5 Reasons You Should Attend Pa’l Norte Music Fest

Pa'l Norte music festival in Monterrey, Mexico, takes place at Parque Fundidora park.
Pa’l Norte music festival in Monterrey, Mexico, takes place at Parque Fundidora park. Photo by Nancy Flores

With the absence of the Pachanga Latino Music Festival in Austin this spring, I headed south of the border this weekend to see if the Pa’l Norte fest in Monterrey, Mexico, might be a good alternative for Central Texans. The two-day music festival, which launched in 2012 and drew about 134,000 festivalgoers this year, has been gaining buzz in the Mexican festival circuit and beyond.

As a veteran music festival goer, I found that Pa’l Norte has a lot to offer both Latin music nerds (like me) and those seeking to kick back and enjoy the festival atmosphere while soaking up the sounds of spring.

At Pa'l Norte fest, you can enjoy mountain views while enjoying the music.
At Pa’l Norte fest, you can enjoy mountain views while enjoying the music. Photo by Nancy Flores

Here are five reasons to check out Pa’l Norte:

  1. Hanging out in Monterrey rocks. From its Barrio Antiguo (Old Town District) to upscale rooftop bars with dramatic mountain views of the city, Monterrey has something for every festgoer. While cartel-related violence kept tourists away from Mexico’s third largest city for years, the crime rate in recent years has reduced dramatically and the city has been rebounding nicely. Music fest visitors should take time to visit some of the city’s main attractions beyond the festival grounds like the Paseo de Santa Lucía, which is the city’s version of the Riverwalk. Don’t leave the city without trying some of the city’s famous cabrito, or goat meat.
  2. It’s closer than you think. Although there’s an international border between us, Monterrey is just a 45-minute flight from San Antonio. It’s a six-hour drive, though, authorities still recommend against that. If you’d rather check out Coachella, that’s more than 17 hours away driving to California. Or maybe you want to hang out at Lollapalooza in Chicago? Well that’s more than 16 hours on the road.
  3. More bang for your buck. Pa’l Norte festival two-day passes range from $56-$76 for general admission. VIP two-day tickets range from $112-170. A three-day VIP ticket at ACL is $1100. We chose to stay at the luxury  Habita Monterrey Hotel, which cost $130 a night on Expedia. It’s hard to beat that price for the same quality hotel in Austin. Using the ride-sharing service Uber, which launched in Monterrey last year, and the city’s efficient subway system made it easy and affordable to navigate the city without a car at an affordable price.
  4. Awesome music, of course. From legendary acts like rockers Caifanes to emerging artists like alternative pop duo Pedrina y Río of Colombia, the musical offerings are diverse. There’s also plenty of non-Latin music acts, too. This year rapper 50 cent, German DJ and music producer Felix Jaehn, The Original Wailers, Naughty by Nature and Irish indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club were among the performers.
  5. It’s an idyllic setting for a fest. The festival grounds are at Parque Fundidora, a sprawling park on the former grounds of a steel foundry that also feature youth baseball fields, a Ferris wheel, ponds and paddle boats. With the backdrop of the picturesque mountains that ring the city, it’s the perfect place for a weekend of music.

Missing Pachanga Fest? Pa’l Norte music festival could be solution

Colombia's Pedrina Y Río perform at Pa'l Norte fest. Photo by Nancy Flores
Colombia’s Pedrina Y Río perform at Pa’l Norte fest. Photo by Nancy Flores

When the Pachanga Latino Music Festival announced earlier this year that it was shuttering the daylong festival that brought together local, national and international Latin music artists at Fiesta Gardens for the past eight years, I thought about how many fans were going to miss their annual spring fix of Latin music grooves.

For the past couple of years, I’ve heard buzz about a spring festival in Monterrey, Mexico, that launched in 2012. Pa’l Norte showcases both buzzy and established Latin music artists. Was this Mexican music festival a good alternative for those missing Pachanga?

