Mexico City dance halls strike visiting internationals for the crazy and fantastic way – that Mexico still invites and celebrates older people, and insists that they participate in a cultural and social life. And the dance halls, for the sheer fact that they are not stocked full, simply or exclusively of young or old, prove once again, that in art, culture and dance, we can always learn and share something, even across generations and not even to mention the racial and class divides that have befallen other less sophisticated cultures.
“Danzón” came to Mexico from Matanzas, Cuba, directly through the lively city of Veracruz. Characterized by its aphrodisiac effects dancy beats it was soon being enjoyed in Mexico City dance halls as well as in cities all across the country. These are five of the most important, still welcoming young and old, people of all backgrounds and cultures – and simply because we’re all better when we are together.
# 5 Salón Los Ángeles – Colonia Guerrero
The “Mexican Dance Cathedral,” the Salón Los Angeles made the Colonia Guerrero practically synonomous with dancing! This has been going on for some 80 years and in that time. the hall has been visited by intellectuals and revolutionaries including Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo; Fidel and Raúl Castro as well as, probably “CFacebookhe” Guevara, and writers like Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, José Saramago and Carlos Monsiváis.
But the the Salón Los Angeles is the kinf of all Mexico City dance halls because of the “pachucos” and “rumberas” and the dances that everyone can still learn. Sunday “Son” classes, “Danzón” Mondays and Pachuco “Tuesdays” are still the best times for true beginners, because weekend nights get competitive and no one wants to be shown up by oldsters when the music gets to moving you.
# 4 California Dancing Club – San Simon (Calz de Tlalpan)
Legendary, at Calzada de Tlalpan 1189, exactly between the Nativitas and Portales Metro stations, the California Dancing Club opened those banged up doors in 1954. For the entire second half of the 20th century, California has welcomed entirely families – which is to say – there’s no booze. But the danzón, mambo and chachachá pour just as readily as the cumbia and the salsa. A Friday and Saturday night mainstay, other nights are even more affordable and frequent classes and beginners sessions are posted accordingly.
# 3 Salón Tropicana – Plaza Garibaldi
Plaza Garibaldi’s “Cathedral of Cumbia and Salsa” is a frequent stop for touring acts from the Caribbean, the US and South America as well as from all over Mexico. Tuesday through Sunday nights are “Tropical Nights” (they’re closed Mondays). For salsa, rumba and meringue and the ubiquitous Cumbia everyone knows and loves, this is the place that really fills up the Plaza Garibaldi after-hours and late into the wee hours of morning.
# 2 Salón Caribe – San Cosme
Easily still one of the most popular in the city, Salon Caríbe is actually one of the babies in this list. Twenty years is nothing. But the music and the atmosphere have had older adults, jubilados, and even their parents lined up around the block almost since the club’s opening in 1995. Always with live acts, the dancing goes on till late and they’re open Tuesdays through Sundays. Inside is just as spectacular – and no – there’s not always a line to get in. Just sometimes.
Perhaps the grand dame of Mexico City dance halls, Gran Forum is only about 20 years old, too. At Calle Cerro del Músico 22, the space is frequently converted to a concert hall and even to a convention center of sorts, but for Danzón lovers, it’s simply the biggest dance floor anywhere. Live salsa and cumbia bands light up most Wednesdays and Sundays frequently host big bands and even orchestras. And funny enough, its the kind of place that maintains almost no social media presence. People have no trouble finding it.
Mexico City is vibrant, vast and very important. Not just in terms of the space it occupies and the stone and brick from it’s made from, but Mexico City greeted more than 30 million visitors last year. That’s more than it’s entire metro-population (though not by much). Let’s look at why they came.
Last year, at about this time, The New York Times had named the city the number one travel destination for 2016. Tourism searches on Google showed Mexico City as not just a Latin American Favorite, but in the top five tourist searches in the world. And of course, people have been asking for the last several years if it wasn’t the Next Paris, or the Next New York or the Next SOMETHING.
The City government set itself to the task of figuring out just why people love coming here. These are the top 15 reasons they came up with, and ultimately they’re the reasons that Mexico City is Latin America’s favorite, and maybe your favorite too!
1) 185 museums, nine archaeological sites and four World Heritage sites? The cultural scene is enormous, rich and varied. There’s something for every kind of cultural traveler.
2) Fairs, festivals, conventions, meetings and extravaganzas cover music, food, movies, books, and trade in every kind of human activity, down to the annual clown convention.
3) Blockbuster events? Last year saw a Formula 1 race, an NFL game or two, the Tour de France, and a free Roger Waters concert in the city center.
4) Chosen for the sixth world C40 Mayors Summit in November of 2016, Mexico City is widely perceived as a world leader in combatting climate change.
