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
I arrived this weekend to check out the two-day festival at Parque Fundidora, a sprawing 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. 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.