I returned last week to Puerto Vallarta after a week with a full to do list in my Oakland, California home. As usual, I came down with a cold—seems inevitable after a flight these days. My horoscope, which I follow with limited conviction, kept telling me this was going to be an exciting week, full of energy. “Not the way I feel” I thought. But the universe knew better.
The weekend of May 24, 25 was the important celebration honoring the patron saint of the Gypsies, Saint Sarah, in the south of France. There suddenly appeared on my radar screen an opportunity to see two of my favorite groups inspired by the music of the Romani people, the charming and energetic gypsy rumba band of Media Luna in beautiful San Miguel de Allende and the simpatico and super talented jazz manouche group Gato Negro in the historic city of Leon. Since the stars were propelling me, I lined up a trip.
My plan was to fly the inexpensive direct Interjet flight from Puerto Vallarta to Leon airport, take a shuttle (Bajiogo) to downtown Leon where I would stay at the Hotel Leon, the location where Gato Negro would be performing the following night. The morning after their concert I would take a bus to San Miguel arriving at my airbnb with plenty of time to prepare for a wonderful evening with Media Luna.
I arrived in Leon early enough to enjoy a walk around old town with its magnificent plazas, churches, lion sculptured fountain and entertaining street music and to enjoy a rich bowl of pozole followed by a frozen fresh fruit paleta before returning to my hotel situated right on the main square. The show I came to attend was not until the following night so I had plenty of time to roam and sample some of the special treats Leon has to offer including plentiful artisanal ice creams and a very hot sandwich (guacamaya) made of chicharrón on a thick bun and smothered in an extremely hot sauce.
Friday night, in the elegant restaurant of Hotel Leon, Osmar Esquivel gave a brief introduction to the uninitiated of jazz manouche, the music inspired by the Romani people of France and made famous by Django Reinhardt. In addition to the group’s marvelous music featuring Osmar on violin, guitar and accordion, Victor Quijas on double bass and Alfonso Jimenez on guitar, classically trained Osmar treated us to several jazz pieces on piano, the first instrument on which he excelled as a child performing with symphony orchestras at age six. The crowd loved the music and the group didn’t wind up until after 11:00.
Saturday morning, I bused to San Miguel de Allende and made ready for Media Luna’s concert that night. My airbnb was conveniently located giving me a chance to cruise through the colorful streets of San Miguel before the show. It was such a treat to see and be welcomed again by brothers Caleb and Jaír Cabrera and cousin Gibran Monzalvo Cabrera at Paprika Restaurant where the event was held. The full band experience featured guests including an impressive Luis Badillo on bass guitar, the talented Charly Peña on flute, and San Miguel’s own Andres Perales on percussion. They put on a fantastic show for a full house on the delightful out door patio. Media Luna is currently living and performing in Mexico City where they enjoy a lively summer musical scene. Keep your eyes on my website calendar for more spectacular music from them this winter in Puerto Vallarta and surrounding communities!
I was up early on Sunday to enjoy a breakfast at my favorite spot, El Correo, near the plaza principal where they never let you down with their traditional dishes and historic ambience, before being whisked off by my prearranged Bajiogo shuttle ride to the Leon airport for a comfortable flight home. Life is indeed good when music is involved.
For more details, visit my website vallartasounds.com