Men in Tights

Here’s a clip from my trip to Guanajuato, a city known for its colorful winding streets and
narrow alleyways. Getting there from Mexico City only took five hours, but when I
stepped off the bus I felt like I’d been through a time machine. The architecture alone
makes you feel dizzy, visually stacking centuries of colonial Mexican history all the way
up the hillsides.

Still, nothing could have prepared me for the time-warp I encountered in the central
plaza. While stopping to buy an ice cream cone, I stared in bewilderment as a pack of
dudes and girls, about my age, swished past me in full medieval costume: velvet suits,
puffy sleeves, flowing capes, and to my additional shock, tights.

They carried lutes and mandolins like skaters do skateboards—propped on shoulders,
tucked under arms, and balanced on their shoes (in this case, slippers) while waiting to
cross the street. There were hundreds of them, traveling in packs as large as two
dozen. Each groupʼs members were dressed in like colors, resembling Shakespearian
gangs
(fast forward to minute 1:30 to see what Iʼm talking about).

I quickly learned that Guanajuato is famous for a style of public concert known as
callejoneadas, named after the historic callejones (alleyways) where they are
performed. The musicians are all ages, banded together in wandering troupes called
tunas and estudiantinas. They work together for years to build up a solid repertoire,
geared towards Mexican tourists and spanning literally centuries of national hits. If
you’ve ever wanted to hear what “Bésame Mucho” sounds like on the lute, Guanajuato
is the place to go.

At night the tunas sing and even dance, leading smitten and/or bewildered crowds of
revelers on a tour of their magical hometown. Here’s a clip of a teenage singer from the
Tuna Coleagiata Real de Guanajuato, as he and his bandmates serenade a female
tourist from Mexico with the Golden Age classic, “No Me Platiques.”

Thanks to my fellow Fulbrighter Caley McIntyre for this photo!)

  • Note: the only Spanish word you need to know to enjoy this clip is beso (“kiss”),
    which comes at the end:[audio:http://media.mtvu.com/sitewide/promoimages/uber/fulbright/2008/katie_good/040609/clip_callejoneada.mp3%5D
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