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Genaro Codina and the “Zacatecas” March


Carlos Esteva Loyola Genaro Codina-Fernández (September 10, 1852 – November 22, 1901) was a Mexican composer who composed the March of Zacatecas considered as the second national anthem or as the National Anthem of the Charrería Mexican . Codina was born in the city of Zacatecas in the state of Zacatecas , Mexico ,  on September 10, 1852.  His parents were Santiago Codina and María Dolores Fernández, belonging to middle class families. They directed their efforts in the formation of Genaro, and they registered him in a prestigious school that Luis Galindo directed. At an early age he showed an inclination for art and learned to play several instruments, but the one he dominated was the harp.  It is said that he played the harp with skill and interpreted fashionable melodies as well as his compositions.   As a young man he dedicated himself mainly to pyrotechnics, and under his direction the fireworks were made that were burned year after year, during the patriotic celebrations of Zacatecas.

Codina’s teacher Fernando Villalpando Ávila motivated him to continue with his musical studies and later to produce works.   Codina married Mariana González with whom he had two daughters, Luz and Herlinda.   He dedicated some of his works to them.  The older one, who was more graceful, especially served to inspire him to compose.  When he held the position of accountant at the Casa de Moneda, he composed a march to the then President of the Republic, General Porfirio Diaz , in 1887, who in recognition named him to the position of Accountant of the Treasury Headquarters in Zacatecas. To take that position, he was forced to abandon the one he had in the Mint.  This march, published by the old Casa A. Wagner and Levien firm in Mexico City was very successful and quite popular.

It is said that one afternoon of the year of 1891, several people were gathered in the house of the composer Fernando Villalpando, among whom was Codina. Apparently, at the height of the conversation, a challenge arose between the two musicians to see which of the two could compose the best military march. Once the bet was made, it was agreed that the winner of the musical contest would dedicate his march to the then governor of Zacatecas, General Jesús Aréchiga. Each one went separately to write their march, and several days later, while walking in the park today known as Alameda García de la Cadena, Codina was blessed by inspiration, and immediately went to his favorite instrument, which was the harp, and he wrote the first version of his march.

Shortly after, this march and the one that Villalpando had composed were submitted to the scrutiny of a private jury of friends, and the march of Codina was declared as the better of the two. Faithful to the spirit of the original bet, Codina and Villalpando organized a serenade in the Hidalgo garden in the city of Zacatecas with the Municipal Band of Zacatecas, to present the march before the governor. As palpable evidence that there was no bad blood between the two adversaries, Villalpando not only made the arrangement for the band from the original of Codina for harp, but also took charge of directing the band on the opening day of the March Aréchiga; that’s where the song earned the title of Himno Regional de Zacatecas (English: Regional Anthem of Zacatecas).

When the March Arèchiga was dedicated to the governor, Arèchiga declined the honor of the dedication and suggested changing the name to Marcha Zacatecas.   In the winter of 1892, a new instrumentation of the March was made by the violinist Aurelio Elias, director of the Music Band of the Children’s Hospice of Guadalupe. It was interpreted in the Hospicio de Niños as an exam subject, by the band of the same establishment, under the direction of Elias. Later it was executed under the direction of Primitivo Caler by the Orquesta Típica de Señoritas in the Theater of the city of Zacatecas, in April of 1893.  Codina died on November 22, 1901, at his home in the street of Compañía, in Zacatecas.  His remains rest in the Mausoleum of the Zacatecan Distinguished Men , in the pantheon of La Purisima.

Codina had been a very popular musician in the streets of Zacatecas.  In 1942 a great civic act took place in the Calderón Theater in memory of Codina and Villalpando, as the City Council of the City of Zacatecas ordered a plaque to be placed in the house number 16 of the street where he lived, and from then on, the street name was changed to that of this outstanding composer. The March of Zacatecas (Spanish: Marcha de Zacatecas) is not only a Mexican patriotic song, but also the anthem of the State of Zacatecas and considered the second national anthem of Mexico.  Via “Zacatecas March” Codina influenced many other composers, including allegations of influence on “Washington and Lee Swing” (q.v.).

The following work by Genaro Codina is contained in my collection:

Zacatecas March.

One thought on “Genaro Codina and the “Zacatecas” March

  1. Hello Dear Mexican Friends, I am trying to trace Fernando Villalpando. I have different dates for him: 1870-1905 and 1844-1902. Can you help? Muchas Gracias, Daniel Vernhettes, Paris, France

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