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American Mariachi. Southern Mariachi Bands Changing the South.
December 5, 2013 3:30 AM   Subscribe

“American Mariachi,” by photographer Greg Miller and writer Peter Short, tells the story of how Southern mariachi bands like Mariachi Mexicanisimo de Atlanta tour the region, “playing to audiences of immigrants and learning to please the gringos at the same time. As Short so beautifully puts it, ‘Tradition and culture sustain themselves not through purity and absolute preservation, but through introduction and acceptance.’”
posted by ob1quixote (19 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good article! Not just a Southern phenomenon though. Chicago is another great place to hear Mexican music. Check out the Aztec-influenced version of Led Zeppelin's Four Sticks in this NPR story.
posted by Pararrayos at 4:11 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


A four man mariachi band is rank heresy.

Also I submit that Atlanta easily surpasses NYC in terms of robust immigrant populations from every known corner of the world, and I get a huge kick out of people's abject shock when realizing this for the first time. Gone with the wind, it ain't.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 4:35 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


So the chitlin' circuit is now the menudo circuit?

I live not too far from the location mentioned in the story (about 2 hours further east on I-20) and we have several Monterrey Mexican restuarants here. (I don't know if they are affiliated or just all have "Monterrey" in their names.) Since moving to GA in 1969 it has been kind of interesting to see the influx of Mexican immigrants, culture, and food down here. I have a lot of forbears from Texas so my family has always liked Mexican and Tex-Mex food, but it was almost impossible to come by throughout the 1970s. What little there was was lightly flavored ground beef covered in melted American cheese and served on some sort of tortilla with salsa that was perilously close to ketchup. Taco Bell was an improvement when it arrived in the late 1970s. Then about 1980 the first Mexican restaurant run by immigrants opened here in Augusta and now it seems like there is one on every corner, all doing a brisk business. They seem to have Mariachi bands for every special occasion; it is interesting to here some back story on them. I always like the atmosphere they provide, but now I will listen a little more closely. And I won't request "Tequila" or "Feliz Navidad."
posted by TedW at 5:08 AM on December 5, 2013


Pararrayos: "Aztec-influenced version of Led Zeppelin's Four Sticks"

Holy cow. That's fuckin' brilliant.
posted by notsnot at 5:44 AM on December 5, 2013


And there is Metalachi (YT1, YT2, YT3)
posted by stifford at 6:00 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do they really use the word "gringo" or did Short chose that term? I never hear it in Los Angeles--Anglo is more common.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:05 AM on December 5, 2013


‘Tradition and culture sustain themselves not through purity and absolute preservation, but through introduction and acceptance.’

This. Culture is not something to put under a glass jar in a museum. It can't be, because it will die. Culture is every evolving, ever adaptive, ever creative, ever destructive, like nature herself. The idea of a culture being "preserved" is ridiculous. Aspects can be, but the culture itself is a living, breathing organism.
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:38 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do they really use the word "gringo" or did Short chose that term? I never hear it in Los Angeles--Anglo is more common.

That jumped out at me as well. I have lived in Mexico and I spend a large amount of my social life with first and second generation immigrants from Mexico, both mono- and bilingual. I have never once heard someone say "gringo" in those contexts. It's mostly "gabacho," plus other words like "anglo."

I'm not going to say that no one uses it -- my experience might be unrepresentative, or it might be a regional thing? But in my anecdotal experience it is a word used only by anglos about themselves.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:46 AM on December 5, 2013


Regarding "gringo", when I was a dumb twenty year old buying cheap stuff on a cross-border jaunt, I'm pretty sure I heard one of the store employees refer to me as a "va te verde", as in "[you] go green". Which I thought was hilarious - a re-translation of "green go".
posted by notsnot at 6:54 AM on December 5, 2013


There's a lot of "gringo" thrown around in this song.
posted by rodii at 7:03 AM on December 5, 2013


I have lived in Mexico and I spend a large amount of my social life with first and second generation immigrants from Mexico, both mono- and bilingual. I have never once heard someone say "gringo" in those contexts. It's mostly "gabacho," plus other words like "anglo."

