Forget the DJ and hire a mariachi band for your next party. Here in Mexico City, all you have to do is head to Plaza Garibaldi, where bands vie for gigs, play the latest in their repertoire, and talk shop. We spent the afternoon chatting with a few of these stylish musicians and got an earful. Find a band of your liking at Plaza Garibaldi…
Today we decided to check out Plaza Garibaldi just north of the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It’s the hang out for mariachi bands and other Mexican traditional music groups looking to get a gig at a local party. Instead of searching classified ads or yellow page listings, anyone hoping to liven up their wedding or quinceañera (sweet fifteen party for girls that is a tradition in Mexico) comes to the Plaza to find a suitable group.
Some groups are small—just a couple of guitarists and a harpist (called jarochos)—while the typical mariachi setups are larger and include guitar, guitarrón (a plump bass guitar), trumpeters, and a whole violin section. What all of the groups do have in common is their dapper attire—pressed black or white three piece suits that are equal parts cowboy and classy. The mariachi take it a step further, with decorative metal trim along their pants, and matching sombreros.
When we arrived there were a smattering of partially formed groups, chatting the afternoon away or half-heartedly tuning their instruments. We approached a dapper looking harpist named Alfonso Garcia, who made his instrument by hand and offered his services, if by chance we wanted to take one on our trip. While we attempted to steer the conversation towards Palaza Garibaldi, he turned to politics, asking us about our affiliations and the latest news on the presidential primaries. He and his jarana (little guitar) player Reyes Cruz were avid fans of the leftist Mexican politician Manuel Lopez Obrador, who lost last years presidential election despite accusations of voter fraud that ignited weeks of protests in the capital. Though Mexico remained politically troubled Alfonso said, he cited the various leftist movements in Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela, as well as the success of Barack Obama in the U.S., as reason for optimism.
Shifting back to music, Alfonso asked us to pick a tune, but having very little overlap in musical knowledge, we suggested they choose the tune. With a whistle, Mr. Garcia called over another jarana player and they plucked and strummed away, their weathered vocal harmonies filling the afternoon air.
As we thanked them with our smiles and $6, we headed out into the city’s streets, honking and bustle replaced the songs of the mariachi. Swimming through people in the tunnels of the subway we already missed our few hours of music and serenity at Plaza Garibaldi.