Calle San Miguel is Alive with Music

In an era of downloaded music, nothing brings more pleasure to the ear than the sweet blare of trumpets from a live Mariachi band, the operatic tenor of an estudiantina or the sheer laughter from a bouncing mojiganga. While these traditions may be fading away in other cultures, they are a thriving art form in San Miguel de Allende, an opportunity for personal expression and a reason for celebration.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, September 12, 2012 --( For Hermes Arroyo who has been making mojigangas for the last 15 years, he makes them for the pure pleasure of it. He has had a fascination with art since the age of seven when he first began his studies. Now 31, Hermes’ pop-art expressionism has evolved from masks and sculptured saints to mojigangas, mostly because those of his era were stiff and, ugly, not joyful and fluid. He explains that the earlier models were made completely of cardboard and didn’t have costumes. Those he makes today are part firework castillo for the body frame, part piñata for the head and part paper mache for the hands and body parts, then sewn with costumes to complete the desired character.

Hermes has more than 30 mojigangas in his collection, “the oldest and favorite being Wanda, a ‘wild crazy gringa,’ because it best reflects my personality,” beams Hermes. He claims he gets most of his inspiration observing the women of San Miguel, “who are as fascinating to me as art itself.” When he isn’t crafting new mohijanga puppets, like those he’ll unveil at Feed the Hungry’s street food festival Calle San Miguel on September 22, you can find him in Comonfort or at other special education classes throughout town teaching art to handicapped children.

Mariachis, another live art form in San Miguel, have been entertaining visitors for generations. Once hired to serenade senoritas below window balconies to gain marriage commitments for star-struck lovers, this folk music genre combines classical music with Mexican charro and has become recognized internationally for its rich customs, traditions and brassy bravado. Antonio Rico, founder in the 1960s of Mariachi Allende, has traveled throughout Mexico City and Guanajuato playing with such master trumpet players as Benjamin Kills Ramirez with the Guanajuato symphony orchestra, and fellow San Miguelenses in Garibaldi. His musical family has produced a host of performers including several children who formed “Orchestral Allende” and eight brothers who make up the larger Mariachi Allende. You can catch the patriarch and second generation band at Calle San Miguel too, but don’t forget your request list.

Folk music conjures up a whole other kind of communion and celebration. Traditional Mexican songs like Bésame Mucho, Cielito Lindo and La Paloma melt hearts and make friends faster than bees can make honey. That’s what brought La Tuna Tradicional together seven years ago.. "the friendship and camaraderie," claims band leader Norbeto Godinez Estrada. This musical group of estudiantinas, fashioned after the rondalla in medieval Spain, is an ensemble of Mexicans playing stringed instruments with a plectrum or pick, including guitars, mandolins, Mexican vihuelas, violins and cellos. Flutes, castanets and tambourines are also often used and members incorporate lyrics in the songs that are vibrant, yet still in keeping with the traditional theme of melancholy love and evening serenades. Sixteenth century attire of short breeches, ornate shirts and capes also add to the romanticism of this period. You can catch La Tuna Tradicional practicing every Monday at 8:30pm at the Calle Animas barbershop or see their live performance at 7:00pm on September 22 at Calle San Miguel, a street food festival like no other to benefit Feed the Hungry San Miguel. Go to for more information.

What: Benefit for Feed the Hungry San Miguel
Title: Calle San Miguel, a street food festival like no other!
When: Saturday, September 22, 2012 5-8pm
Address: Ancha San Antonio 30, Institute Allende
Phone: 415-152-2402
Cost: Presale: $75 USD or $1,000 Pesos
At the Door: $85 USD or $1,100 Pesos
Feed the Hungry San Miguel
Valarie Brown Coon