This story first appeared on Texas Standard. An excerpt can be viewed below. To read or listen to the full story click here.
The pandemic has been devastating to musicians, including mariachis. Restaurants and other venues where mariachis would regularly play were shut down. And live events were cancelled. But as Mother’s Day approaches, many mariachis are tuning their instruments again – including a popular group called Mariachi Los Galleros de San Antonio.
The group is used to playing at birthday parties, quinceañeras, weddings and anniversaries. But that changed this past year. Rather than festive parties, they were asked to mark the passing of people who died from COVID-19.
“We were doing lots of funerals. It’s sad but it’s what kept us afloat financially,” said Miguel Guzman, director of Mariachi Los Galleros. “A couple of weeks ago we did a funeral at least every day for a week. … The funerals are a reminder, you know, that you’re not here forever, and it makes us appreciate what we have now.”
The pandemic took a toll on the group. Seven of Los Galleros’ 11 members contracted COVID-19. Guzman and one of the trumpet players were hospitalized.
“I was hospitalized for a month; I was literally dying. At any moment I felt that I could just go. It was the worst experience of my life,” Guzman said. “I developed some other problems with my lungs and breathing, and I lost 40 pounds of weight. I couldn’t walk after a while; I couldn’t breathe on my own; I couldn’t sit up, I didn’t have the strength. And I didn’t have anyone there with me, and this was right after Thanksgiving.”
Music played an important role in Guzman’s recovery. Two months after he got out of the hospital, he returned to the mariachi group.