Let me start by saying that I love Mexico. I teach Mexican history, I have spent a lot of time in Mexico, and I intend to spend a lot more time in Mexico in the near future. I love Mexican food, Mexican beer, and Mexican novels. Frankly, I love almost everything about Mexico…except mariachis.
Boy, I feel better. Who knew confession felt so good?
I hate mariachis. How in the world did this silly tradition get started? You find a handful of really bad musicians, dress them up like Zorro’s gay cousins, and let them play very old music in a restaurant full of people trying to quietly enjoy a meal while conversing with friends. Why would anyone think this is a good idea?
And the noise! Five mariachis can turn a quiet neighborhood restaurant into a deep-fried steel mill. Do tacos taste better if you beat a bass drum with a cat? There is a damn good reason why they don’t play French horns at French restaurants.
We are not talking chamber music here. There is the obligatory large bass guitar (a guitarón) played by the smallest member of the group. Then, there are one or more violins--out of tune, a high pitched 5-string guitar that sounds like a ukulele but is called a vihuela, and at least one loud and slightly off-key trumpet. If Gabriel ever does sound his horn, very few people in Mexico are going to show up--everyone will probably just think that “Juan” is warming up for his next gig.
Only a Mexican restaurant does this to you. If you go to a steak house, you don’t get five guys dressed up like John Wayne singing “Get Along Little Dogie.” And I have never yet been to a Der Wienerschnitzel and had a couple of blondes in lederhosen sing the Horst Wessel song while goose stepping around my table.
This is similar to the Inverse Democracy Rule of Jukeboxes. If there are 100 people present and 99 of them want a little peace and quiet, they can be overruled by one idiot with a quarter. So it is with mariachis--if the table next to you slips the band a few bucks, everyone is subjected to the music.
Wait, I get it! It is actually musical extortion. If you pay these pirates, they go away. How much would it cost to have them go and play in the kitchen? Or the parking lot? And why do we, the paying customer put up with this? We should take air horns with us to the restaurant and every time they start bellowing “Guantamera” we fight back with equal noise. Worse still is that old tourist favorite, “La Cucaracha.” Singing a song about a cockroach (even if it is actually a song about Pancho Villa) is rarely encouraged at most restaurants.
It really doesn’t matter what the words are, since at such extreme volume (the performers are literally screaming at your table) the songs all sound the same. Also, they are extremely repetitious, too. It is sort of like heavy metal for people without electricity.
Yes, I understand the history of the music. I know the tradition started in Jalisco in colonial times, I know that is a rich tradition for hundreds of years… but do you have to play it at my table?