The musical life of José Alfredo Jiménez comes to San Miguel
By Henry Vermillion
Last September in Guanajuato, I saw the premier of the musical life of the best-known and most-loved Mexican songwriter of modern times–José Alfredo Jiménez. The production was in the beautiful Teatro Juárez. The show was repeated there during the recent Cervantino Festival and now, thanks to the young San Miguel actress Pamela Cordero (who has a lead role in the show), the musical play will come to San Miguel on Saturday, December 7, at 8:30pm, at the Teatro Ángela Peralta.
I was impressed by the verve and professionalism of the cast; over 30 performers fill the stage with dance, color, action and most of all, the songs of José Alfredo Jiménez. The show is a free retelling of his life, loves, and friendships. The title of the piece is La vida no vale nada, which is the famous first line of his song Caminos de Guanajuato.
Almost no Mexican needs an introduction to the story and music of José Alfredo Jiménez. For recent arrivals from foreign climes, it’s enough to say you will probably recognize his music from hearing it played by street trios, mariachis, the radio, or elsewhere. They are the quintessential tales of lost love, drinking away your sorrows, and of celebrating life despite it all. He was born in 1926, died in 1976 and was buried in Dolores Hidalgo where he was born. His music has been recorded and sung by almost every Mexican singer and others such as the Spaniards Julio Iglesias and Joaquin Sabinas. His gravesite is a pilgrimage site for many Mexicans, and his music is now a part of Mexico’s national cultural heritage.
In the production here, his friendships with the singer Chavela Vargas, “La Tigresa” Irma Serrano (the mistress of the then-president of México), Columba Domínguez and other singers and entertainment legends are a highlight. I was much taken by Pamela Cordero’s role as the tough pistol-toting Chavela Vargas, (she and others of the actors play multiple roles.) The play was written by Luis Martin Solis and Alejandro Román. Francisco Márquez plays José Alfredo and Maru Jones plays several roles, including a lithe mermaid. It’s that kind of free fantasy which makes the show so appealing. Even those who can’t order coffee in Spanish will enjoy the evening. Music is provided by the San Miguel group of Soloman Mahwad and the Mariachi Conquistadores de America of León. The original production was financed by grants from the State of Guanajuato and the Festival Cervantino, and boasts a cast of over 30 actors and dancers.
The group hopes to be able to tour with the show next year. Tickets available at the theater, Cumpanio and Hotel La Morada, 200 and 150 pesos.