Playing the Marimba


This photograph from Costa Rica shows a marimba player accompanied by two guitarists. The marimba, believed to have originated in southern Africa, was brought to South America in the early 16th century by Africans taken there as slaves. In the 1890s, the Guatemalan marimba builder Sebastian Hurtado made an instrument with a wooden resonator pipe instead of a gourd, an innovation that formed the basis of the modern marimba. The photograph is from the collection of the Columbus Memorial Library of the Organization of American States (OAS), which includes 45,000 photographs illustrative of life and culture in the Americas. Many of the photographs were taken by prominent photographers on OAS missions to member countries. The OAS was established in April 1948 when 21 countries of the western hemisphere adopted the OAS Charter, in which they reaffirmed their commitment to the pursuit of common goals and respect for each other’s sovereignty. Since then, the OAS has expanded to include the countries of the English-speaking Caribbean as well as Canada. The predecessor organization to the OAS was the Pan American Union, founded in 1910, which in turn grew out of the International Union of American Republics, established at the First International Conference of American States in 1889-90.

Last updated: September 22, 2014