Vidal López Velázquez and his brothers trekked to Mérida from Jalpa de Méndez, Tabasco, in 1970. They were seeking what most migrants look for: a better way of living. Single when he arrived, Vidal joined an established group of Mariachis in Mérida and started his life. Several other Mariachis had bought homes along Calle 59, which was then a main thoroughfare. They announced their presence with simple hand-painted signs, and today there are more than 20 of these signs and the street is known as “La Calle de los Mariachis.”
Vidal strategically bought his house on the perpendicular Calle 108 in order to market to a different street and established his group, “Mariachi Águila,” which, today, is a family tradition. His son, also named Vidal, and his cousins began studying music in Las Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Academy) when they were anywhere from eight to 13. From there, they chose their instruments and got to work.
Young Vidal remembers that childhood day when an established Mariachi called his father, “Let us borrow your son, we need another element.” He arrived with his violin to his first performance wearing only black pants, a white shirt, and only knowing how to play “Las Mañanitas” and the most famous Mariachi anthem, “El Son de La Negra.”
Vidal relied on classical training to add to his musical repertoire. Historically, Mariachi music takes classical European instruments and creates a rebellious, nationalistic sound. With its tightly strung bows, “ay-ya-yays” and “yip-yip-yips,” Mariachi is the open-hearted folk music of western México.
Before the 1970s, Yucatecans never even considered getting a Mariachi band: they hired tríos for serenatas and fiestas, which is a Yucatecan tradition and deserves its place. Trova, the music of the trio, is very slow, romantic, composed of rhythm and bass guitars, and a six-string Cuban guitar. The Mariachi band, on the other hand, has around five to eight members, all with eye-catching sombreros and unique “charro” attire.
Yucatecan people quickly realized that the Mariachi spices up a party and demonstrates undeniable Mexican pride. The public began hiring the Mariachi for private events and fiestas, and shaped their local Mariachis into something one-of-a-kind, requesting numbers featuring Trova and Cumbia. Today, if you hear a Mariachi group in Jalisco and another one here in Yucatán, they would present almost completely different set lists.
For Mexicans, Mariachi is the crown jewel – “el broche de oro” – to any and all fiestas. They are your old friends, arriving late to the party to surprise your guests.
You can book a Mariachi group for your party 24/7 by visiting the “Calle de los Mariachis” or Facebook (cost $1,500 pesos to $2,500 pesos for one to two hours; they usually charge by the number of songs).
La Calle de los Mariachis
Calle 59 x 90 y 110, Centro
Facebook: Mariachi Águila de Vidal López
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