Tuesday, November 14th 2023

The Guitars of Paracho, Michoacan

Written by

Rafael Bracho

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The Guitars of Paracho, Michoacan

In the mountains of the Mexican state of Michoacan lies a small pueblo that, for 400 years, has specialized in the manufacture of guitars: Paracho. Here, families have hand-crafted guitars for generations. Known to make some of the finest guitars in the world, Paracho, Michoacan has also begun to draw tourism—not only for its guitars, but also for its picturesque environment.


So famous is Paracho, that when the movie Coco was being made, Pixar called upon a Paracho luthier—or a person who makes string instruments—to design the emblematic guitar that was used by Ernesto de la Cruz, the film’s main antagonist. Paracho, Michoacan is almost certainly the guitar capital of the world.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of Paracho, what types of guitars you can likely find in Paracho, how a guitar is made in Paracho, and the best ways to go about buying a guitar in Paracho, Michoacan.

About Paracho

The Guitars of Paracho, Michoacan


Paracho was a Teco settlement before the Spanish arrived, and it gets its name from the Chichimeca word for “offering”. Upon their arrival in 1529, the conquistadores drove away the indigenous community there and established a town.

Long before Paracho’s colonial founding in the 16th century, the area was known for its woodworking. Indigenous craftsmen fashioned copper and clay pottery, which they traded with the Aztecs, but their most impressive pieces were of wood, due to the pine trees in the surrounding mountains. Many objects are still made from wood in Paracho, Michoacan, from small kitchen utensils to furniture, but it’s become most famous for its production of one thing: guitars.

Today, Paracho is like any sleepy, Mexican village. It has a cathedral and a kiosk in the center of town where local wares are sold. On Thursdays, people from the outlying villages come into town to sell their crafts at the local market. You can find nice restaurants across from the plaza, and the nearby Guitar Museum will teach you about the history of Paracho and its fascination with guitars. You can even take a tour of several guitar manufacturing workshops and learn how guitars are made by the luthiers who make them.


How A Guitar Is Made

The Guitars of Paracho, Michoacan

Many guitars in Paracho are assembled using machine-crafted parts, but some few luthiers still living in Paracho make every piece by hand. Their guitars are considered some of the finest in the world. These pieces can sell for tens of thousands of dollars; many of the area’s luthiers have waitlists of two years or more.

*To see a short video about these expert luthiers, click here.

To make a guitar, first the tapa is made. This is the outer cover, where the sound hole sits. The sound hole is surrounded by what’s called a “rosette”, which is a structural piece that reinforces the sound hole, while providing a chance for personalized decoration.

Then the huanokuas are installed, which is a Purépecha term for the internal support structure of the guitar. These are carefully calibrated to ensure that the guitar holds its shape properly. Then the back piece is attached to the frame.

Afterward, the neck and headstock are installed. This is the part of the guitar that has the fingerboard/fretboard. This is where you press your fingers to select the musical notes you want to play. Finally, the guitar is stained—or painted—and guitar strings are put on the neck. Then it’s ready to play!


*To see a short video about how a guitar is made in Paracho, click here.

What Types of Guitars Does Paracho Make

The Guitars of Paracho, Michoacan

There are lots of different types of guitars made in Paracho, beyond the standard classical guitar. In Paracho, you can find several types of instruments:

Bajo Sexto - a type of guitar with 12 strings arranged in six pairs Bajo Quinto - similar to the bajo quinto, with five pairs of strings Classical guitars Requintos - a smaller version of the classical guitar with a slightly higher tone Guitarron - a large bass guitar of the type used in Mariachi bands Cuatro - a small, round-bodied guitar of Spanish origin Tiple - a small guitar with four sets of three strings Tres - a type of guitar that is common in Cuba Vihuela - a type of guitar from Medieval Spain, similar to the lute


The Annual Guitar Fair in Paracho

The Guitars of Paracho, Michoacan

Every year in August, the town holds its Annual Guitar Fair. Guitarists and luthiers from all over the world come to Paracho to share their skills and craftsmanship with like-minded people. This is one of the biggest tourist attractions in this small town. Musicians, dealers, retailers, and tourists all come to see, hear, and purchase Paracho’s finest guitars.

How To Buy A Guitar in Paracho

The Guitars of Paracho, Michoacan

Well, you can get Paracho guitars online at websites like this one, but it doesn’t compare to the experience of visiting the shops in Paracho where the instruments are fabricated and actually playing them.

You should approach buying a guitar similarly to any other product in the market. Shop around, play different guitars, say you’re interested but you’re going to check out some other spots. And most importantly, don’t forget to haggle. This is expected—unless you’re shopping for the absolute finest guitars on the planet. If that’s the case, you should recognize this guitar likely took years to manufacture and its price is a set price.

*To learn more about shopping for guitars in Paracho, click here to see an extensive video about what kinds of guitars are available.


The Guitars of Paracho, Michoacan

The guitars of Paracho have become world-famous, and rightfully so. Master luthiers have been crafting guitars in Paracho, Michoacan for over 400 years—often a generational affair where children learn the family art from their parents.


I’ve spent 20+ years playing guitar, and I remember my first guitar was from Paracho. The sound it made was incredible, rich and warm like an atole in the morning, and when I think of that guitar, it’s with fond memories. Sure, over the years, it broke with a long crack in the body. But it had an excellent sound even though it had a crack in the body, and I gave it to my cousin so it could be his first guitar as well.

In the end, Paracho, Michoacan is just another example of how deep the cultural roots run in Mexico.

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