That's interesting, because I hear native Spanish speakers say gringo all the time. To me, gabacho sounds like something a person from a rural area would say. Try doing a google search (for news) on "los gringos". It's a pretty popular term. Somewhat derogatory too. A lot of people try to claim it's a term of endearment, but you hear it in a negative context.
posted by Pararrayos at 9:01 AM on December 5, 2013


My first-generation Mexican family says 'gringos' ALL the time. This is in San Diego.

They also sometimes say 'gabacho' but I've never once heard them say 'Anglo.'

That jumped out at me as well. I have lived in Mexico and I spend a large amount of my social life with first and second generation immigrants from Mexico, both mono- and bilingual.

I'm going to guess its because you are a gringo and they don't say it to your face. The term is a bit othering and though sometimes used with endearment ("He married a nice gringa") most often it is not.
posted by vacapinta at 9:20 AM on December 5, 2013


The term is a bit othering and though sometimes used with endearment ("He married a nice gringa") most often it is not.

Othering. Exactly. You're right, people use it endearingly, but even when someone says "He married a nice gringa" there's usually a subtle shrug behind that, meaning "yeah, nice gal, but ..."
posted by Pararrayos at 10:31 AM on December 5, 2013


Also I submit that Atlanta easily surpasses NYC in terms of robust immigrant populations from every known corner of the world, and I get a huge kick out of people's abject shock when realizing this for the first time. Gone with the wind, it ain't.

Yes. Moving to Atlanta from L.A. I was a little surprised at how that part wasn’t very different. What is different and interesting is the proportions or different ethnicities because of the East Coast, West Coast thing. Having lived half my life now in those two places it’s still a little shocking to me when I visit other parts of the US and how White it is (I am a White guy). It actually makes me a little uncomfortable.

We have been planning to move and this keeps coming up. My wife said the other day "It freaks me out that we’re just going to be surrounded by White people" even though that really isn’t literally true. It just feels odd.
posted by bongo_x at 11:10 AM on December 5, 2013


Good article! Not just a Southern phenomenon though. Chicago is another great place to hear Mexican music. Check out the Aztec-influenced version of Led Zeppelin's Four Sticks in this NPR story.

Thank you for this Pararrayos

stifford:And there is Metalachi

Finally. I have been looking for more music that represents, in my mind, the border of these 2 great nations. I enjoy Molotov for their hip hop brand of music that speaks to life on the border, but I wanted to see more. Thank you.
posted by Nadie_AZ at 11:31 AM on December 5, 2013


I have also lived in Mexico and Peru and remember this one time in Peru that I answered the phone and heard the lady on the other end whisper to her friend "es gringo". Personally, I prefer the Thai epithet "farang". Sounds like Star Trek or something.
posted by telstar at 12:56 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


A college friend from Jalisco, land of Mariachi, was deeply in love with his girlfriend. She ended the relationship in order to go do some graduate studies in Croatia.

When I was passing through Zagreb I paid her a visit. She had a new boyfriend. A Croatian dude, professional musician, conservatory educated. He was part of a mariachi, one of several that played every night at this beer hall tent things setup right next to the water. We went there, drank ice cold Estrellitas and sipped some good tequila. It was like being in El Parian in Guadalajara. Really good mariachi bands playing all the classics to perfection. They also played some original songs in pure mariachi style, and some Croatian mariachi fusion. Great night, and everyone treated us like royalty when they found out we were real authentic Mexicans.

What I am trying to ask is, first with hot sauce and now with mariachi, how does it feel to get a taste of your own cultural imperialism medicine you gringos?

And yeah, I hear gringo all the time, usually preceded by pinches. I reserve use of the word for Reagan.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 1:05 PM on December 5, 2013


For the record "gringos" was used by the editors of Bitter Southerner in their description of the article. I quoted a portion of that description in my post.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:15 PM on December 5, 2013


What I am trying to ask is, first with hot sauce and now with mariachi, how does it feel to get a taste of your own cultural imperialism medicine you gringos?

Me encanta.
posted by bongo_x at 2:39 PM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


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