One of the things I love about Mexico is the music that is everywhere. Eventos – essentially rentable party houses – play live and recorded music several nights a week until the wee hours. Private parties in the courtyards of homes ring with sounds of norteña, cumbia, and just plain Mexican party music. And cars with huge speakers bump along on the cobblestones, lighting up the neighborhoods with rap, and corridos.
But the thing I like best is the mariachi who show up just about everywhere. I am not talking about pickup bands that look for gigs on the malecon; I am talking about top class mariachi’s that have albums out and thousands of streams on Spotify and play for plaza crowds one night and on your neighborhood corner the next.
Many of them live here. Plus, Ajijic is the home of the Pedro Reyes School of Mariachi so there is a steady stream of young musicians developing their chops, playing with the big bands and in school concerts. And you never know where they will pop up.
A mariachi that popped up Friday night in my working class neighborhood was Mariachi Real Ajijic, one of the best bands in Lakeside, if not in Jalisco. The event was the unveiling of a mural on the side of a local restaurant and hotel – a big deal in a town with dozens of murals and muralistas.
The mural was painted by a respected local artist, Mario Ramirez, and it covered the full side of the Inn Ajijic– maybe 35- 40 feet long depicting local scenes and personalities. The unveiling was attended by the mayor and the secretary of culture and the hotel owner and took place in front of an audience of about 150 people, mostly from the neighborhood.
The music then kicked off with the Sayacas, young men and girls who dress in traditional Mexican costumes, wear traditional wooden masks, and dance and throw flour or glitter on the audience. Both cross-dress – the boys as women with soccer balls for their breasts and rumps, while girls masquerade as old men with bearded masks. They came out and danced to recorded traditional Mexican dance music, threw glitter on the audience, and pulled audience members into the dance.
Next were the lariats – lazo in Spanish – men and boys who spun ropes to the music (sort of), dancing through the loops, followed by a tequila-fueled Mexican hat dancer who joined the party.
While the lazo and the hat dance was going on, a van arrived behind the crowd and out poured Mariachi Real Ajijic, one of the region’s top mariachi’s. The 7-year-old band treated the crowd to over a dozen songs, including traditional favorites where the audience joined in with the singers.
The crowd grew while Mariachi Real Ajijic played as people from the neighborhood heard songs they knew, and passerby’s on the main street two blocks up turned down the cobblestone side street, following the music.
There was a set list, but there was also improvisation, with individual players wowing fans with lightning speed violins, laughing guitarrón rifts, and vocals that echoed through the neighborhood. And the tequila ceremony – the band leader pouring tequila into the open mouths of audience members – including me.
And then they were done. The mariachi musicians picked up their sombreros, took a bow, hugged well-wishers, and friends, and loaded their equipment back in the van. People took that one last selfie with band members. Kids started chasing each other around again, the street dogs went back to sleep, the crowd melted away, and the party was over. Another example of the music magic of Mexico.
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