Ay, ay, ay, ay! Mariachi in Los Angeles

Posted on March 16, 2011

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Mariachi (by Auraneurotica Photo)

Ay, ay, ay, ay! Mariachi in Los Angeles
by AnneLise Sorensen

Pass by during the week, and Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights (Metro: Mariachi Plaza) can look forlorn and empty, as if tumbleweed might come skittering through. Pay a visit on an early Saturday afternoon though, and the plaza lives up to its name. Mariachi musicians, some decked out in snazzy, silver-studded charro suits, congregate here to find work, often for gigs happening later that night. As one of the largest mariachi exchanges in the US, the plaza takes on a festive air, and fills with the rising and falling whines of tuning instruments that spark that anticipatory pleasure of a concert about to begin.

It’s acceptable to negotiate, keeping in mind a general fee of $45–$65 per hour, per musician. If you’d like to watch the musicians in action, head to La Perla Mariachi Restaurant (Metro: Indiana), where Mariachi perform – Ay, ay, ay, ay! Canta y no llores… – on weekdays at 7pm, and Saturday and Sunday starting at noon.

Cinco Puntos in East Los Angeles

Round out your visit to East LA by shopping alongside locals at the utilitarian, family-owned market Los Cinco Puntos (Metro: Indiana), where a trio of elderly women hand-roll thick corn tortillas – ask for tortillas hecho de mano, rather than de maquina, by machine. Also on the menu are tender pork carnitas; indigenous specialties like nopales, roasted prickly pear leaves that lend a mucilaginous tang to the meal; and guacamole thick enough to break your tortilla chip at first dip.

Travel Transforms: I’m a big fan of using public transport while traveling, and this post shows why: Even in car-obsessed LA, touring the city by metro is one of best ways to delve into the local culture and cuisine.

This above post is part of a recent story I wrote for New York Magazine about exploring East LA on the newly expanded Gold Line Metro.

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Posted in: Los Angeles