For many Colombian families having a mariachi walk through the front door with trumpets blazing is the highlight of a celebration, from birthdays parties to Sweet Fifteen galas and pre-wedding showers. But since the nationwide lockdown two months ago, serenaders are not permitted to make housecalls or perform in banquet halls and taverns. For many thousands of artists who earn their living interpreting popular genres such as ranchera, bolero and vallenato, the music must move on. The question is where?
For Janner Marriaga, member of the mariachi Águilas del Norte, the situation for serenaders in Barranquilla is “beyond difficult,” as they have not been allowed to work since the declaration of the National Health Emergency on March 25, and with Mother’s Day planned for Sunday May 10, he has petitioned the Mayoralty to authorize work permits “so that we can play from the street, sidewalks and curbs,” he said. “We can comply with all security protocols and families can enjoy our melodies from their homes.” Barranquilla, one of Colombia’s musical capitals and home to the UNESCO-designated Carnival is home to 30 mariachi companies, each employing between eight and ten musicians.
In another Colombian musical capital – Cali – mariachi are faring better than their coastal counterparts claims Alexander Benavides. At the helm of a group of musicians, the streets have replaced living rooms to generate income but are also an opportunity to share solidarity with quarantine in vulnerable communities. “We decided to carry out a social music campaign because we want to reach homes in one way or another with our Mexican music,” he told EFE. Benavides added that despite the emergency, mariachi is very much alive in a region of the country where the genre of choice is salsa. The artist also affirms that in the departmental capital of Valle del Cauca there are some 280 mariachis supporting each other to survive as they have not received financial support from local or state authorities.