The home of mariachi and some of Mexico’s most loved musicians, Guadalajara is a great place to enjoy live music. Visitors can sit back and be serenaded at local restaurants or go out and dance to the traditional and contemporary rhythms that have become the soundtrack to the city.
Mexico’s most emblematic musical genre, mariachi is a century-old form of folk incorporating string instruments, acoustic guitars and horns, performed by troupes dressed in sombreros and distinctive, traditional outfits. As the birthplace of the genre, the city is immortalized in the popular song “Guadalajara, Guadalajara,” which visitors can hear live in almost any of the plazas or Mexican restaurants in the historic center, or in the delightful market district of Tlaquepaque.
Guadalajara also hosts an annual International Mariachi Festival in August, which draws groups from all over Mexico and even international mariachi outfits from as far afield as the United States, South America, Europe and Japan. The festival includes a colorful parade along Avenida 16 de Septiembre, with mariachis playing on floats while folkloric dancers perform and Mexican rodeos known as Charros shown off their skills.
Guadalajara is also the birthplace of Vicente Fernandez, “the king of ranchera” another popular Mexican genre. Fernandez is the best loved representative of this traditional music form which originated at around the time of the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century. “Chente” as he is affectionately known, is accompanied live by a mariachi group, but is not technically a mariachi musician himself, as he plays no instrument live.
Having sold over 50 million records worldwide, the 74-year old singer finally retired last year, but fortunately for fans his son Alejandro Fernandez continues to carry the flame. No lightweight himself, Alejandro has sold more than 30 million records, combining pop, ranchera and mariachi with great success. True giants of the local music scene, the Fernandez family even own the largest music venue in Guadalajara, the 15,000-capacity Arena VFG, located beside the family ranch on the southern outskirts of the city.
Guadalajara has also produced some hugely successful rock and pop acts. Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana was born just outside the city in the town of Autlan de Navarro. Although he first found success in the United States in the 1960s, Santana’s roots remain important to him, as he demonstrated in December 2013 by playing a special homecoming show at the Arena VFG with an array of famous guests from the world of Latin music.
The most successful contemporary band to have emerged from Guadalajara is undoubtedly Maná, a pop/rock act with Latin, calypso, reggae and ska influences. Maná first found fame with their seminal 1992 album ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Niños?and have since won four Grammy Awards, seven Latin Grammys and sold some 35 million albums worldwide. Although considered the biggest Latin rock band in the world, they remain socially and politically conscious, having performed for Barack Obama at campaign rallies and his re-inauguration ball, and also expressed support for U.S. immigration reform, the Puerto Rican independence movement and Mexico’s indigenous Zapatista rebels.
The next big band to come out of Guadalajara looks set to be Troker, a thrilling six-piece jazz fusion act. In 2013 Troker became the first artist from Guadalajara to play at the United Kingdom’s prestigious Glastonbury Festival and the organizers enjoyed their performance so much that they invited them to come back again this year. Troker will also showcase their unique blend of jazz, rock, funk, hip-hop and psychedelia at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas next week.
Visitors to Guadalajara can usually catch one half of Troker playing popular rock, jazz, cumbia and even mambo covers under the moniker Trioker at some of the city’s most distinguished restaurants. While not on tour, Trioker perform at Cafe Candela (Javier Mina 183 in central Zapopan) on Tuesday nights, at I Latina (Avenida Inglaterra 3128) on Thursday nights and at Sotano 2 in Plaza Andares on Fridays and Saturdays. It is well worth checking them out.
A reckless bus driver killed a local high school student and injured another 21 on Friday afternoon, thus reigniting the furor over public transport safety in Guadalajara.
The number 368 bus was speeding along the northern Periferico beltway – and reportedly racing a minibus – just before 3 p.m. when it slammed into a bus stop where students from the Preparatoria 10 high school were waiting. The driver, Leopoldo Martin Soberano Castro, 53, was sober at the time, assured Hernan Guizar Maldonado, the director of public safety in Zapopan.
“He says two students tried to cross the street in an untimely manner. When he saw them he turned the wheel and unfortunately that’s when he rammed the bus stop,” Guizar said.
But having failed to even brake, the driver then reversed – causing further injury to some of the victims – and tried to escape the scene of the crime. A mob of enraged students chased him 100 meters down the road and smashed one of the bus windows before Zapopan police arrived to arrest him and prevent a lynching.
Eighteen-year-old Maria Fernanda Vazquez Vazquez died at a local hospital that evening, while 21 others were injured, several of them gravely so. Soberano is now being held in Jalisco’s maximum security Puente Grande prison. He faces murder charges and a possible sentence of 25 to 50 years.
The parents of Vazquez Vazquez will be entitled to 336,450 pesos (US$25,000) in compensation while the State Council for the Victims of Public Transport will provide 12,500 pesos (US$945) to cover the funeral costs.
