Rattles in form of vase or gourd, generally with a spherical shape and internal hammers. They are used in pairs and one is different from the other in size or weight thus providing a tonal and pitch difference between both. They are grabbed by a handle.
Maraca is the widespread and extended word used in Cuba whenever it participates in performing ensembles, though this is also the name used in a number of Latin American countries, mainly in the Caribbean Basin. Other American countries use similar words of Amerindian origin. Some eastern municipalities in Cuba call it also guira or guirita. Instrumental groups of calypso, merengue or gagá call them chachá since this was the name given to these rattles by Haitians and their descendants.
In keeping with their pitch quality, the low-pitched maraca is called macho (male) and the high-pitched maraca is called hembra (female). The seeds, pellets, pebbles or other small hammers introduced inside the gourd or vase are called munitions; and the performer of these instruments is called maraquero (maraca player).
They are handcrafted mainly by the performer himself. Almost throughout the country the most usual way of manufacturing the maracas is by using the spherical fruit of the guira. In general, they are played in pairs. The maraquero or maraca player takes one in each hand: the female maraca in the right hand and the male maraca in the left hand.
The maracas are currently used in religious manifestations as secular instruments of the Cuban folkloric and popular music, though it is worth noting that their presence and most important functions are inherently associated with instrumental son ensembles.
According to Fernando Ortiz, the maracas are almost universal instruments so it is very difficult to specify the true origin of the maracas in the Antilles region. Even today, the origin of this instrument cannot be categorically stated though, as a result of a number of research studies and searches, we can say that the Cuban maracas derived from a complex overlapping process of different syntactic elements with deep Bantu roots over other Hispanic, Cuban and Caribbean elements which resulted in an eminently national instrument.