Plaza Garibaldi in Guadalajara, Mexico attracts a good number of mariachis, some very young, others veterans, all proudly representing the Mexican tradition in their impeccable charro suits.
Over five decades of work, Mario, the tall mustachioed mariachi member saw the best times of the plaza many years ago, when entire families came to celebrate. Now, Mario says, over the years the people gathering to hear the mariachis are decreasing.
“The work for us is much lower, music and mariachi are no longer a staple, it is a luxury for people who can give to the musicians playing, and in the direction we are going, not everyone can,” the musician said.
Mario said that people used to hire mariachis for social events or to celebrate Mother’s Day or national holidays, but nowadays, many people arrive and record the songs with the cell phone and send them by social networks.
“People no longer arrive in the plaza to hire us because everything is done online or by cell phone; the communication surpassed us and they no longer come here to hire, now with those gadgets one receives the Happy Birthday song by cell phone and thus save money”.
Another problem is that the competition grew with the northern band performers, who also offer cheaper prices. For example, a mariachi charges $150 pesos for a song song, while the bands cost $80 pesos.
He explained that even though last year they saw a drop in attendance, this year has intensified; “Before, people went to the square, ate and enjoyed music for long periods, but it’s not like that anymore”.
With nostalgia he recalled that there was work everywhere, but today the sound equipment has replaced the live music: “the doors were closed everywhere, the radio is no longer playing mariachis the television, either. Everything is on tracks, old groups are remembered, but there are no live music programs anymore”.
We are forgotten, he said. He remembers the day they were told the mariachi were a national pride, when the Tequila and Mescal Museum was built and a flagpole was placed places in Plaza Garibaldi, creating a civil plaza.
The profits per song are divided between six or seven members, and sometimes they are very small compared to the high investment made into their trade. They deal with the costs of maintenance to their instruments and their lavish charro suites. Not a small investment.
“We pay for our strings, our instruments, our charro suits, our buttons, which look nice but they are expensive, even without being gold or silver; besides the space rentals and equipment, we also pay taxes, directly or indirectly,” he said.
However, Mariachis like Mario refuse to disappear from Mexican culture.