Things That Matter

This Photo Of A Mexican Mariachi In Vancouver Went Viral And Here’s What You Should Know About The Man In The Image

We love it when someone is going about their day and suddenly become ephemeral celebrities thanks to a photographer who was there in the right place at the right time. Such is the case of a Mexican mariachi who was immortalized while he was walking amidst a snowstorm in the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Latin American musicians, mainly Mexicans and Peruvian folk singers, have migrated all around the world and make a living showcasing the cultural richness of their countries. They often have to survive for years as street performers, but many of them have found a way to build a musical career from scratch. It is common to see mariachis and Andean musicians in squares and plazas all around the world, particularly in Western European cities such as Madrid and Paris. 

So this is the photograph that made its rounds in social media and turned this mariachi into an online celebrity.

Credit: bananacampphoto/ Instagram

Just look at him, super regal walking as if he was strolling down the streets of Durango or San Miguel de Allende. There is a mythical quality to the photo. The way that he is carrying his guitar case reminds us of Antonio Banderas in Desperado. His gaze, serenely looking at the snow-covered floor, is reminiscent of old Westerns. But above all his white and red mariachi suit makes a perfect contrast with the environment. The onlookers on the background also give this great image a bit of drama. We just want to print and frame it, eh!

The image reminds us of the work of great photographers of the seemingly mundane such as Henri Cartier-Bresson or the Mexican great Manuel Alvarez Bravo. The photo was captured by photographer Cameron Frazier during a shooting to promote the 17th anniversary of this mysterious mariachi’s band… Yes, we know you want to find out who he is and we are keeping you en suspenso! 

But who is this mysterious mariachi?!

When the photograph became viral due to its mythical quality, the question was who on Earth was this amazing musician. Well, his name is Alex Alegria and he has Oaxacan heritage. He has a mariachi band called Los Dorados and he has been living in Canada for 23 years. He has employed non Mexicans in his mariachi band, showing that music is universal and that when there is passion involved it doesn’t matter where you are from. Everyone owns music, right?

Alex arrived in Canada when he was only 20 years old as an international student. But he decided to stay and has made the Pacific coastal town of Vancouver his home. He plays with his band twice a week in two restaurants. He discovered his passion for mariachi music when he became a street performer, as Mexico Desconocido found out. He used to work in a factory and was at risk of depression, but Mexico’s most famous musical genre helped him regain his passion for life and improve his mental health. His band is made up of 12 musicians, only three of which are Mexican. The rest come from Canada, Poland, South Korea, Taiwan, Ukraine and China.

Such a diverse group! We love it! They have played in various consulates and embassies in the United States and Canada. And the white and red colors on the mariachi suit? You guessed it: they are an homage to the Canadian flag. This is a great example of the wonders that can happen when multiculturalism is promoted and celebrated, as is the case with Canada and its inclusive migration policies from which a lot of Global North countries could learn. 

You might not be aware, but there are professional mariachis all around the world.

Credit: Mexico Desconocido/ Instagram

In the United States one only has to Google “mariachi near me” to find multiple listings. European cities are the same: mariachis are constantly sought after to play at parties, embassy events and all sorts of social gatherings. Even as far as Australia there are Mexicam musicians who have migrated and made a living out of singing classic tunes like “El Rey” and “La Puerta Negra.”

As Hector Patricio, founder of Fiesta Viva in Sydney, explains: “Traditional mariachi is a type of music that is strong, loud, and represents us as Mexicans. It is joyful and sad at the same time. People in Australia love it. 80% of my bookings are made by white Australians. We work with the best talent agencies. Mariachi music brings happiness and sadness together. We even play at funerals. We migrate to work hard, we always find a way to make things happen. Us Mexican migrants are constantly tested and we have to make it happen through hard work and dedication.”

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A Section Of Border Wall Is At Risk Of Falling Into Rio Grande Months After Being Called The ‘Lamborghini Of Border Walls’

Things That Matter

A Section Of Border Wall Is At Risk Of Falling Into Rio Grande Months After Being Called The ‘Lamborghini Of Border Walls’

Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

Trump’s vanity project – that so many of his supporters hail as his greatest accomplishment – has hit another major setback. His planned border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has consisted of a mix of government-built and privately-built segments, and now one of the highest-profile segments is at literal risk of falling over into a river. How’s that for karma?

The segment in Texas, which its developer called the ‘Lamborghini’ of border walls, was poorly built along a massive flood plain and now erosion has left it in shambles, mere months after construction.

The “Lamborghini” of border walls is in danger of falling into the river if nothing is done.

Trump supporters funded a private border wall on the banks of the Rio Grande, helping the builder secure $1.7 billion in federal contracts. Now the “Lamborghini” of border walls is in danger of falling into the river if nothing is done, experts say.

This ‘Lamborghini’ of border walls is different from those that came before it, in that it could allegedly be built directly on the banks of the Rio Grande – a risky but potentially game-changing step when it came to the nation’s border wall system.

But engineering experts and hydrologists told ProPublica that despite the company’s claims, the wall was built too close to the Rio Grande and is in serious danger of collapse, as photos show “a series of gashes and gullies” along the base of the structure that have severely weakened the structure’s foundation.

