As you walk north a few blocks from the beautiful Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City’s center, you’ll begin to hear the sound of exuberant music coming from an open space, a small oasis in the urban sprawl. The space is the Plaza Garibaldi. The music? Why, mariachi of course.
Like the town of Tequila and its eponymous spirit, mariachi originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco. It originated as folk music know as son jaliscense (Jaliscan sound) played by peasants on string instruments. With the influence of European operas and waltzes, son jaliscense evolved throughout time, particularly after the French invasion of of Mexico when many hacienda owners had to let go of their musical peasants. The suddenly unemployed peasants began roaming, playing for coins around the country, eventually making their way to Mexico City in 1905 when they played for President Porfirio Diaz.
Our time in Mexico last week left us with a bit of a knowledge hangover. We explored a mezcal museum, spirits made with chicken, mezcal's craft distillation credentials, the worm, and stars that own tequila brands. Here are a few more things we learned related to the country's spirits:
A number of former hacienda employees were moving to Mexico around this time, gathering around Plaza Garibaldi, then known as Plaza Santa Cecilia. By the 1920s, mariachi not only had the Plaza to play in but they also frequented the Salon Tenampa, a bar on the square that still serves patrons today. In fact, the square is surrounded by cafes and restaurants and mariachi groups are a constant presence, playing for coins to thirsty Chilangos (Mexican slang for people from Mexico City) and tourists just as they did over 100 years ago.
On the Plaza’s western side you’ll find the Museo del Tequila y el Mezcal, a celebration of Mexico’s famous spirits that opened in 2010. From the museum’s top-floor terrace you can sip a delicious drink in the cool evening while watching a number of skilled and costumed mariachi entertain passersby, a must-do for a Saturday night in the city. The mixture of mezcal and mariachi is magical.