5) The Metrobús system, originally based on one running in Bogota, Colombia, is now the biggest in Latin America. Stretching some 125 kms today, in 2017 no less than 90 Alexander Dennis Enviro500 double-decker buses will begin plying the length of Paseo de la Reforma, as Metrobus Line 7 officially opens.
6. The tourist program Sonrisas por tu ciudad, literally “Smiles for your city,” organized by the Secretary for Tourism, has benefited more than 200,000 people.
7. Mexico City’s Central de Abasto (pictured below), after more than 30 years sells 30,000 tons of merchandise (mostly food) and sells to about 30,000 people every day. It’s the largest shopping area in the world.
8. Mexico City was the first Latin American city to join the Rainbow Cities Network, which coordinates city-level actions to protect LGBTI citizens and residents.
9. Mexico City was chosen as the World Capital of Design for 2018, by the World Design Organization.
10. The Centro Histórico is the largest historical city center in Latin America, with 1,500 buildings designated as having historical, cultural, artistic or architectural value. That’s more than most tour guides can handle, but it’s also home the continent’s biggest Metropolitan Cathedral.
11. Mexico City’s first ever Day of the Dead parade was celebrated by more than 250,000 marchers, band members, onlookers and, yes, zombies.
12. The city’s El Médico en tu Casa program puts a “Doctor in Your Home.” It’s already recognized in America, Asia, and Europe, for bringing health services closer to people who can’t easily visit hospitals or clinics.
13. Mexico City also began the first Specialized Center for the Management of Diabetes anywhere in Latin America.
14. The Ecobici system (pictured below) is the biggest public bike system in Latin America, with 452 cycle stations and about 35 million trips made by 200,ooo riders every year.
15. And finally, the good old underground Metro network is the biggest in Latin America, too. With 12 lines 226 km in total length, about 5 million people ride it every day.
Source: CDMX government, with information from International CDMX and the 4th Governmental Report CDMX, 2016.
Casa Madero may have been the first winery in the Americas, founded way back in 1597, and way up in Coahuila. But Mexico’s predominant “beer culture” has always given wine producers something of a long shadow to grow up in. Aguascalientes, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Zacatecas and Chihuahua all produce respectable wines, but it’s been the environs of Ensenada (the Guadalupe Valley, the Santo Tomas Valley, and the Ojos Negros Valley) that have really busted the Mexican wine scene out onto international lists of “respectability.” Some parts Coahuila (the Valley Of Parras, and Cuatro Ciénagas in particular) still hold their own – but most wine enthusiasts agree, Baja’s got the wine to beat.
Mexico exports wine around the world. According to the Mexican Wine Council, about 400 brands of wine are currently being produced in the country, and these increasingly appear on the international lists as being wines to watch (and to taste). But those lists aren’t everything. Even the most sophisticated drinkers know today that plenty is coming each year from Mexican wineries that’s worth taking note of.
Yes, you can still find plenty of good Mexican vintages mixed in with the international offerings on the shelves at Liverpool. But the wine shops below are pretty active at pushing good wines, from Mexico, onto more Mexican tables.
Vinoteca has three locations in and around the city and carries a wide range of Mexican wines, and still more around the country. They do a fair internet trade in wines too, but stopping in lets you pick the brains of their knowledgeable staff.
La Contra, also with shops all over the country, is one of the city’s leading advocates for the Mexican wine industry. With a capital location in Roma, it’s an easy and relaxed place to pick up recommendations, or indeed, to sample some of the best bottles coming in.
Address: Álvaro Obregón 130, local # 10, Colonia Roma Norte
Telephone: 5564 0966
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Á de Acento offers a very well-regarded restaurant, but the gourmet shop offers plenty that’s pure Mexican and well worth a bottle or two. In fact, prices are very reasonable, but there’s also usually something special hidden away in the shelves that inquiring customers will be very pleased to find.
Another in the list of combo restaurant and gourmet shops, Amaya has made a big splash with their list of “vinos raros.” Far from weird, many of them are fabulous. They’re also generally available in the shop, no reservation necessary and many of the best are, in fact, domestically produced!
Don’t expect friendly service. La Europea is still trying to figure out in which decade they’re doing business. But for all the wood-boxed bacalao these people sling during the holidays, they’ve always got a ton of good wine, too. With a good number of branches in and around the city, calling them one of the best wine shops in Mexico might be a stretch, but they do a lot of business, and for that, they always offer a ton of good Mexican wines too.
Si Mon is run by the chefs at Broka Bistrot, practically next door. And the emphasis is on local, good, and even inspiring wines. One of the best things about shopping at a wine bar is after all, that there is usually a bottle open. And for that, including Si Mon in a list of the best wine shops is practically a given.
Main Photo Above: Aborigen Valle Seco, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Courtesy of La Contra