Six days a week from noon to 8 p.m., Alex Bautista can be found sitting behind the counter at Georgetown Records in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City (CDMX). Spinning his favorite jams on a desktop turntable, he often hands an old-fashioned address book to the latest Amoeba employee to stop in, or talks business with a friend on a well-worn couch against the back wall.
During a recent Friday art show, the sound of live music often drowned out chatter in the store. Located next to a store that sells musical instruments and other gear, visitors at CDMX’s Georgetown Records can often hear a rogue guitar or the squeak of a speaker.
Posters, album covers and stickers adorn almost every available surface of the store, which opened in 2016 as an informal partnership with Martin Imbach, who owns the original Georgetown Records located in Seattle.
“The original idea was to make a bridge, a Seattle connection,” Bautista said.
Bautista and Imbach are not legally connected. With taxes and tariffs, their separate partnership eliminates the heavy cost of operating internationally, while allowing the two owners to share their love of music across the border. Imbach and Bautista talk regularly and Imbach visits every November, but they emphasize that Georgetown Records CDMX is entirely Bautista’s thing.
“It’s good for people from these two particular countries to work together on a project,” Imbach said. “I think borders are artificial things that really get in the way of creative thinking and creative living.”
The Georgetown namesake sprung out of a mutual friend from Mexico, who brought her experiences with Seattle music home across the border. That mutual friend eventually faded out of the picture and Bautista became the sole proprietor. He sees the partnership as a way to share his lifelong love of music with the CDMX community that is just beginning to embrace the record store renaissance.
“I started going to record stores [in the USA] and I was, like, blown away because we don’t have that here,” Bautista said. “You know, like not even concerts like that or festivals, and not record stores like the ones in Los Angeles.”
Georgetown CDMX has blossomed into a center of art, interweaving American music with the emerging Mexican record store scene. Over the past decade, Bautista says stores have sprung up everywhere. In a city with over 20 million people, he can’t keep up.
“They got it going on down there right now,” Imbach said.
Highlighting cultural similarities has been proven to be very successful. Bautista seamlessly intermingles Sub Pop paraphernalia with his locally curated discography.
“We try to keep the Seattle spirit, you know, like grunge and stuff,” Bautista said.
Cumbia is a best seller, especially with foreigners. But Georgetown CDMX specializes in punk and garage music, which is shipped from US suppliers and sometimes found in bazaars, or open air markets, around CDMX. Chances are, if a record is popular enough to be sold at Urban Outfitters, Georgetown Records in CDMX doesn’t sell it.
Bautista does sell plenty of Latin music, but insists that the record store culture in both countries is synonymous and shares the same general likes and dislikes
“I think I would have expected a little bit of difference in musical taste,” Imbach said. “There’s all the same stuff that we’re into.”
Beyond music, Bautista has begun to showcase local Mexican visual art. For Record Store Day last year, instead of offering specially branded records — which Bautista says are too much of a hassle and overall not popular — he sold posters that require 3D glasses. One of these pieces still hangs on the wall, and he likes to give lingering customers the glasses so they can see for themselves.
Record Store Day has become wildly popular in CDMX, attesting to the growing culture by highlighting popular stores, like Roma Records.
“It’s a big party now here in the city,” Bautista said. “We have a lot of big sponsors like Rhino Records, we’re getting a lot more attention now.”
Going forward, Bautista hopes to bring more international partnerships into the mix. KEXP, which plays music by Mexican artists, recently paid a visit to CDMX to make connections with Georgetown Records.
The CDMX store itself remains bit of a cultural mystery. It’s not advertised by the original Georgetown Records, and visitors usually need to have some sort of connection to the art or music community to find it.
“It’s a small community, but it’s cool, everybody knows everyone,” Bautista said.
In Seattle, Imbach dreams of finding a similar partner in Beijing to bring the spirit of Georgetown Records to China.
“It is this organic empire that has no center but’s all connected,” Imbach said.