An idea whose time has gone


Groups of wandering minstrels known as estudiantinas go back to the first universities in Spain, in the late 12th century. They were bands of impoverished students who, to survive, would play music in the streets and pass the hat afterwards. You still find them in Mexico City, particularly on weekends, roaming through the restaurants of the centro histórico. They will typically stay in each eatery and play several numbers. As they are groups of six or more musicians, their warbling, strumming and unbearably unstinting cheer invariably drown out the conversation at your table. As such, talk must be suspended until they leave. Call me a grouch, but I never give them money -- I don't want to encourage them. After more than 800 years, I believe it is time to designate the estudiantiana to its rightful place in history, and banish it to the scrap heap.