El Mariachi and Mexico

Recently returned from number one on my top five in five years travel list, Mexico, and I'm all kinds of nostalgic about the experience.

As soon as we arrived back in Houston we went straightaway to the closest Mexican restaurant. Even after I discovered I had purchased a nice parasite as one of my only souvenirs I still wanted to ask for tacos in Spanish and lie in mild pain with a telenovela going (and I was worried about drug war crimes). After a few days of hosting my new friend, eating mostly oatmeal with coco water, I am finally feeling normal. For my last night of self-pity and laptop television I put on my best Mexican night dress for Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi, 1992. We'd seen posters all over Mexico, but I think it was for a glamorous remake (not the original with a $7,000 budget).

I was blown away by how good this El Mariachi is. It's just the perfect recap for a visit to Mexico; the bright light, hot sun, range of colors, and it doesn't hurt that el mariachi is a dreamy weirdo. The film is consistently hilarious, even wacky, but with plenty of genuine, human touches. Rodriguez really masters the lo-fi technique here and it is very, very satisfying. I could watch it again if only I had a few mango paletas close by.

Leading up to this film viewing, related to mariachi:
1. Right before Latin America we attended Go Tejano Day at the Houston Rodeo, now an annual tradition for us. Reliant Stadium was completely filled for the post-rodeo musical entertainment. To warm us up for the beloved tejano band, Pesado, there was a Mariachi Competition. The groups we saw were led by incredible women with great outfits and choreographed moves. So impressive.

2. In Mexico City we found dozens of roaming, rag-tag to showy peacock, mariachi groups at Plaza Garibaldi. 

Basically los mariachis get dressed up to varying degrees, bring their instruments, and busk in front of a museum dedicated to Tequila and Mezcal. We saw them in the streets for blocks before the plaza, soliciting for off-site gigs. You can actually drive over and hire them for a wedding or birthday party elsewhere in the city. Once we got there it was so enchanting we couldn't refuse a song. One of the more rag-tag groups crowded very close around us and sang out a romantic song about a beautiful lady. Eyes were on me during the chorus. 

Since these guys were so close I couldn't comfortably return their gaze. Instead I focused on some inanimate details: a faded Mickey Mouse sticker on the smallest guitar, the sad repairs hastily done on another, or the amateur tattoos on one really mournful looking guy's hands. For sixty pesos (approx. 4.00USD) it was a memorable time both for the musical atmosphere and for a peek into the social world and history of mariachis. 

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