This tragic incident put the spotlight back on the appalling safety record of public transport in the Guadalajara metropolitan area. Fourteen people have now been killed in the city by public transport in 2014, an average of one victim every four days, while 60 have been injured. Another 49 people were killed by bus drivers in Guadalajara in 2013, while 1,144 have been killed in the city in the last 18 years, according to Pedro Mellado, a reporter for local newspaper Mural.
This appalling record has led to a rise in vigilantism against bus drivers in recent years. Eight bus drivers were murdered in two waves of violence in February and October 2012, in apparent revenge for the death of pedestrians hit by buses. Another bus driver, Marcos Gutierrez Muñoz, 40, was shot dead on Friday in Guadalajara’s General Real neighborhood, but this was an unrelated killing that occurred hours before the students were hit.
The public University of Guadalajara, which runs the Preparatoria 10, cancelled classes and organized a large-scale demonstration on Monday. Some 400 students, reportedly accompanied by anarchist groups, marched through Guadalajara to the municipal palace, where they clashed with police. Nine demonstrators were arrested, while three police officers were reportedly injured.
In response to the initial public outrage, the Jalisco government announced on Sunday that it had reversed a recent hike in bus fares, with the price dropping back from seven to six pesos, effective immediately. Yet this will come as scant consolation for those affected by dangerous driving, who have long demanded better, safer service from local public transport.
He had escaped prison, made billions of dollars and oversaw one of the bloodiest periods in Mexico’s history, but his reign finally came to an end on February 22 when masked marines frogmarched the short, scowling Guzman before the media and then whisked him off for interrogation. Now he is behind bars once again.
As the net tightened around him, Guzman fled into the sewers via an elaborate network of tunnels that linked seven safe houses in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state. He then drove south to a seafront condominium in the Pacific Ocean resort town of Mazatlan, where he was caught napping in an early-morning raid.
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Mexican authorities have unearthed the bodies of six men from a shallow grave in the southern outskirts of the Guadalajara metropolitan area. A total of 45 corpses have now been exhumed from mass graves in the city since late last year and over 100 have been dug up in the western state of Jalisco since November.
The first bodies were found last Friday night after police officers received a call complaining of a foul stench emanating from a farm near the Cerro del Gato hill on the border between the municipalities of Tlaquepaque and Tonala. Tlaquepaque police officers discovered bones protruding from a poorly hid grave and called agents from the State Prosecutor General’s Office (FGE) and the Jalisco Institute of Forensic Sciences to oversee the excavation process.
The victims, all males aged 18 to 45, were killed two to six months ago, forensic experts judged from the level of decomposition. At least some of the victims died of gunshot wounds, but it could take 30 days for them to be identified by their DNA.
The corpses were found close to a shrine to Santa Muerte, an iconic female “Saint of Death,” whose worshippers include criminals and drug traffickers.
The FGE suspects the bodies may correspond to victims of the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion, which is believed to be responsible for a number of mass graves uncovered in the area in recent months. Another 19 bodies were found in mass graves in Tlaquepaque in February, while 17 more were exhumed in Zapopan in December.
At least 67 more corpses have also been uncovered in the nearby town of La Barca since last November. The authorities believe the mass graves are a result of the ongoing turf war between the CJNG and the Knights Templar of neighboring Michoacan state.
State Governor Aristoteles Sandoval said on Monday that several municipal police officers had been arrested in connection with the crime, but claimed that Jalisco “lives in peace” with statistics indicating a much lower level of violence than in other states.
Within days of the arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the beachfront condominium in Mazatlan where he was captured has become an iconic tourist attraction, with scores of visitors flocking to have their photo taken in front of the building where the 13-year hunt for the world’s most wanted drug lord finally came to an end.
Already a popular destination with Mexican vacationers and North American retirees, the Pacific resort of Mazatlan, Sinaloa received a welcome boost ahead of this weekend’s carnival, with taxi drivers now charging 250 to 300 pesos ($19 to $23 USD) to take visitors on “narcotours” to the Condo Miramar where Guzman was detained. The informal tours also take in other sites such as the Hotel Plaza Gaviotas parking lot, where Ramon Arellano Felix of the Tijuana Cartel was gunned down in 2002, and the ruins of the Frankie Oh nightclub owned by Ramon’s brother Francisco Arellano Felix, where prominent narcos used to rub shoulders with celebrities.
Authorities in Sinaloa now plan to capitalize on Guzman’s notoriety by running official “Chapo Tours” that take tourists to infamous drug-related landmarks in the state capital, Culiacan, the bastion of El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel. Those who have taken the “narcotours” in Mazatlan have been overwhelmingly Mexican, but the aim of the Chapo Tours would be to draw more international tourists to Culiacan, a city seldom visited by foreigners.
In the style of Liverpool’s Magical Mystery Tour for Beatles fans, the Chapo Tours would take tourists to Guzman’s many properties in Culiacan and other local spots associated with him. The mode of transport? Any of the 43 vehicles that were seized from Guzman during last week’s operation.