According to reports, the foundation for the wall’s steel poles reach only 2.5 feet into the ground, less than one-third as deep as government usually requires. The shallow foundation combined with the rugged riverbank terrain is reportedly a recipe for disaster.

“When the river rises, it will likely attack those areas where the foundation is exposed, further weakening support of the fence and potentially causing portions … to fall into the Rio Grande,” Alex Mayer told ProPublica.

The geography of the Rio Grande has long been a roadblock to wall construction in the region.

Credit: Bend Bend National Park / USFS

A border wall has long existed in one form or another along much of Texas’s southern border. But it’s often existed miles away from the actual border with Mexico, thanks to the region’s diverse and difficult terrain. The Rio Grande Valley’s unique geography includes a wide floodplain that has forced the government to construct barriers inland, on top of a levee system. That has left swaths of farmland, cemeteries and even homes in a kind of no man’s land south of the fence.

Jude Benavides, a hydrologist, told ProPublica, that “People don’t appreciate the power of the Rio Grande when it does indeed wake up. It changes the landscape.”

The contractor has used the segment in Texas to secure billions of dollars worth of contracts to build additional wall in Arizona.

Just this May, the company, Fisher Sand & Gravel (FSG), a won a record-high $1.3 billion government contract to built a portion of Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. They won the approval even though the government’s own Army Corps of Engineers spoke out against FSG’s prototype for lack of “quality” and “sophistication.”

But like so many other Trump projects, the president inserted himself directly into the bidding process – helping FSG gain the contracts. No surprise: FSG’s director, Tommy Fisher, has been a frequent guest on Fox News and has played into Trump’s latest frustrations regarding his wall project, promising he would be able to build it faster and cheaper than any other contractor on the project.

The segment in Texas was built using private donations from some of Trump’s biggest supporters.

Credit: Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

As Trump faced opposition against his border wall vanity project in Congress, several non-profit groups sprung up in support of his border wall plan. That’s exactly how Fisher’s private fence projects got off the ground.

Both the New Mexico and South Texas projects were built with financial and political help from We Build The Wall, an influential conservative nonprofit – Trump supporter and political strategist Steven Bannon is a board member. In touting its project, the group claimed to have raised more than $25 million and agreements with landowners along 250 miles of riverfront property across Texas.

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Mexico’s Mariachis Are Struggling Amid The Pandemic But People Are Showing Up To Support Them In The Best Way

Things That Matter

Mexico’s Mariachis Are Struggling Amid The Pandemic But People Are Showing Up To Support Them In The Best Way

Maxx Wolferson / Getty Images

The Coronavirus pandemic has wrought destruction on entire communities. Millions of people have been left without work and struggling to figure out a way forward, a way to support their families, amid the economic consequences of a global pandemic.

Some of us have been furloughed, others let go with the help of unemployment or a severance package, but far too many have been let go with no help at all: such is the case of Mexico’s large mariachi community.

For the first time in three months, the sound of mariachi filled Mexico City’s Plaza Garibaldi.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

EArly in the morning, more than 200 mariachi musicians returned to Plaza Garibaldi – Mexico City’s unofficial mariachi hub – and filled the plaza with music.

The musicians hoped to bring attention to the dire economic situation that so many of them face. Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic and resulting government shut down orders, mariachis have seen a devastating drop in their usual source of income. People have not been able to visit Plaza Garibaldi or hire mariachis for parties such as weddings and quinceañeras, which is having a hugely negative impact on musicians.

“We want help, we want the people to know that the mariachis live on,” musician Marcos Montes told the newspaper El Universal. “We want to work and need the support of people — perhaps not with handouts but by coming to see us and by hiring us.”

The bands showed up to play music but also receive much needed aide.

Credit: Maxx Wolferson / Getty Images

The charity Agrega organized the event, making sure that those who showed up maintained a safe distance as they gathered and played classics like México Lindo y Querido. The musicians also wore masks at the request of the organization. 

Agrega works with businesses and individuals to raise money and provide food to feed the hungry. It is currently raising money for supplies via their fundraising website

The distribution of care packages, which are meant to last six weeks, are part of a campaign Agrega calls “Al Pie de tu Ventana” (“Just Outside Your Window”), a reference to the common sight of mariachis hired to serenade people outside their window.

Many Mexicans are employed in the informal economy – including mariachis – and have received little to no help from the government.

Credit: Hector Vivas / Getty Images

It’s estimated that about 60%-70% of Mexicans are employed in the country’s informal economy: taco stands, food vendors, street artists, domestic workers, and musicians. Many have received little to no help from the government, despite being among the most vulnerable groups.

At Plaza Garibaldi, musicians of all ages and genders came out to play and receive much-needed help.

Jacinto Martínez, 71, said he has spent his entire life as a mariachi. “I’m the son of a mariachi,” he said. “I was taught to play the violin since age 8, and I don’t know how to do anything else. Now my children are helping me to keep going.”

Meanwhile, the Coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across the country.

As of Friday, June 26, Mexico has more than 200,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and more than 25,000 people have died. The country is now considered a global hotspot for the virus as numbers continue to reach record highs each day.

Despite the ongoing crisis, the government will be allowing phased reopenings beginning next week.

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