What are we to do with these Mariachi?

I hear Mariachi static on my radio And the tubes they glow in the dark – Warren Zevon, Carmelita.



Long, long ago, when my wife and I were dating, we stumbled upon a question we still have no answer for. The question is:  What are we to do with these mariachi?

On the night this eternal question came into being, we had gone out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I know few of my regular readers would have seen that coming.

With all the talk of my extravagant lifestyle that is out there on the net, I’m sure you thought that I am constantly serenaded by mariachi bands where ever I go. That isn’t really so. As a result, this story starts in a Mexican restaurant, where I encounter mariachi.

You know, just a quick thought here. If any of my wild business schemes ever hit it big, I am getting my own mariachi band. Sure, its ostentatious, but so am I. But I digress…

As we sat down in the restaurant, a mariachi band started playing at a table at the other end of the dining room. I soon noticed they’d play two songs, then move on to the next table. Since neither of us had our own mariachi, questions of mariachi and mariachi etiquette arose between us.

First, a major question. The Big Guitar. Why? Where do big guitars come


Big. Why?

from? Where do mariachi learn to play Big Guitar? To this day, we’ve never seen an ad for Big Guitar lessons or a book called Big Guitar for Dummies. Why does no one play Big Guitar outside of mariachi bands? This discussion went on as the mariachi moved inexorably closer and closer to us.

In short order, the discussion grew decidedly more urgent. We both realized that we did not know what was expected of us when the mariachi arrived at our table.

Now, I’m a worldly guy. I’ve been places. I know that if I bought tickets to a mariachi concert I’d jump to my feet when they started playing. I’d probably stand on my chair at some point, probably during the encore. That didn’t seem appropriate under these circumstances.

The questions grew in number and complexity of the etiquette involved.

When they got to our table, should we stop talking and eating to watch them play? Since we were talking about them, it was an easy decision to stop talking. But should we smile and watch? Clap along? We watched others for guidance. There was no consensus; we saw a little of every option we discussed.

Then we wondered if we were supposed to tip, and if tipping would make them stay longer at the table, which we didn’t want. If we did tip, who would we give it to? The singer? Our favorite musician? Again, no consensus. We saw some tipping, some not tipping.

I saw the Big Guitar player pocket a bill. Perhaps that’s why there is a Big Guitar, to indicate the band treasurer.

The mariachi got closer. We were not getting closer to resolving any of the rapidly unfolding questions of mariachi etiquette. We resolved to just eat as

It looks like even Warren didnt know. Do you?

It looks like even Warren didn't know. Do you?

fast as possible and leave. Chiles Poblano shrapnel and fajita bits flew. I asked for the check when the band was four tables away.

The mariachi were now one table away. No check. Miraculously, they finished their second song and took a break. We were off the hook. We paid and left.

Years later, we’re still on the hook in another way. Looking for the answer to that eternal question “What are we to do with these Mariachi?”

Please help.


4 Comments on “What are we to do with these Mariachi?”

  1. tsanda says:

    i started a mariachi petting zoo, boy do the kids love it…but watch out those violinistas can bite!

    • omawarisan says:

      Mariachi Petting Zoo…that’s a great visual. Can anyone get close enough to pet them with the giant hats on?

      Kathi, I agree, its just too awkward. I have to believe it is for the performer as well. What must it be like to work hard at what you do, only to get a job singing to some guy who is packing in the fajitas?

  2. Kathi D says:

    I quite enjoy listening to the occasional mariachi, but I don’t want to be serenaded at my table by anyone. Well, I would have let Warren Zevon do it, but that’s it.

  3. We found him Captain!! says:

    You may rest easy, I recently met a guy at the checkout at Big Lots. He was the cashier but was on his coffee break when we had our conversation. Since he was wearing a BIG LOTS logo on his shirt I asked him if they were all out of the duck pate? He replied that he was only a part-time cashier and was not familiar with the stock room inventory. He told me to wait while he found the manager.

    After the manager answered my question and left me, I thanked the part -timer for his help and concluded my conversation by saying that he could easily pass for the store manager. He answered his real love and full time job was as a mariachi band musician.

    I asked him some mariachi etiquette concerns which you had. He was very helpful and proud to speak on the subject. He told me all true mariachi musicians are dedicated and wish to advance as musicians. They play for the love of music not the money. He did say that they do accept American paper dollars with the number 5 or 10 printed on them. he said also that the most talented of the mariach-chu-chose, (that’s how they refer to one another) are the ones with the great big guitars. That’s where they put the American paper money which the gringos give them when they reach each table. When they finish playing at your table you are supposed to put the folded paper dollars in the hole behind the guitar strings at the front of the big guitar. That is how they know you are a smart gringo who does not want to have a great big guitar wrapped around his head. I did not tell him what you did at the restaurant because I know you would do the right thing if you knew what the right thing to do was at the time. Please pass this information on to all your gringo friends………

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