They've been popularized and commercialized in movies and may even seem to be a cultural stereotype of sorts, but visit Mexico City's Plaza Garibaldi on any given evening and you'll soon see that the tradition of mariachis is alive and well and very much a part of modern culture.
Mariachis gather at Plaza Garibaldi nightly, waiting to be hired for an off-site event or an impromptu in-the-plaza serenade. You can even negotiate for a few songs yourself, or, if you prefer, sit in the plaza and watch the action as mariachis in a variety of outfits wait for work.
Although Plaza Garibaldi has spiffed up a bit in recent years (particularly with the opening of the Museum of Tequila and Mezcal a few years ago), it does have a seedy underbelly. It's best not to bring your valuables, and if you enter one of the bars on the plaza's periphery, stay sober enough to keep your wits about you. A popular Garibaldi scam is to invite unsuspecting tourists to several rounds of drinks and then stick them with an astronomical bill.
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Mariachis in Mexico City
Sitting at a table in the middle of a huge Cantina in Plaza de Garibaldi, it finally hit me.
There are two kinds of men in Mexico City: Mariachis and those who wish they were Mariachis.
I’d heard stories about the Plaza earlier during the day but nothing had quite prepared me for what I saw.
As we approached the square, I saw a sea of Mariachis fully decked out in their hats & ornate suits, decorated with silver embellishments. It was like a Mariachi Convention, except this was just another day in Mexico City.
The Mariachis epitomize everything that’s great about this city. They’ll break into a song at the drop of a sombrero. They wear amazing costumes that look like they were created after a dry cleaning van broke into a jewelry store. And they can inject energy into a room like a double shot of espresso.
Kitsch, gaudiness, and bravado combine to create unexpected results. The warmth and friendliness of this city is palpable in every interaction.
Yes it’s gritty. Yes it’s crowded. Yes it’s chaotic. But I doubt you’ll find a place that can pack more fun into a dollar.