Mexico cantina, a mari­achi tem­ple, cel­e­brates 90th year

The China Post - - ARTS - BY TIM PAT­TER­SON

The singer pumps the room full of his bari­tone voice, two trum­pets cry out, and gui­tarists strum a steady, stringy beat while the guests drink­ing te­quila whis­tle their loud ap­proval.

It’s a Wed­nes­day evening in the mari­achi tem­ple known as Sa­lon Te­nampa. In the chaos of sound, a grin­ning cou­ple spins on the dance floor and the mu­si­cians sweat in their dark blue uni­forms adorned with gold and sil­ver.

Lo­cated in Mexico City’s Plaza Garibaldi, the Sa­lon Te­nampa has at­tracted visi­tors for 90 years from across Mexico and from around the world. To mark this year’s an­niver­sary in Novem­ber, the res­tau­rant has opened a small bar that over­looks the plaza, a tra­di­tional gath­er­ing spot for mari­achi bands where mu­si­cians some­times play cards or check their cell­phones as they wait for po­ten­tial cus­tomers.

Norteno mu­si­cians in dark cow­boy hats and white-clad jaro­cho groups play­ing mu­sic from the Gulf state of Ver­acruz are also found on the square.

In­side Te­nampa, elab­o­rately cut pastel­col­ored pieces of pa­per hang in rows from the ceil­ing like fes­tive lit­tle flags. Drunken pa­trons sing along with the mari­achis or test their re­solve with an elec­troshock ma­chine called “los toques.”

Be­hind the wood-trimmed bar, a plaque bears the name of the res­tau­rant’s founder, Juan I. Her­nan­dez, and his por­trait gazes down on bar­tenders in black aprons and pa­trons seated on black­leather stools. Her­nan­dez brought the tra­di­tions of te­quila and mari­achi to Mexico City from his na­tive Jalisco state and they’ve filled the res­tau­rant with partiers since 1925.

“This is con­sid­ered to be the home of mari­achi,” and is among the old­est restau­rants on the plaza, said Ce­sar Coron­ado Fer­rer, a singer who has per­formed at Te­nampa for 30 years. The es­tab­lish­ment’s walls bear mu­rals de­pict­ing mari­achi le­gends such as Pe­dro In­fante and Javier So­lis.

“It’s like a sym­bol of Mexico,” he said, point­ing out that UNESCO named mari­achi mu­sic an “in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage” in 2011.

What makes the res­tau­rant spe­cial, is “the history that we have,” said Car­los Al­wazan Perez, who has man­aged the res­tau­rant for eight years. “The peo­ple who have passed through here: the singers, the com­posers.”

Be­hind the bar, Abra­ham Manilla mixes a pop­u­lar “ponche de granada,” a cock­tail of pome­gran­ate juice, red wine, te­quila, and a dash of chopped nuts served in a clay mug.

“Here, visi­tors want the ex­pe­ri­ence of clas­sic Mexico in the mu­sic, the food, and the drinks,” the bar­tender said. “At least four songs were writ­ten here in the res­tau­rant.”


(Top) Mari­achi Car­los Cas­taneda plucks his vi­o­lin as he waits for cus­tomers at the Te­nampa Sa­lon res­tau­rant and bar in Garibaldi Plaza in Mexico City, Fri­day, Aug. 21. Tra­di­tional mari­achi groups usu­ally have at least two vi­o­lin­ists, and Cas­taneda plays along­side his brother, Os­car. He added that mari­achi mu­sic is a fam­ily tra­di­tion. (Above) Mari­achi Jose Je­sus, left, passes the time wait­ing for clients by play­ing cards with a fel­low mu­si­cian out­side Sa­lon Te­nampa res­tau­rant and bar in Garibaldi Plaza in Mexico City, Aug. 8.

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