These included 11 Jeeps, seven Dodges, six Mercedes-Benz, four Chevrolets, four Nissans, three Fords, two Toyotas, two Volkswagens, a Cadillac, a Ducati, a Mazda and a Lincoln. Nineteen of the vehicles had been fitted with armor, while the most expensive was a Mercedez-Benz SLR McLaren valued at around four million pesos ($300,000 USD).
The Chapo Tours would also include visits to the homes of other legendary kingpins and the sites where they were killed, as well as Culiacan’s lavish Jardines del Humaya cemetery, where the likes of Arturo Beltran Leyva and Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel are buried in grandiose mausoleums.
The Chapo Tours were reportedly the idea of Armando de la Cruz Uribe, the head of the Mexican Hotel Association, who may have been inspired by the popular tours in Medellin, Colombia where tourists visit landmarks from the life of legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar.
Following his dramatic arrest on Saturday, legendary drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman apparently told Mexican officials that he was responsible for 2,000 to 3,000 deaths.
Citing sources who accompanied the detained kingpin as he was flown from Mazatlan to Mexico City, respected Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola claimed that Guzman spoke openly with his captors.
Asked why he had fled from Culiacan to Mazatlan instead of hiding in the mountains where he grew up, Guzman said that he had planned to head for the mountains, but first he “had to see my girls” – a reference to his beauty queen wife Emma Coronel and their twin daughters.
Guzman also revealed that last year he met up briefly with another notorious fugitive, Rafael Caro Quintero, who was controversially released from prison in August but is still wanted in the United States for his role in the torture and murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena in 1985. The pair had lunch together for about an hour in the mountains of Sinaloa, where Caro Quintero is hiding out, Guzman said. He reportedly claimed that the former Guadalajara Cartel kingpin has no interest in returning to the drug trade, as he is old, ill and feels he has paid for his sins.
Of his partners in the Sinaloa Federation, Guzman reportedly said that Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada is also living in the Sierra Madre, while Juan Jose Esparragoza, alias “El Azul,” is most likely in Guadalajara.
Asked about rival cartel Los Zetas, Guzman described his late nemesis Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano as “my enemy, but a gentleman” and expressed his hatred of Lazcano’s successor Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, alias “Z-40,” who was arrested last July. Guzman is also said to have slammed Servando “La Tuta” Gomez and the Knights Templar cartel as “dirty crooks,” claiming the difference between them and him was that “I’m a drug trafficker. I don’t kidnap, I don’t steal, I don’t extort – none of that.”
Loret de Mola also claims Guzman gave his version of the murder of Cardinal Posado Ocampos at Guadalajara airport in 1993, for which he was arrested and imprisoned. The Archbishop of Guadalajara was shot dead in his Grand Marquis amidst a feud between Guzman and the Arellano Felix brothers who ran the Tijuana Cartel.
“I thought the Arellanos were riding in the Grand Marquis, that’s what my bodyguards told me,” Guzman said, implying that he was inadvertently behind the killing of the cardinal. In total, he apparently claimed “I killed two or three thousand,” although he did not clarify if that meant directly or by ordering others to carry out the killings.
Finally, Guzman is said to have claimed that tales of his wealth were exaggerated – “an invention of Forbes” – which regularly included him in its rich list. Loret de Mola published Guzman’s comments in his column in El Universal on Tuesday. Without knowing his source it is practically impossible to confirm their veracity, but a separate report published by La Jornada on Friday corroborated several of Guzman’s declarations.
I spoke to Carlos’ father, award-winning journalist Rafael Loret de Mola, the next day as I was researching another story on Guzman. As many Mexicans view the official account of Guzman’s arrest with some skepticism, Loret de Mola senior shared his theory with me.
“I think ‘El Chapo’ gave himself up because he had lost of control of the situation and feared being killed; that’s why he asked for help via a satellite phone (the authorities are said to have tracked him down by tracing the call),” Loret de Mola said.
In Mexico each presidential administration tends to “favor a certain cartel and dismantle another,” he added. President Vicente Fox and his successor Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN) “undoubtedly” protected “El Chapo” and aided his escape from prison in 2001, Loret de Mola argued, but Guzman appeared to have lost the support of the government following the election of Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 2012.
“It’s important to emphasize that this operation to capture him was carried out during the week that the North American summit took place with Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Toluca,” Loret de Mola added. “It’s obvious that the operation and the surrender were arranged.”
Not in Mexico. The offspring of Mexico’s most infamous drug lords seem to believe they are above the law and have no qualms about plastering social networks with evidence of their lavish lifestyles and ill-gotten gains.
Born with silver-plated AK-47s instead of silver spoons, several narco juniors have taken to the web in the last year to flaunt their untouchable status and seemingly endless supplies of drugs, guns, girls and sports cars. However, a string of recent arrests, including that of legendary kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, suggest such brazen behavior is finally beginning to catch up with them.