The small town of Dolores Hidalgo in the central highlands of Mexico may be best known as the cradle of the country’s independence, but music lovers flock to the village for an entirely different reason. Rather than touring the lovely cathedral or walking the Plaza Principal, they head for the Panteon – the town cemetery – to pay homage to Jose Alfredo Jimenez who, along with Agustín Lara and Juan Gabriel, was one of the best singer-songwriters that Mexico ever produced.
The works composed and performed by Jimenez, comparable to American folk music in the U.S., are considered an integral part of Mexico’s musical heritage. Jimenez had no formal training in music yet despite the fact that he didn’t even play an instrument he composed more than 1000 songs. Like many of his contemporaries, Jimenez died young, struck-down by hepatitis at age 47. He was buried in Dolores Hidalgo, his city of birth, in a tomb decorated with a monumental sombrero and serapi, symbols of the Ranchera music for which he was so loved.
Though Jimenez died in 1973, fans still make the pilgrimage to his grave. Buses disgorge loads of passengers who silently approach the giant sombrero, view the commemorative plaque, and read the comments honoring the great artist that have been engraved into the massive stone serapi flowing from the head of the tomb. Every so often a particularly passionate fan will pay for the singer who stands at the graveside to perform one of Jimenez’s songs, many of which continue to be recorded by renowned recording artists from around the Spanish-speaking world.
Photo Credit: Barbara Weibel
Article by Barbara Weibel of Cultural Travel with Hole In The Donut