Mariachi // (c) Ed Yourdon
While Mexico’s Jalisco State is considered the birthplace of the mariachi, the popular music form quickly made its way to Mexico City during the early 20th century. Now the lively folk music style, with its performers in “Charro” suits playing various instruments, frequently accompanies most of Mexico’s major celebrations and events. Music fans seeking Mexico City’s finest mariachi performances should be sure to visit the following attractions.
Best known for its series of extended canals and the colorfully decorated trajinera boats that ply the waterways, Xochmilco is an excellent place to indulge in varied mariachi performances. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, the area is hugely popular with locals, who rent boats in order to hold festive, celebratory picnics. Dozens of mariachi bands pole their boats through the waterways, hoping to entice locals and visitors into buying a song. While a personal serenade comes with a price, the budget-conscious can always enjoy the high-energy performances accompanying the festivities of a nearby boat.
Jorongo Bar, Sheraton Maria Isabel
Those who don’t enjoy their music al fresco or who dislike the pressure of the pay-per-song system can enjoy lower stress mariachi music at the Jorongo Bar, located in the Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel. The bar has reached a nearly legendary status with locals, who whistle, cheer, sing along and order drinks for the numerous mariachi bands that perform nightly. Visitors quickly get caught up in the action, and soon find themselves hooting, hollering and sharing drinks with the locals.
Although the plaza has been criticized for becoming overly touristy in recent years, there’s no denying that this area remains an international icon of the mariachi. Once a place where musicians would line up in hopes of auditioning for locals seeking entertainers for a wedding or other celebration, the plaza still holds an air of expectancy. Now mariachis play for pay as much as they audition, but locals still wander the area, seeking the performance styles they most enjoy. Neighboring bars are probably best navigated with the assistance of a local or skipped altogether, however the surround-sound feel of the plaza, where multiple groups perform at once, is worth a visit.
When asking locals where they like to go to hear mariachi music, restaurant Villa Maria often jumps to the top of the list. Embassy Suites Mexico City general manager Thomas Pauly tells guests that the restaurant “is a lot of fun while not being pretentious.” The clientele backs up his claim. Although the restaurant is located in Mexico’s ritzy Polanco district, patrons come from around the city to enjoy the varied and delicious menu. Villa Maria’s signature tamarind margarita is a perfect accompaniment to the live music performed throughout the evening.
Ballet Folklorico, Palacio de Bellas Artes
While not a mariachi performance in the strictest sense, the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico brings together Mexico’s folk culture in a colourful, not-to-be-missed combination of music and dance. Cultural tourists absolutely cannot afford to miss this program, which traces Mexico’s history through a variety of dance numbers, ranging from unknown such as the gun-carrying women of the revolution, to the familiar twirling costumes of the Jalisco dances, to the well-known hat dance with accompanying mariachi music. Performances are staged in the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of the Fine Arts) which with its marble floors, stunning murals and Tiffany glass stage curtain is already worth the price of admission.