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Music, Melodies, Mariachis
Friends ask, “What do you like about Mexico?”
I begin with food, not fancy, but meals I enjoy. “I like beans and rice, enchiladas and tacos
and a cold beer. I could live on guacamole and totopos (chips).” I love simple family res-
taurants and ice cream parlors that are so wildly painted in bright colors that they make the
rainbow look pallid.
I like the outdoor markets, the handcrafts, the colorful pottery from the town of Dolores
Hidalgo, and the tiles from Puebla. I like macabre masks and The Day of the Dead. I love
the Cervantino, the three-week festival that celebrates Miguel Cervantes and performs his
short comic plays. It's held annually in Guanajuato.
I love the pageantry, the parades and processions, the fairs, the colonial buildings, the aban-
doned and the renovated haciendas, the former convents that may now be a hotel, a mu-
seum or a restaurant, tours of old mines, Diego Rivera Murals and the surprises that tell me,
“You're not in Kansas anymore.”
I don't care about the beaches.
I like temples and pyramids and excavations and the mysteries of lost civilizations. I like
the history of the Spanish Conquest and following historic routes. I've visited the homes of
Cortes, Zapata, Pancho Villa, Benito Juarez and Santa Ana. And I've tracked down migrant
workers in the U.S. back to their village and homes in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Mexico is history and adventure. It's loud and brazen. It's colorful and mysterious. It's
about people and their charm. It's not without frustration or misunderstandings. You learn
about yourself as you gain an understanding of Mexican's culture. I don't think there is
another national border that you can cross from one country to the next and sense such a
radical change.
Above all, Mexico to me is music. I love mariachis and their songs, their corridos, ballads,
and rancheras. I enjoy José Alfredo Jimenez, Lola Beltrán and Paquita del Barrio, songs of
the Revolution, love songs, songs of heroes, songs of distress and songs that encapsulate
history and protest injustice.
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