The mariachis of Plaza Garibaldi
The rise in violence in Mexico is certainly not unrelated to that situation. Recently, this public square has been the focus of international media attention in connection with the spectacular killings that took place there. Five people were killed and eight others injured, including a foreign tourist, when men dressed as mariachis opened fire. In recent years, few places except protected hotel complexes are safe from this outbreak of violence.
What interested me right away is not the Plaza as such, but rather the mariachis who occupy it. In one of my trips to Mexico, I was staying at one of the hotels in the historic district of Mexico City which is about a 15 minutes walk from the plaza. I decided in my free time to head there.
Arrived on the spot, I was very surprised of the scene. I was expecting a place crowded with tourists and the atmosphere that comes with it. The place was rather deserted. The atmosphere was a little creepy. Some mariachis were strolling.
It was rather dismaying to see them in traditional dress, there, without doing anything, waiting. An endless wait. A wait for what? Some tourists? That the place fills up? I had brought my camera over more by reflex than anything else. Myself waiting for something without really knowing what, I melted perfectly into the atmosphere. I started to take pictures. The time passed. The scene never really changed.
I went there several days in a row and at different times. Always the same thing. I continued to document the scene. There was something fascinating about their boredom. The contrast with the superficial pleasure inspired by the usual tourist entertainment I imagine.
Back in Montreal, the subject continued to inhabit me. I had gone to Mexico to document violations of workers’ rights and human rights in general. I came back with mariachis who stroll … But, behind the apparent banality, the mariachis seemed to be like a kind of metaphor of an imaginary Mexico in perdition.
Getting informed, I finally understood the real purpose of their presence in this public square. It was not so much to play there, as they do from time to time. As I explained above, the place does not really inspire confidence anymore and the atmosphere leaves something to be desired. The musicians find themselves there rather to wait for owners of restaurants and the people who organize parties and who are looking for last-minute mariachis. They are the labourers of folklore. Like much of the Mexican economy, they work in the precariousness of the moment. Like Mexican society, they oscillate between two worlds. They oscillate between wealth and poverty, between folklore and modern Mexico.