3 May 2013
Singing your love
Or paying others to do it for you.
As a reminder of a not so distant dark past, a young man approached me as I was walking towards a precise destination in downtown Mexico City, offering me to buy the (unique) gold bracelet he held in his hands... and most likely stolen a few minutes earlier. But that brief sense of insecurity vanished as I entered Plaza Garibaldi, one of the most famous Mexican places where to enjoy mariachi, which is as iconic to Mexico as baguette is to France.
Mariachi, an interchangeable word to describe both the musicians and that form of folk music which has evolved over time, only becoming an urban phenomenon in Mexico over the past century. Spaniards introduced violins, guitars and trumpets, completely replacing indigenous instruments from what I could observe.
Men, mostly, perfectly dressed in handsome red, black or white costumes, were patiently waiting on the square, in an obvious spirit of camaraderie, chatting to one another, waiting for the sunset to befall when more and more people would gather on the square or take a drink in the adjacent cafes, possibly paying for a serenade or simply enjoying the music and the general atmosphere. I could tell that the warm smiles and melodious music of the mariachis could also soothe bruised hearts and those wishing to forget about a lost love.
On that Friday evening however, mariachis outnumbered the number of passers-by – there are apparently thousands of mariachis entitled to work on the Plaza – some being a little bit too insistent for the latter to pay for a tune. I felt a little sorry for them: I could imagine them methodically cleaning and ironing their attire every day, shining their shoes, with the hope of trying to make a living. But that’s only fair game – and looking back at my pictures now, it’s also obvious that the majority are genuinely enjoying themselves: see how those who sing put all their heart to it, discern how musicians are focused on their instruments, notice the winks, dimples and smiles of the others. And that makes me smile too.