Mexico’s organ grinders dwindle in popularity

Global Business

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Once beloved by the people of Mexico City residents, the organ grinders have seen their popularity dwindle in the wake of competition from other street performers and new trends in music.

CCTV America’s Martin Markovits reports.Follow Martin Markovits on Twitter @MartinMarkovits

Mexico's organ grinders dwindle in popularity

Mexico's organ grinders dwindle in popularity

Once beloved by the people of Mexico City residents, the organ grinders have seen their popularity dwindle in the wake of competition from other street performers and new trends in music. CCTV America’s Martin Markovits reports.

For the past 28 years, Luis Roman Dichi would put on his uniform and carry his 80 pound organ to play waltz tunes on city streets.

Lately, business has not been good. He said he earns only half what he did just a few years ago. His organ can’t compete with people listening to music players and other street performers.

Organ grinders have been an integral part of Mexico City’s way of life since German immigrants introduced the instrument in the 1930’s.

They can be seen in almost every major park and avenue in this metropolis, playing waltz and love songs for money but now many see them as more of an annoyance.

Mexico City resident Jesus Sanchez believes they are nothing more than streets beggars playing old fashion tunes that nobody wants to hear.

“I don’t like them. You see them all over in the street corners and traffic lights and they never play songs I recognize,” Sanchez said.

It doesn’t help that many of the organs are out of tune. Most of the players find it too expensive and time consuming to fix. They also have less influence on City Hall. After years of receiving health and housing benefits, city officials have stripped them of these generous perks.

Organ grinder Alejandro Carillo refuses to see it as a dying profession. Despite the negative stigma that surrounds them, he believes it’s still a noble job.

“There are people who don’t have the need to work in the streets like us. They don’t have to go carry the organ in in the hot sun or in the pouring rain,” Carrillo said.

But as the organ grinders lose out to modern trends, it may not be too long before these players become a relic of Mexico City’s not so distant past.

  • Sagich Dirnicht

    The key here is indeed the influence with the City/Government. Just like in the Netherlands, it should be recognized as an integral cultural – for lack of other description – “institution”.

    If the previous “perks” should be reinstated is something I wont comment on;
    but there should be either funds provided for or a paid-by-Government job created,
    that is entirely geared to the restoration & tuning of the organs.

    Also, the “problem” with recognizable tunes should be taken care of with a two-prong approach:
    – send the Organ Grinders into the schools to introduce the kids to the old tunes (incl. full discourse about heritage of the tunes, composers and lyrics – so they exist)
    – put into order some new barrels for these instruments, that carefully also introduce other tunes that might be more recognizable

    One has only to look as far as Chile to see how these cultural treasures can continue to be carried on (Google/Youtube “Chinchineros”)