Cantinas of San Miguel
By Jade Arroyo
“Oh, Mexican cantinas, those temples overflowing drinks and free good food!”
Pablo Neruda said that the life of folk is in their markets. I agree, but I would add that it is also in their cantinas. Cantinas, those decadent and dilapidated places that seem forgotten by the passage of time, are true civic symbols. In every little Mexican town, a school, a church, and a cantina are never missing. They are places to go to cry out your sorrows and celebrate your joys. Conveniently, the cantina is often by the church’s side! We present the oldest and most representative cantinas in SMA.
Undoubtedly, the queen of all sanmiguelense bars, not just because it’s old and rundown (1947), but because it is a vortex of cultures and social strata: here everything goes. You can run into the classic older gentleman who has been playing dominoes for 30 years, preppy rich kids wearing khakis and loafers, plastic artists, foreigners, celebrities, and drag queens.
The place is quite large, with a bar and a lounge dominated by the famous jukebox reeling off tunes: cumbia, rock, reggaeton, and salsa. Thursdays are free botana days. For the modest price of 20 pesos a beer, you can socialize like a local and try pork rinds in green sauce. Zacateros 22.
El Gato Negro
This is another of the classic bars of San Miguel. It draws attention to its graffiti murals portraying Marilyn Monroe, the Doors, and the Beatles (a common soundtrack in this place). El Gato Negro is really home to a black cat. It is narrow and dark, crowned by a cable-crossed terrace. If you want to soak up in local history, sit at the bar and chat with the barman. Mesones 12, Centro.
Over 50 years ago, Chaves Luterio, “The Flea,” opened the third Tenampa. This bar is very traditional, a classic meeting point for townspeople. On weekends there are free botanas to enliven the gathering, and often the customers bring their own supply of meat, which is prepared and served at no extra cost. The decor includes walls lined with paintings that evoke the indigenous culture of Mexico. Charro elements are not missing: look for shoes, hats, and bulls’ heads. Mesones 12A, Centro.
Cantina San Miguel
Located on a corner, this bar of the colorful facade and swinging doors is very picturesque and often photographed. In this small cantina, you get to know another environment. It is like stepping back in time, and almost no women are seen in here. Insurgentes 22.