachi, and I wanted to honor their remarkable contributions to the music,” López explains. “Female mariachi who have seen the stamp so far have been thrilled to be included.” 

Getting every detail right was essential to López. “To perfect my illustrations, I took photos of my nephews and my own hands playing instruments so the fingering would be correct,” he says. “And I drew each performer actively singing so we could inject the energy of the music into the stamps.”

Taking his inspiration from the old travel posters of the national parks and the Mexican plazas of the time, López created backgrounds for the stamps with the rich, warm colors and motifs of the Southwest. 

“Rafael drove the direction, and I made it work visually in the tiny stamp pane,” says Noyes. “I’m so proud of the beauty and joy in these stamps. I hope people will want to learn more about the culture and history behind them.”

For López, the response from the Hispanic community has been incredible. “It was time to recognize the cultural importance of mariachi, not just for the Hispanic community but for the world,” he says. “The music's joy, sorrow, loss, and hope speak to everyone. I'm humbly honored to have been part of this project.”

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