Stratified Music: Discourses of Artistry and Economy in Condesa, DF

Heather Levi (Temple University)

At the end of the twentieth century, the Mexico City neighborhood of Condesa went from a quiet residential zone, home to Spanish and Jewish immigrants and Mexican bohemians, to a center of restaurants and nightlife. Many of the businesses that now define the neighborhood have sidewalk seating or are open to the street, and so the area also draws a variety of ambulant vendors and entertainers offering goods and services to diners. For street musicians, in particular, Condesa is now known as the “ruta de oro,” the golden route where one can actually make a living. But working in Condesa is complicated. In less well-heeled parts of the city, ambulant musicians work taquerias, microbuses, and cantinas where they are generally welcomed by the clientele. In Condesa, however, although they can make more money, they are also more likely to be stigmatized as beggars. Moreover, Condesa audiences evaluate different musics in moral, as well as artistic terms. Musicians respond to the stratified valuation of their music and their persons by articulating multiple discourses regarding music and value.  This paper addresses these working musicians’ views of the relationship between labor, money and art in a context where their music might not be recognized as music, and their labor is seldom recognized as work.  [Text Originally in the AAA 2013 Program]