4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Trumpets breathed life into mariachi music

Fiesta by the hour

Plaza de Los Marichis is a small fork in the road at Avenida Articulo 123 and Commercio in Tijuana. It is walking distance from Revolucíon and the border. Busy streets run in a Y around the small outdoor plaza, whose entrance is marked by twin Spanish fountains. This Friday night is humid with people hurrying by to attend local political rallies for governor. Police are busy trying to manage the growing crowds from impeding traffic. Plastic banners of Mexico’s major parties, PAN and PRI, are everywhere — street corners, telephone poles. Even the popular bronze monuments in the centers of the roundabouts are covered with white plastic banners hanging on strings.

Nearing the plaza, you can hear the sizzling from the grill and catch the familiar smell of spiced beef cooking. Waiting just back from the street, under a series of worn brick arches, are groups of mariachis dressed in traditional charro suits, many of them elaborate and distinctive. Some are dressed in black, with double rows of large, eye-catching silver buttons that run up the outsides of the legs. Between the rows of buttons is a cord that draws the pants’ legs together. Some of the musicians wear white jackets, and vests, with baroque designs embroidered on the lapels, back, and cuffs. There are even red-suited mariachis with white Stetsons and long white fringe running across the backs of their jackets. This evening about 20 bands are waiting here. Many are in full dress and have their instruments, ready to be hired.

On the corner of Avenida Articulo 123, traffic moves by slowly. Some musicians are doing what could be called band promotion. When the streetlight changes to red, they walk out into the stopped traffic and hand out business cards. I take a business card from one of them; it has a polished finish, with a poncho for the band’s logo.

I ask a few questions of an older musician with a weathered face — price per hour? How many members in your band? Sensing I am not really there to hire a band, he grows suspicious. I tell him I just want to know more about mariachis. He relaxes some and explains that they are reluctant to discuss the business, because most of them do not claim their earnings from playing and singing. They are leery of the tax board. But he does say that a group of 10 mariachis will cost about $200 an hour.

I ask about his suit. “It is from Jalisco, a traditional cowboy costume. Different bands wear different outfits to distinguish themselves from one another.”

Is this what he does for a living? He says, “No, most of these guys have other jobs during the day. They just do this on weekends and evenings for extra cash.”Apparently, while waiting for the next job, they pass the time here, on the street near the plaza, talking, smoking cigarettes, playing cards, and rehearsing.

About the history of mariachi musicians, he tells me the word mariachi is actually French, from mariage, “wedding.” It comes from the strolling minstrels who came with King Maximillian,when the French monarchy placed him as puppet ruler of Mexico. Maximillian was assassinated, but the mariachis were popular among the townsfolk and later became a deep part of what is now Mexican culture.

He goes on to say,“Now we play for a variety of occasions — weddings, baptisms, and quinceañeras are the most popular occasions.” A quinceañera is the equivalent of an American coming-out party. It is given in a young woman’s honor when she is recognized by the community as a woman, usually at age 15. “There are also the well-known serenades given to ladies by their lovers from under their windows at night or in the morning.”He explains that “there are fast, hard-driving cowboy songs called corridas that are often played to awaken hung-over friends.

“The key word in describing mariachis is ‘versatile.’They are able to play according to the desires of the client or customer,” he says.They can sing sweet Mother’s Day ballads or a lullaby for your sister. Then they can sing traditional folk songs that describe a murder or a tragic tale. They sing of love, love lost, love found, of love rejected, and love betrayed. They can play a repertoire of traditional songs such as “La Malagueña” or “La Negra.” According to this musician,the best place to go in Tijuana to hear mariachi music is La Vuelta on Blvd.Agua Caliente, at the corner of Calle Ellias.

I ask him to tell me something most people don’t know about mariachis. He pauses, grins, and says,“Silvester Vargas was the man credited with introducing trumpets to mariachi music. By doing this, he breathed a new life and power into it. Before this, mariachi bands had been mostly strings, guitars, violins, sometimes harps, but no horns. Vargas is credited with being the greatest mariachi musician,and his band still plays under his name today.” He continues,“The last international mariachi convention was held in Guadalajara last year. Thousands of mariachis attended from all over the world for a convention that lasted a week.”

From across the street, I watch a street vendor pack up his tiny stand of tamarind candies, saladitos (salted dried plums), chile peanuts, and soft drinks into a small cart with wooden wheels. I leave the mariachi to his evening’s work and tip him for his time. I think to myself as I leave for the border how great it would be if San Diego had a place where musicians could hang out and be rented by the hour.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Dead Media Tapes to release Steve Rosenbaum’s debut 8-track cassette

Inspired by The Banana Splits
Next Article

Ambassadors for airflow

“We take a crazy amount of precautions.”

