The number of persons of Mexican origin living in Canada in 1987 stood at 821 permanent residents of Mexican birth, and 4413 temporary residents, including students. By 1991 there had been little if any study of their music. Instead, available sources describe the activities of, primarily, those individual musicians who receive subsidies from either the Mexican or Canadian governments.
The violinist Frantz Jehin-Prume lived in Mexico in the mid-1860s before settling in Montreal, and the vibraphonist Jimmy Namaro, born in Mexico, came to Canada as a child. However, most Mexican musicians who have come to Canada have been on tours or longer-term temporary engagements. These visits are by and large recent phenomena. In 1958 the National Orchestra of Mexico presented a program of works by José Pablo Moncayo, Silvestre Revueltas, and Carlos Chávez in Montreal. Manuel Suarez, the Mexican violinist and conductor, led the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra 1972-4. The conductor Eduardo Mata has visited Canada repeatedly, and has conducted and recorded with the NACO. The Cuarteto Latinoamericano, founded in 1981, performed works of Mexican composers, including Manuel Enriquez, Mario Lavista, Silvestre Revueltas, and Aurelio Tello in 1989 at Toronto's Harbourfront, and were featured on the CBC radio program 'Gilmour's Albums' in 1990. On the occasion of the visit of Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Enriquez, who is also the music director of Mexico's Instituto nacional de bellas artes, spoke at the RCMT. The Mexican cellist Carlos Prieto gave the Canadian premiere of works by his compatriots Manuel Ponce (Three Preludes) and Bernal Jimenez (Three Tarascan Dances) in 1990. Works by Ponce were also performed at a local debut concert at the National Gallery in Ottawa by the Trio México (Manuel Suarez, violin; Ignacio Mariscal, cello; Jorge Suarez, piano).
Concertizing Canadians have for a long time made stops in Mexico. Emma Albani performed in Verdi's Otello in 1890 in Mexico City. The sopranos Anna Chornodolska and Louise Lebrun have also sung in Mexico City, as has the bass, Jan Rubes. Alexander Brott won first prize at the Pan-American conducting competition in 1957, held in Mexico; his son Boris won the prize in the following year, and second prize went to Otto-Werner Mueller. Gregory Millar was director 1973-5 of the National Opera of Mexico; Peter McCoppin conducted in Mexico in 1990. The ensemble Stringband gave concerts in Mexico in 1977, and the early music ensemble Anonymous performed there in 1989.
Several Canadian composers have been inspired by either travels to or commissions from Mexico. Colin McPhee composed Tabuh-Tabuhan (1936) at the request of Carlos Chávez for the National Orchestra of Mexico. John Weinzweig spent part of a sabbatical in 1968 in Mexico, where he composed Dummiyah. Paul Bley composed three pieces which he recorded in 1965 and which show evidence of an interest in Mexico: Sideways in Mexico, Mazatlan, and Pablo.
The Canadian mariachi band Festival, under the direction of Jorge Lopez, has presented concerts of Mexican folklore and music, including a 1991 appearance in Toronto for the WOMAD festival.