Viva Mexico!

Celebrating Sept.16 with Mariachi Ghost

Outside the West End Cultural Centre, a cool breeze announces the impending arrival of fall. 

Inside, the aroma of warm tostadas from the BMC Market welcome those anxiously waiting for the ghost to appear.  As they say, the air’s electric: it feels like you’re in a Tim Burton-directed western. Surreal, in a way. It’s September 16th. Mexican Independence Day. Mariachi Ghost wants to mark the almost-200-year-old celebration in their own way.

The Winnipeg band, which blends traditional music styles and songs from Mexico with roots and rock, are known for performing in Day of The Dead-inspired costumes and makeup. As a result, the band has justifiably earned a reputation for its captivating live shows.

The first short set leans heavily towards the folk roots of the music and the band itself, featuring a three-piece horn section. The audience of just over 200 is so quiet, the crickets take notice. But as soon as the last note of the first song fades, the crowd erupts in what can only be described as a sitting ovation. 

In the theatre entrance, with a flower and bow in her hair, six-year-old Ezri Schafer blissfully dances. She’s oblivious to the world around her, aside from the music.

“I don’t know,” she replies when asked what inspires her to dance. “It’s just good.”

As quickly as she could twirl away, Ezri returns to dancing.

Intermission rolls around. The aroma of fresh Mexican fare proves to be more enticing than the bar for most. Heading for the bar first seemed to be the smart move, although the food runs out before the lineup does.

Oh well, at least the beer line’s short.

Although it’s probably for the best, the lack of tequila’s a bit of a downer. Dos Equis it is. Viva Mexico! Viva! Viva! Viva!

Mexico marks its independence on the day the revolution began, rather than the day insurgents officially overthrew the rulers 11 years later. There’s perhaps no better way to celebrate than with a pinata contest.

“Viva Mexico! Viva!” cheers lead Ghost, Jorge Requena.

“Viva Mexico! Viva!” the crowd replies.

“Viva Mariachi Ghost! Viva!” is maybe what they’re really thinking. What
they’re feeling.

The first batsman plucked from the audience spills the skull pinata in just a few wild swings, sending its candy brains scurrying across the floor. The act swiftly turns spectators into participants.

A giant skull pinata presides over the stage like the Wizard of Oz as the second set begins with an intense wall of sound. Dancer Alexandra Garrido’s whirling, twirling, haunting interpretation keeps all eyes on her, as she transforms music into motion. 

With an entire room to herself, aside for a half-dozen broken pinatas, Ezri dances.

“I didn’t even know what the words meant in another language, but did not care,” says Gloria Dignazio, the founder of Phantompalooza. “Their music just hit home. And the dancer, the dancer ... She was mesmerizing!”

“Viva Mexico!” Requena shouts again.

“Viva Mexico!” we respond.

Published in Volume 69, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 24, 2014)

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