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Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
Battle of the Bands
Recently I had the most unusual dining experience yet in Mexico. My husband and I walked to our favorite restaurant to have a nice romantic dinner. But when we found it closed, we decided to try out a restaurant further on down the block. We’d always eyed this establishment and talked about trying it, but had never taken the opportunity.
It was by far the largest Mexican restaurant we’d visited. We had a beautiful view of the Malecon, and the setting sun. The tables were surrounded with Mexican families enjoying their meals. This restaurant had a swing set, stairs and slides. I’ve been in family oriented restaurants in the USA… even those with games, and a fun land for kids. But this was the first time I saw something like that in Mexico.
As we awaited the delivery of our food, several people stopped by our table. A young woman holding her infant stopped by to try to sell us gum. A shirt vendor stopped and showed us the many shirts he wanted us to purchase. Next a sweet-faced young boy was fanning us with faux flowers…followed later by a balloon vendor.
Didn’t I see a sign when I walked in that said no vendors? And why were they all concentrating on our table?
At the far end of the restaurant, a live band playing Mexican tunes on their stringed instruments. It was pleasant. I enjoyed the setting sun, the view of the water. I could even appreciate the squeals of delight from the children playing on the swing set. And then it happened. Another band entered the restaurant.
The first band dressed in matching white jacket were playing their stringed instruments at the furthest end of the room, and we selected seats far away from the band, as we tend to be “sound sensitive.”
The second band, in their identical black shirts, made their way through the restaurant, and picked a spot mid-way in the large area. They and their brass instruments were much closer to us. But what truly surprised me was that they started to play, even though the original band was still playing. I was beginning to have visions of “Dueling Banjo’s” but it was nowhere near as melodic.
Just as we were finishing a third band walked in. This band, in purple sequined shirts, walked up to the table next to us. They set up their drum. Then their accordion player lined up next to a tuba player, followed by a singer. And they started playing what could loosely be described as music. But the people at the table sang along with tune, while we made wild motions to our waiter for our check.
Checks are never quick to the table in Mexico, and we were in dire need to escape the battle of the bands, the shrill squeals of the children, the constant flow of vendors. “It’s like a circus in here,” shouted my husband. It took longer to get our change than it did to prepare our meals. Finally, change in hand, we were released. When our ears stopped pounding about a block later, we vowed never again to go anywhere near that restaurant.
We find it fascinating that the Mexican culture can be so tolerant of loud noise. Their festivals are filled with bands playing loudly long into the night, usually accompanied by fireworks, loud singing and joyful noises. They celebrate with nearly every part of their being. I admire that. But three bands playing at the same time is more than I can tolerate!