“Alejandro! Mi amor.” is the greeting I get from Lora Loka (Crazy Lara) when I arrive at her restaurant in La Manzanilla
near Bara de Navidad in Jalisco, Mexico. I walk into the delicious smells of chilli rellenos and seafood enchiladas that permeate her tiny kitchen.
“You are coming tonight to my Pre-Valentine party?” I hesitate because we do have a previous reservation to see the Blonde Gypsies at Martine’s but then I notice that there is, besides her delicious food, Tango on the menu. I look at Lyn and she says “If you want to stay it’s OK.” So I settle in and watch the hustle and bustle of her many workers as they set tables and prepare the smorgasbord for the evening. Strands of lightrope wrapped around palm trees and circling the basketry of the palapa add a warm glow as the sun sets over Tenacatita Bay and humid, salty breeze blows in from the ocean.
The musicians show up and start to set up their equipment. Ken from Courtney, (La Manzanilla is Vancouver Island south) has his guitar and computer set up and soon is noodling away. Playing his own compositions and some well known tunes. He is very good and soon a few guests start to arrive and find their seats. Besides Tango and Ken there is another musician named Daniel playing guitar and singing, Lora is going to sing and dance with Annette a fabulous dancer from the Nederlands.
While Ken is playing his first set, the food begins to appear from the kitchen. A huge brown earthenware casserole decorated with hand painted flowers and filled with Chilli Rellenos in tomato sauce is set on the table. Another one with a fresh green salad, one with rice with bits of red chilli pepper, tomato and onion, and the last with seafood enchiladas in white sauce. The smells make my mouth water. The best part about smorgasbord style is that I know I can come back for seconds. There goes my diet. There is a big rush for the food and everyone is soon savouring the amazing flavours. When the everyone has had their fill, I did to my pleasure and regret go back for seconds, Ken finishes his set and its time for the dancing to begin.
The lights are turned down, the music begins and Annette and Lora stride out of the kitchen with candles perched precariously on their heads, black blouses and gigantic flowered skirts complete their costumes. Heads held high they whirl and twirl about the small dance floor to the lively recording of a mariachi band. The next dance is one that we are all familiar with “La Bamba” this dance sans candles is more energetic and the audience claps along. They perform two more dances which rather than describe I’ll let you watch the videos that follow.
When the dancing is over, Daniel gets up and plays a set of songs accompanied by his guitar. He plays a lot of old favourites from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Then it’s time to Tango. I get to dance with Annette because she has no dance partner and few other tango dancers are here because there has been a series of workshops through out the month of January and there are still a few dancers who have been seduced by the charms of La Manzanilla. We dance a few tandas and then Daniel comes back for another set this time accompanied by his laptop playing some great dance music while he sings along Karaoke style. Everyone gets up and dances and I have some fun dances with Beatrix the tango teacher who has been here for a month. Later I put some more tango music on and have a couple more dances with Annette. Lyn shows up when the event at Martines is over and we help Lara take down the decorations and then she shows us to her little apartment which she has offered us for the night because the hotels are full and our rental isn’t ready until tomorrow.