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The Yucatan Symphony Orchestra struggles to pay its musicians

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The YSO takes bows at its temporary performance space, the Palacio de la Música. Photo: Courtesy

Since 2021, the Yucatán state government has reneged on an agreement to cover the symphony orchestra’s payroll. 

This only compounds its fight for survival under the government’s austerity measures. Unlike its peers across Mexico, the Yucatán Symphony Orchestra is struggling to get the state to fulfill its obligation to fund its relatively meager budget.  

The fire that badly damaged its home base — the landmark Teatro Peón Contreras —  was a bad enough blow. The box office was forced to refund all the tickets it had sold for the season’s remaining performance dates. Now, the YSO, as it is known, is playing at the Palacio de la Música, a venue with less than half the capacity it had previously enjoyed. 

A fund created in 2008 was meant to cover YSO salaries. But this year, its board of trustees has been chipping in to fill the gap, Diario de Yucatán reported.

Government funding peaked at 32 million pesos in 2018, dropping to 30 and 28 million in the following years. The most drastic reduction was in 2021, when only 5 million pesos came to cover musicians’ salaries. After negotiations, another 2.5 million pesos was added to the contribution — still far short of what was due.

Layoffs and a hiring freeze followed, and a program to give grocery vouchers to employees evaporated.

The YSO’s 2023 payroll is 27.8 million, but the current state budget allocates just short of 12.9 million pesos to the institution.

In just 18 years, the orchestra has positioned itself as one of the most important and active in the country. It is also the only one with an exclusive concert program for children. Since 2014 Sinfonízate program has received more than 25,000 students from all over the state.

Other symphonies across the country are completely subsidized by their home states or a nearby university, Diario reported. Moreover, their budgets range from 50 million to 100 million pesos. 

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