I decided to stay longer in Guadalajara than I’d planned (this always seems to happen to me). I mean, what the hell. The little town of Tequila was nearby and that, it seemed to me, necessitated a bit of a tequila pilgrimage. Which I began at La Fuente, a rustic, smoky cantina in Guadalajara’s historic district where I could appreciate both mariachi music and tequila at the same time since you really cannot (or should not) separate one from the other.
And La Fuente, a serious drinking establishment not far from the Plaza de los Mariachis, was the perfect place to begin my pilgrimage because it is here, on most evenings, that you will find dozens of musicians in their charro-inspired finery of embroidered felt hats and high-waisted jackets entertaining strolling Tapatíos, as the locals call themselves, alternately celebrating and lamenting love, death, family, Mexico, and the company of a good horse. (There is something very bi-polar about mariachi music, what with a high-spirited number immediately followed by a weepy ballad, but that’s a story for another day.).
It was at La Fuente, while sampling a number of fine tequilas, that I met Jose Delores, a somber-looking man with sorrowful eyes who is the leader of a mariachi band from nearby Atotonilco. I invited Señor Delores, a violinist, to join me for a drink and then asked him if he thought there was an emotional connection between mariachi music and tequila.
He looked at me thoughtfully for a moment, then slowly lifted his caballito, a tall, hand-blown shot glass designed specifically for sipping tequila, and took a small sip. “Sí, claro,” he said, studying the amber liquid. He placed the caballito back on the table and looked at me impassively. Clearly Señor Delores was a man of few words.
His son, who played the vihuela (a small treble guitar) in his father’s band and had joined us, was a little more expansive. “Tequila, like mariachi, is about emotion,” he said. “It is about a woman who does not love you. It is about the land you grew up on; it is about Dios and diablos.” He shrugged and added, “I do not think it is possible to play or listen to mariachi and not drink tequila. One is the heart of Mexico and the other is the soul, and which is which I’m not really sure. But this is not important because it is not possible to have one without the other. Do you understand?”
“Sí, claro,” I told him.
But I really didn’t. At least not yet. But that was okay. After all, this was just the start of my pilgrimage. I had many more cantinas to visit.
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