The Economic Adventures of a Transborder Street Musician

Heading down south for the big Pesos.

Busker’s Buzz December 20, 2007

Filed under: Tuesdays — ramonalvarado @ 2:23 am
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franquicia tambora 

As I was arriving at the pedestrian area of Velarde St. I saw that the place where the Andean musicians where last time was taken by this gentleman selling a sort of dancing magical skeletons. He sells them by putting on a show with them. These things are made of plastic, about three inches tall and hang by a very thin, invisible almost, fishing wire and he sort of inadvertently makes them dance while speaking to the public.  I kept on walking to my usual spot in the shoe store area. I was so focused on finding out if the PA system of the big shoe store was on that I didn’t noticed that the Andean musicians where already setting up right there. When I saw them I noticed one of the agents of commerce talking to them and telling them that they should get a permit, I think it’s because they have the whole kit, including CD’s and flutes to sell. I talked to them and found out thatthey are actually from Mexico City and not from the Andean region, they usually busk at Malls during this season.

As I was wishing them luck and taking off at that same corner, in the middle of the pedestrian crossing, two little boys, probably 5 or 6 or 5 and6 started to play Tambora with a snare drum and a clarinet, I was really happy about all of this busking scene but a little bit nervous about finding a spot. I went ahead anyway and walked a block further south, did my set and then walked towards the northern end of the Velarde pedestrian shopping area where Ulises joined me briefly once again.

tambora franchise

After that I went towards the Museum where I saw that the little tambora boys had multiplied. They were 7 of them and they had a strategy of divide and conquer. The group I had seen in the Velarde plaza was a subdivision of a busking franchise of brothers and sisters. They where all walking together with their instruments this time back to the main downtown square. As soon as I started my set at the Museum I broke a string, luckily there is a music store right next to me and I was able to change it in less than 5 minutes.

Day 14


Amount of money made: $11.38

Broken string: .90c

Actual gain: $10.48

Exchange rate: 11.16 pesos/dollar


The Ulises Factor December 13, 2007

Filed under: Tuesdays — ramonalvarado @ 1:38 am

La morena

So I listened to Ulises this time and went a little deeper into the downtown area of Juarez. It is a crazy time to do this because just to go pass the plaza in front of the cathedral you have to swim through a sea of people. This was yesterday, so just a day before December the 12th. In Mexico this date means serious business. For some reason somewhere along the European conquest of the 1600’s it came to be that December the 12th was the day that Mexico celebrates the Virgen de Guadalupe, a very interesting amalgam of the virgin Mary that the Spaniards brought with their catholic missionaries and a local feminine goddess of the pre columbian era. The plaza was full of vendors with rosaries and huge kitsch pictures of this religious icon, many many taco, gorditas and elotes stands plus a variety of kids that were dressed as the one they were celebrating. They would pose for pictures with you if you wanted…alongside Santa and his rain-deers. Anybody interested in anthropology would have a kick out of that picture.

I had to walk quite a while before finding a spot that was friendly enough for my performance. There are people everywhere in this area but also shops everywhere and with them come the blasting speakers that seem to be the only marketing device that merchants in this region have ever heard of. That and being dressed as a huge gorilla distributing endless flyers. So it was kind of difficult to find a spot between two speakers where the sound was muffled by the crowd, but I found it. I established myself in-front of a shoe store that even though had a huge PA system outside it wasn’t using it.

 2nd spot

And so I started playing in the midst of all this human traffic. Many people approached and stopped and listened and gave money, it seems like a great busking place with nothing but locals and  a great vibe.  I guess it is a great place for busking in terms of everything else except for the money. Again, falling under that category of borderland ironies, even though many more people participated in giving out money, the amount accumulated was less than at my usual busking place, maybe a dollar or two less. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but when such quantity represents more than 10% of what one is making, it is important to note the difference. It all comes down to the denomination of the coins people toss. At the museum less people would give money but at the end of the day I usually end up with at least one dollar bill, two 10 pesos coins or a combination thereof; over here on the other hand I had many many many 1 peso coins, a few two pesos coins and even fewer 5 pesos coins. Having said that, it was still great, I saw the kids that invited me to their band again and they just waved hi and smiled. I doubt that they had read my response to them here, but they knew it nevertheless. 


On my way back I stopped and talked to Don Alacran who is always in a very good mood, a very passive good mood for he never smiles but always answers politely to your questions. I told him that I had tried a new busking spot and that it seemed to have worked well with the people, we talked about the part of Mexico he was from and about his business. I guess I could say that he said hi…

I also thought about some interesting stuff on the blogging side. I think we need to make this more of an experiment and therefore manage some more data. So from now on I will tell you what day of the week it was, which busking spot I used  and even what the currency exchange rate was in Juarez avenue at the time I exchanged my pesos for dollars. I will try to figure out a way to categorize all this information so that whoever is interested (only myself maybe) can look up trends and maybe later graph them… but I’m interested…aren’t you?

Day 9


Amount of money made (Border Crossing deduced): $ 5.05

Busking Pitch: Pedestrian street near the market place. (I’ll get the name later)

Amount of time played: 1h 15 min.

Currency exchange rate: 11.06 p/dollar