With few revelers to play to at Plaza Garibaldi, Mexico City’s mariachi mecca, some 120 musicians traveled to a hospital in the south of the capital on Tuesday afternoon to serenade Covid-19 patients and the medical personnel treating them.
Wearing face masks (which trumpeters lowered temporarily in order to play their instruments) and maintaining a “healthy distance” from each other, the musicians assembled outside the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases, where they played a range of classic mariachi songs.
Their aim, said National Mariachi Association spokesman Julio César Barragán, was to lift the spirits of people suffering from Covid-19 or other respiratory diseases and to show their solidarity with them and the doctors and nurses treating them.
“The distancing protocols were followed by the mariachis,” he added.
The serenata coincided with World Health Day, a World Health Organization initiative whose main purpose this year is to celebrate the work of nurses and midwives and remind world leaders of the critical role they play in keeping the world healthy.
While medical personnel in Mexico and many countries around the world are busy treating a growing number of Covid-19 patients, many people in other lines of work – including thousands of mariachi musicians across the country – have much more idle time than they would like as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Musicians at Plaza Garibaldi in downtown Mexico City told the newspaper Milenio last weekend that demand for their services has declined by around 70% as tourism to the capital has fallen sharply and a majority of locals are staying at home as much as they can.
“The situation is very critical,” said Antonio Guzmán, a 35-year veteran of the Mexico City mariachi scene.
“I used to arrive [at Plaza Garibaldi] at 10 in the morning and leave at 8 at night. Now, with coronavirus, I have to arrive earlier, around 8 in the morning, without having had breakfast and I go home at 10 or 11 with nothing in my stomach. Sometimes I arrive home with my hands empty,” he said.
Barragán, the mariachi association spokesman, said that funds to support musicians and their families during the economic downturn will be raised via a crowdfunding platform.
Those who make donations over a certain amount will secure the services of a group of mariachi musicians for a live performance. But don’t think about holding a raucous party any time soon – social distancing measures will remain in place at least until the end of April, and quite possibly a lot longer.