After all, Monterrey is only about six hours from Austin (Brownsville is about five hours away), and a flight from San Antonio to the “Sultan of the North” is only 45 minutes away. After years of headlines about cartel-related violence that drove many tourists away, Monterrey is rebounding nicely as crime rates have dramatically decreased. Slowly but surely, visitors are returning to enjoy the scenic views and culinary delights.

Monterrey is ringed by mountains. Photo by Nancy Flores
Monterrey is ringed by mountains. Photo by Nancy Flores

I arrived this weekend to check out the two-day festival at Parque Fundidora, a sprawling park on the former grounds of a steel foundry that also features youth baseball fields and open-air theaters. With the backdrop of the picturesque mountains that ring the city, the Pa’l Norte fest offers an idyllic setting for a weekend of music.

Festgoers make headwear out of natural flowers.
Festgoers make headwear out of natural flowers. Photo by Nancy Flores

The festival’s first day brought South by Southwest alums and experimental pop rockers Hello Seahorse!, whose atmospheric rhythms have made them stars in the Latin alternative music world. Colombian alternative pop duo Pedrina y Río were among my picks for top international music at SXSW this March. Their uplifting melodies and genuinely sunny energy energized the crowd.

Later that night, artist Pato Machete, of Control Machete fame, gave fans of the iconic hip hop group what they wanted by performing some of Control Machete’s classic songs such as “Sí Señor” and “¿Comprendes Mendes?” Rapper Serko Fu, who performed at Speakeasy in Austin during SXSW this March, joined him on stage.

Other artists included rocker Enrique Bunbury and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. Pa’l Norte fest continues today with Latin Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Carla Morrison and legendary rockers Caifanes.

 

Sor Juana festival kicks off April 16 at the MACC

Austin will honor Mexican trailblazer Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz on April 16.
Austin will honor Mexican trailblazer Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz on April 16.

At a time when educating women defied social, cultural and religious norms, 17th century Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz became an acclaimed poet, playwright and self-taught scholar.

Sor Juana, as she’s known, is often described as the first feminist of the Americas for her trailblazing writing and fierce defense of women’s education.

In honor of her legacy, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center will present its eighth annual festival “Celebrating Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: A Tribute to Mexican Women” on April 16.

The free celebration, which starts at 4 p.m., will feature an interactive theater workshop, art exhibits and live performances. San Antonio artists Marisela Barrera and Jane Madrigal, who are behind the Super Xicana Power Hour radio show, will have a live show focused on women and culture at 8 p.m. in the center’s auditorium.

Works by artists Paloma Mayorga of Austin and Mery Godigna Collet of Venezuela will be featured in the center’s galleries. Godigna Collet’s exhibit “Petro-Poems,” which opens at 6 p.m., echoes the poetry of Sor Juana in a unique way. Godigna Collet uses crude oil and its byproducts as her medium and creates “poems” with these materials.

Visit austintexas.gov/page/emma-s-macc-events for more details.

Austin honors Selena with April tribute events

Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman
Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman

It’s been 21 years since the world lost Selena Quintanilla Pérez, but the legacy of this Tejano superstar — who was on the brink of crossing over to the English-language music market before she died on March 31, 1995— lives on. Selena fans across the country will honor her memory with tributes throughout her birthday month in April when the Queen of Tejano would have turned 45 years old.

Selena’s legacy helped shape everything from pop culture to fashion. Here’s a look at some Austin-area events where you can keep her memory alive.

April 12: The Glitoris’ fourth annual TuezGayz Selena tribute party at Barbarella (615 Red River St.) Doors open at 9 p.m. Small Selena tributes at 11 p.m., midnight, 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. $5 cover after 10 p.m.

April 16: Austin-based Selena tribute band Bidi Bidi Banda presents a free Selena Birthday Celebration at The Highball from 7-9 p.m.

April 16: Alamo Drafthouse will offer a Selena Sing-Along movie screening at various theaters including its Lakeline, Slaughter Lane and South Lamar Boulevard locations.

And if you’re in the mood for a road trip, Selena’s hometown of Corpus Christi will host the second annual Fiesta de la Flor festival honoring the late star. Ramon Ayala and La Mafia will headline the festival.

Know of more upcoming Selena tributes in Austin? Contact nflores@statesman.com.