Where, Why and How to Enjoy the Arts in Mexico's Major Expat Cities
I will always remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the 2016 election results. And I will remember hearing them in Spanish. As I arrived to the water taxi that takes me to my gym every morning, the ferry’s driver took my hand to assist me aboard and said “Ah! Trump ganó.”
Expats in Mexico got to escape a big part of the all-consuming, exhaustive fervor of the campaign. You could take in as much or as little as you wanted of Trump in what you read and talked about with expat friends. We didn’t have to suffer through much of the 24/7 campaign messaging on television. Many expats in Mazatlán get Canadian cable news. You could stay informed without going crazy.
For days after the election, a quote that guided every job decision I ever made kept ringing in my head.
"An institution is the lengthened shadow of one person. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” 1841
During my career as a fund raiser, I selected where I worked not by salary but by who led the organizations I worked for. The company or non-profit’s past didn’t matter as much as who led it in whatever future that I would be part of. I always felt as long as the leader was ethical, I'd be in good hands.
Far from what you’d expect given the rhetoric of Mexican murderers and rapists, my Mexican friends were impassive about the campaign results. In spite of all the talk of the wall, some still thought Hillary was “more dangerous” than Trump. One good thing it reminded us of is that is that we live in a world where anything can happen, which keeps it a world worth staying awake for.
I am not opposed to every plank in the Republican platform, but the shadow that will be cast by our new president is not one I wish to stand in for the next four years of my life. One more good reason to live here, especially at this stage of life when I am looking for less, not more anxiety.
The day after the election, a Mexican friend invited me to a ballet to take my mind off things. My interest in the fine arts at home historically had been pretty tepid given the cost of tickets but I craved something pretty and fine, preferably with a lot of flute. A ballet was a perfect idea.
Even if you aren’t a great enthusiast of ballet and opera, you can be more capricious in Mexico because tickets cost so much less. A ticket for a great seat at the Ángela Peralta theater, Mazatlan’s beautifully restored opera house, costs about $20, still a little high for Mexico, but probably at least half of what you'd pay in the U.S. for a good seat.
The production was staged by the Compania Ballet Classico de Sinaloa, and funded by Instituto Municipal de Cultura, Turismo and Arte de Mazatlán, as are all its productions.
The production we saw, “Fille Mal Garde” is one of the oldest of classical world repertoire, created in 1789 in France. It was one the first that didn’t deal with kings, queens or magic but rather common people. It is a comedy ballet, a first for me, where pantomime played a key role. It’s story is a simple love story, unique in its time for it’s happy ending.
It was a night of much-needed grace. After the show, we ran into the two key cast dancers at the restaurant, including the young man who played the grandmother in the production to wild applause.
If you are considering moving to any of the larger popular expat areas, you most likely will find a community cultural center or theater. The performances are high caliber, pulling in directors and maestros from all over Latin America.
Since opera and ballet transcend language, they draw a big percentage of expats to their audiences. Looking around the Ángela Peralta Theatre, I’d bet that many there, like me, were not great enthusiasts at home but welcomed the opportunity to broaden their exposure, at the right price. Unlike our presidential candidates, the most exposure you get, the more likely you are to grow your appreciation.
When you are doing online research for activities such as ballets and operas in Mexico, it’s usually easier to find the information you need if you look at the Spanish-language sites. All you need is a few key words in Spanish to put into the search browser and the ability to translate into military time.
Not all venues have dedicated websites but all have Facebook pages where with a little Spanish, you can get people's reactions and reviews to the venue and productions.
Here is a listing and links to on the major cultural centers and theatres for ballet and similar performances in the most popular expat areas:
San Miguel de Allende (voted in 2016 as the Best City in the World by Conde Naste Travel Magazine)
Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez “El Nigromante," or “El Nigromante” del Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes
You will also find an amateur theater company called "The Players Workshop" which offers two theater seasons yearly.There are many festivals that take place in San Miguel de Allende, such as the Music Chamber Festival, the Short Film Festival, Jazz Festival, Guitar Festival
Teatro Auditorio Buero Vallejo - also has performances
Cabañas Cultural Institute - Instituto Cultural Cabañas, better known as Hospicio Cabañas, is a public agency whose objective the promotion and cultural diffusion.
The Center de Espectaculos Carta Clara is concert venue
Riviera Maya / Quintana Roo
El Danxica Dance & Arts festival takes place in late November in an area called the Caribe Mexicano. El Caribe Mexicano is made up of eight principal tourist areas; Cancún, la Riviera Maya,Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Holbox, Chetumal, Zona Maya y la Reciente Grand Costa Maya
El Centro Cultural Cuale is the city’s school of arts
Vocabulary for your own searches
Days of the week
- Domingo - Sunday
- Martes - Monday (cerrada = closed)
- Lunes - Tuesday
- Miercoles - Wednesday
- Jueves - Thursdays
- Viernes - Fridays
- Sabado - Saturday.
- Espectáculo de danza - Dance performance:
- Tickets: boletos
- Teatro - theater
- Danza - dance
- Live events - eventos en vivos
- Programación - events
- Ocio - leisure
- Baile - dance
- Leyendas - legends
- obras infantiles - works for children
- Descuentos - discounts
- Entrada libre - entry free
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Kerry Baker is a partner with Ventanas Mexico and author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online." Create unique lesson plans tailored to your goals and learning style using the best free learning features on the web.