Plaza Garibaldi is a famous square located in the historic centre of Mexico City – it was originally called Plaza Santa Cecilia, but 1910 saw it renamed to commemorate Jose Garibaldi, an important military figure from the Mexican Revolution.
The plaza is known as the Mexico City home of mariachi music, where the traditional players can be found, guitar in hand, 24 hours a day. The mariachi musicians roam Garibaldi Plaza in groups, serenading couples and offering their services for parties and other events. There can be up to 3,000 mariachis working in the area every day, and their music is what gives the plaza its life and soul.
In 2011, the plaza and its surrounding streets were declared one of Mexico City’s 21 ‘Barrios Mágicos’, or ‘magical neighbourhoods’. This highlighted the recent reworking of the plaza that had been taking place since 2007, when the area was in decline and threatening the image and tourism of the plaza. Regeneration of Garibaldi was an important part of a bigger plan to improve the whole of the historic downtown of Mexico City, with the plaza an iconic cultural hub of the region.
With the local area in decline, Plaza Garibaldi had gained an unattractive reputation as a seedy square full of drunks, and crime was a real problem. With the regeneration came a new design, unfortunately removing the traditional mariachi bandstand that had graced the centre of the square for decades. The new plaza features additional open space, a beautiful agave garden, and refurbished buildings lining the edge.
Image credit: [Mae B.]
In 2012, free consumption of alcohol was banned in the plaza, an unpopular decision that simultaneously made the area safer and less interesting. The plaza is now not quite as packed as it used to be on a Friday night, but the atmosphere is not diminished – those who enjoy a drink are welcome to visit one of the many bars.
A famous bar in the plaza, Salón Tenampa was a major player in the mariachi movement. The establishment became a popular nightspot in 1920s Mexico City, attracting mariachi bands after musical movie stars from the legendary ‘Charro’ era began playing there - the music soon spread to the rest of the square. Salón Tenampa is still open almost a century later, having hosted kings, presidents and international luminaries over the many decades.
Image credit: [veroprincess]
The bar is located to the north of the plaza and is open until 3am usually, and 4am if it’s the weekend or a public holiday. In the plaza itself, the best time to experience a buzzing atmosphere and plenty of live performances is a Friday or Saturday night after 11pm.
Food and Attractions
Plaza Garibaldi is an ideal place to experience the best of Mexican cuisine, with the amazing San Camilitio Gastronomic Market located nearby. This is filled to bursting with small stands specialising in traditional Mexican food, and is a great place to try birria or the native alcoholic drink of pulque. The regeneration of the square also included the Conservatory of Mexican Cuisine, so look out for an array of gourmet restaurants that are set to establish in the area as it becomes a foodie hotspot.
In the same vein, while in Plaza Garibaldi make sure you check out the new Museum of Tequila and Mezcal – a fascinating look at the culture and history of the famous Mexican spirits, and you also get to learn about the process by which they are made. Entry to the museum is only 50 pesos, which includes free drinks on the roof terrace overlooking Plaza Garibaldi itself.