Recently, I spent some time with Mexican American friends barhopping in Cuernavaca, the City of Eternal Spring, where I have lived a good part of my life since 1990. It may sound like the typical tourist activity but, if you pay attention, going out drinking can be good for thinking and learning about socio-cultural matters in Cuernavaca, a knowledge that can be applied to other Mexican cities.
While we went out each night, I was put in the difficult position of having to choose the place to get happy. There are a great variety of bars to choose from in the city, but there are important differences one must keep in mind when making the selection. My foreign friends quickly figured out the scheme of things.
In the United States, people seem to pick out a watering hole based on the age of the customers. In Cuernavaca, on the other hand, you’ll quickly learn that locals pay less attention to age or generation as they do to social class. You can see a clear division along these lines in the many bars near the city center.
Around the zócalo (the main square) there are plenty of cantinas (a word hardly anyone uses in Cuernavaca to refer to bars) that cater to a clientele mainly from the popular classes. You can hear the strains of banda music, salsa, and reggaeton as you promenade around the square. In these places, you’ll find members of the working-class that have enough economic power to blow off their hard-earned pesos on a few cervezas at the hubbub of the city.
Up a few blocks near the Cathedral, you’ll find a slew of places with names such as Feis Buk and Mercado de Comonfort, which is actually a conglomerate of bars and small restaurants that attracts a crowd more in tune with American hipsters, singing along to a musical mishmash of rock from the sixties to the present, with some classic rock songs en español thrown in. The ambiance is laidback and chill; drinks vary from pulque to small brewery beers. The food: chicken wings, hamburgers, french fries, and mariscos (seafood) are the favorites. These are the hangouts of the university crowd and American college students feel very much at home in these joints.
Then, there are bars outside but not far from the city center frequented by the preppy crowd where the skin and hair get lighter. People with expensive jeans and button-down shirts sit around sipping their drinks, with an air of wealth and exclusiveness. The presence of American culture is much more palpable here. You get the feeling that these high-class barflies could easily switch to speaking English and you would think you were in the United States.
My Mexican American friends can easily navigate their way through this Mexican maze. They can drink and dance to banda music, listen to David Bowie while chugging down a glass of pulque, and even hang out with the preppy crowd. Like many other tourists, they realize that the bars of Cuernavaca are segregated by class, but my friends love to transgress these social borders as they drink the night away in the City of Eternal Spring.
A different version of this postcard was previously published under the title, “The Bars You Can’t Miss in Cuernavaca, The City Of Eternal Spring“, that appeared in Cultura Colectiva, a Mexican digital magazine on March 15, 2019.