A group of drunken men in a white taxi stop at Plaza La Ceiba in Zone 3 of Guatemala City. They ask Santiago González, a 67-year old Mariachi, for a couple of hours of music to mourn the passing of a friend of theirs. As the men in the taxi wept, “Los Camperos”, a band of mariachis between the ages of 66 and 71, all hurried to their own car. Work called.
The location is a bit tricky to find; but Mariachis always seem to make their way to this particular spot. Just after sundown, the mariachis visibly wait for potential costumers. Some of them work together once a job comes up. “You try to start a group in order to be established here in Plaza del Mariachi,” explains González.
Mr. González and his group of elderly mariachis have been coming to this spot for the past 15 years. He’s the one who usually deals with potential costumers. “People are difficult,” he reflects. “It depends on what you agree on or how you talk to someone, really.”
Dressed in world-famous charro suits, the mariachis pace through Plaza México. Virgilio Romero, the group’s guitar player, eagerly performs a famous Pepe Villa song called “Felicidades, Felicidades”. Buses, cars, and motorcycles rush by them as the musicians continue playing their music, unchallenged by the roar of nearby engines.
The image of the freshly-pressed charro suits and the song performed by the musicians bring a certain mood to the dimly-lit Plaza del Mariachi that’s fitting for its name. It was mid-song that the white taxi with the drunken Johns showed up. After haggling through the cab’s window for a bit, Santiago González and the rest of the group rushed to their own car to follow the taxi.
Mariachis in Guatemala City began popping up in a bar in zone 1 during the 1960’s. Shortly after, they were kicked out of the area by angry neighbours who grew tired of the noise. Then, they began gathering at Plazuela España, in Zone 9. This only lasted until 1982. According to official sources, the mariachis were evicted once again because the King of Spain was supposed to visit Guatemala during that year. However, we checked with sources within the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala and there are no records of an official visit in 1982, so it smells a bit like bovine fecal matter. Regardless, they were kicked out so they moved to what is now colloquially known as “Plaza del Mariachi”. So, if you’re ever in need of emergency mariachis, now you know where to find them.