Martial Mexico | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Martial Mexico

I'm sitting by my window listening to the drum and bugle corps that practices over in Parque Juarez every evening at six.

They're annoying.

The constant repetition as they practice grinds grooves into my brain. I find myself helplessly humming along with the inane tunes. After listening to them for three years, I probably know the music better than they do.

The buglers only are able to achieve four notes on their instruments, so all of their numbers have to be played in the same key. Since the available permutations of those four notes are few, the tunes blur into tedium. Like Bluegrass, a little goes a long way.

All this would be bad enough if they actually were
good musicians. But they're not, as the clip below reveals:

Puts a real cramp on my afternoons.

How are these young people selected to join the band? What are their qualifications? Take this drummer:


His appears not to be a demanding position. Bang on the drum, simply, repetitively.

I guess anyone can apply. You certainly don't have to demonstrate actual musicianship.

I can tell you one thing: This guy sure as hell will never qualify as a bugler. Air leakage, you know.


There's gotta be dozens of drum and bugle corps in San Miguel. They show up for civic events and parades and fiestas. They have spiffy uniforms. They take themselves very seriously. They stand at rigid attention. They march with precision. Some goose step, like little Latin American storm troopers.

They appear to provide the sole source of music instruction for a vast majority of young Mexicans. Once I attended a concert of the new San Luis Potosi Symphony Orchestra. The city had hired a Russian maestro who came to Mexico with a group of young violinists, cellists, flautists and the like from a conservatory in St. Petersburg. Mexicans were represented in the orchestra as well. They played—you guessed it—trumpets and drums.

Mexicans are militaristic. They love uniforms. They love marching. When marching in their uniforms, they salute each other a lot. For a race that loves children and fiestas and music, they sure are warlike. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Mexican national anthem. One verse translates as:

War, war without truce to any who dare,
To tarnish the country's coat of arms!

War, war! Take the national pennants,
And soak them in waves of blood.

War, war! In the mountain, in the valley,
The cannons thunder in horrid unison.

And the resonant echoes
Cry out—Union! Liberty!


Makes you wanna stay out of their way. Until you consider that they lost every war they've ever fought.

(Not counting revolutions where they fought each other, of course. Those they both won and lost.)

The anthem was written shortly after they were defeated in the Mexican American War (1846-48). To make them feel better about themselves, I suppose.

When Jean and I first moved here, we'd set our clock radio to the University of Guanajuato FM station. If we set the alarm for anything earlier than seven, we'd catch the sign-on when they played the national anthem.

To call it stirring would fail to do it justice. All I can say is you didn't want to stay in bed when it was playing.

I really can't describe this song adequately. You have to hear it for yourself. You can find a a great if somewhat startling clip here (You Tube).