Monday, September 17, 2012

Guadalajara's Top 20, Number 12: Plaza de los Mariachis

On more than one occasion, a consulate employee has asked how I came up with my Top 20 List for Guadalajara, and I have had to first clarify that these aren't my personal choices and then direct them to a link on our office intranet page, where our Community Liaison Office has done a wonderful job of providing various information about the city in which we live.

Here's what our CLO says about Plaza de los Mariachis:

If the Cathedral is Guadalajara's soul and the market its stomach, the Plaza de Mariachis has to be its heart. Drink up the ambience from morning until night, but go at night if you have a choice. Not for children or dining, the Plaza is located between and near the junction of Calzada Independencia and Obregon.

Now, I'm not going to blame our current CLO staffers for this, since the Top 20 list was published before either one of them held the position, but if Plaza de los Mariachis is the heart of the city, we're on the cusp of cardiac arrest.

There are a couple of restaurants in the plaza, so the age of the above recommendation is certainly called into question. I wouldn't suggest going at night, though. Whether it is actually dangerous or not, I can't say. The place is, however, located on the outskirts of the bustling city center, and as such the mantra of "safety in numbers" begins to diminish right around here. We went this afternoon and as dusk approached TJ commented that we needed to leave because the prostitutes were starting to come out. The above review is apparently correct on one count: It's not for children.

Visitors of Plaza de los Mariachis that enter at the corner of Javier Mina and Independencia will be greeted by a small but elegant church named El Templo San Juan de Dios, which is the namesake of the market a scant 130 yards to the east. That's about where the pretty ends, though I did appreciate the metal Mariachi that adorned the adjacent jewelry store.

The plaza covers what amounts to an average-sized city block that, at least in the wake of this past weekend's Mexican Independence Day, is canvassed with tents, stages, and foldout tables and chairs. There's not much of a plaza feel; there are no fountains, scarce foliage, and no park benches. It's very much a pedestrian street.

On the far side of the plaza, at the corner of Independencia and Obregón, you may find the odd group of Mariachis congregating and hoping to be hired for a party, dinner engagement, or wedding. At the far edge of the plaza, looking out on the city at large (or perhaps turning his back on the remnants of this historic space, is a bust Silvestre Vargas, who took over leadership Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán from his father in 1928. The group made dozens of recordings and stared in several film throughout the 1960s. There is a museum dedicated to Vargas located in Tecalitlán, Jalisco.

The official name of the plaza is Plaza de Pepe Guizar, in honor of the composer of the song "Guadalajara," arguably the most famous Mariachi ballad in the state of Jalisco. I really have nothing else to say about the space, except that the Top 20 list should be revisited and revised immediately, so I'll end by treating you to a video performance of the aforementioned song. I hear it every time a Mariachi band is nearby, and I will forever remember it as the theme song for this two year tour in beautiful Guadalajara.

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