Plaza de Los Marichis is a small fork in the road at Avenida Articulo 123 and Commercio in Tijuana. It is walking distance from Revolucíon and the border. Busy streets run in a Y around the small outdoor plaza, whose entrance is marked by twin Spanish fountains. This Friday night is humid with people hurrying by to attend local political rallies for governor. Police are busy trying to manage the growing crowds from impeding traffic. Plastic banners of Mexico’s major parties, PAN and PRI, are everywhere — street corners, telephone poles. Even the popular bronze monuments in the centers of the roundabouts are covered with white plastic banners hanging on strings.

Nearing the plaza, you can hear the sizzling from the grill and catch the familiar smell of spiced beef cooking. Waiting just back from the street, under a series of worn brick arches, are groups of mariachis dressed in traditional charro suits, many of them elaborate and distinctive. Some are dressed in black, with double rows of large, eye-catching silver buttons that run up the outsides of the legs. Between the rows of buttons is a cord that draws the pants’ legs together. Some of the musicians wear white jackets, and vests, with baroque designs embroidered on the lapels, back, and cuffs. There are even red-suited mariachis with white Stetsons and long white fringe running across the backs of their jackets. This evening about 20 bands are waiting here. Many are in full dress and have their instruments, ready to be hired.

On the corner of Avenida Articulo 123, traffic moves by slowly. Some musicians are doing what could be called band promotion. When the streetlight changes to red, they walk out into the stopped traffic and hand out business cards. I take a business card from one of them; it has a polished finish, with a poncho for the band’s logo.

I ask a few questions of an older musician with a weathered face — price per hour? How many members in your band? Sensing I am not really there to hire a band, he grows suspicious. I tell him I just want to know more about mariachis. He relaxes some and explains that they are reluctant to discuss the business, because most of them do not claim their earnings from playing and singing. They are leery of the tax board. But he does say that a group of 10 mariachis will cost about $200 an hour.

I ask about his suit. “It is from Jalisco, a traditional cowboy costume. Different bands wear different outfits to distinguish themselves from one another.”

Is this what he does for a living? He says, “No, most of these guys have other jobs during the day. They just do this on weekends and evenings for extra cash.”Apparently, while waiting for the next job, they pass the time here, on the street near the plaza, talking, smoking cigarettes, playing cards, and rehearsing.

About the history of mariachi musicians, he tells me the word mariachi is actually French, from mariage, “wedding.” It comes from the strolling minstrels who came with King Maximillian,when the French monarchy placed him as puppet ruler of Mexico. Maximillian was assassinated, but the mariachis were popular among the townsfolk and later became a deep part of what is now Mexican culture.

He goes on to say,“Now we play for a variety of occasions — weddings, baptisms, and quinceañeras are the most popular occasions.” A quinceañera is the equivalent of an American coming-out party. It is given in a young woman’s honor when she is recognized by the community as a woman, usually at age 15. “There are also the well-known serenades given to ladies by their lovers from under their windows at night or in the morning.”He explains that “there are fast, hard-driving cowboy songs called corridas that are often played to awaken hung-over friends.

“The key word in describing mariachis is ‘versatile.’They are able to play according to the desires of the client or customer,” he says.They can sing sweet Mother’s Day ballads or a lullaby for your sister. Then they can sing traditional folk songs that describe a murder or a tragic tale. They sing of love, love lost, love found, of love rejected, and love betrayed. They can play a repertoire of traditional songs such as “La Malagueña” or “La Negra.” According to this musician,the best place to go in Tijuana to hear mariachi music is La Vuelta on Blvd.Agua Caliente, at the corner of Calle Ellias.

I ask him to tell me something most people don’t know about mariachis. He pauses, grins, and says,“Silvester Vargas was the man credited with introducing trumpets to mariachi music. By doing this, he breathed a new life and power into it. Before this, mariachi bands had been mostly strings, guitars, violins, sometimes harps, but no horns. Vargas is credited with being the greatest mariachi musician,and his band still plays under his name today.” He continues,“The last international mariachi convention was held in Guadalajara last year. Thousands of mariachis attended from all over the world for a convention that lasted a week.”

From across the street, I watch a street vendor pack up his tiny stand of tamarind candies, saladitos (salted dried plums), chile peanuts, and soft drinks into a small cart with wooden wheels. I leave the mariachi to his evening’s work and tip him for his time. I think to myself as I leave for the border how great it would be if San Diego had a place where musicians could hang out and be rented by the hour.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Caribe Welcome joins the Coconut Club

Inspired by what is considered the original piña colada
Next Article

Why June gloom besets San Diego

Wild mustard, chamise, buckwheat
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close