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Where, Why and How to Enjoy the Arts in Mexico's Major Expat Cities

Updated 2019

I will always remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the 2016 election results. And I will remember hearing the news in Spanish.  As I arrived to the water taxi that took me to my gym every morning, the ferry’s pilot took my hand to assist me aboard and said “Ah!  Trump ganó.”

Expats in Mexico got to escape a big part of the all-consuming, exhaustive fervor of the campaign.  You could take in as much or as little as you wanted of Trump in what you read and talked about with expat friends. We didn’t have to suffer through much of the 24/7 campaign messaging on television. Many expats in Mazatlán get Canadian cable news so they weren’t consumed with it. You could stay informed without going crazy.

During my career as a fund raiser, I selected where I worked not by salary but by who led the organizations I would be working for. The company or non-profit’s past didn’t matter as much as who led it into whatever future that I would be part of.  "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one person. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” 1841. 

Far from what you’d expect given the presidential rhetoric about Mexican murderers and rapists, my Mexican friends were impassive about the campaign results.  In spite of all the talk of the wall, some still thought Hillary was “more dangerous” than Trump.  One good thing it reminded us of is that we live in a world where anything can happen, which keeps it a world worth staying awake for.

friends in Mexico

A night at the theater with a friend

The day after the election, a Mexican friend invited me to a ballet to take my mind off the mind-blowing election results.

My interest in the fine arts at home historically had been pretty tepid given the cost of tickets. I'd never had much exposure to the arts growing up in a small town in Southwest Oklahoma and never developed the appreciation I might have otherwise developed in a larger city.

But after the election, I craved something pretty and fine, preferably with a lot of flute. A ballet was a perfect idea. 

Even if you aren’t a great enthusiast of ballet and opera, in Mexico you can be more capricious with your exploration of the fine arts because tickets cost so much less.

A ticket for a great seat at the Ángela Peralta theater, Mazatlán’s beautifully restored opera house, costs about $20, still a little high for Mexico, but probably at least half of what you'd pay in the U.S. for a good seat.

The production was staged by the Compania Ballet Classico de Sinaloa, and funded by Instituto Municipal de Cultura, Turismo and Arte de Mazatlán, as are all its productions. The production we saw, “Fille Mal Garde” is one of the oldest of classical world repertoire, created in 1789 in France. It was one the first that didn’t deal with kings, queens or magic but rather common people. It is a comedy ballet, a first for me, where pantomime played a key role. It’s story is a simple love story, unique in its time for it’s happy ending.

Running into two of the dancers after the show. The varón played an old woman

It was a night of much-needed grace. After the show, we ran into the two key cast dancers at the restaurant, including the young man who played the grandmother in the production to wild applause.

If you are considering moving to any of the larger popular expat areas, you most likely will find a community cultural center or theater. The performances are high caliber, pulling in directors and maestros from all over Latin America.

Since opera and ballet transcend language, they draw a big percentage of expats to their audiences. Looking around the Ángela Peralta Theatre, I’d bet that many there, like me, were not great enthusiasts at home but welcomed the opportunity to broaden their exposure, at the right price. Unlike with presidential candidates, the most exposure you get to the fine arts, the more likely your appreciation will grow. 

When you are doing online research for activities such as ballets and operas in Mexico, it’s usually easier to find the information you need if you look at the Spanish-language sites. All you need is a few key words in Spanish to put into the search browser and the ability to translate into military time.  

Not all venues have dedicated websites but all have Facebook pages. With a little basic Spanish, you can get people's reactions and reviews to the venue and productions.

Here is a listing and links to  the major cultural centers and theater for ballet and similar performances in the most popular expat areas:

San Miguel de Allende (voted in 2016 as the Best City in the World by Conde Naste Travel Magazine)

Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez  “El Nigromante," or “El Nigromante” del Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes

You will also find an amateur theater company called "The Players Workshop" which offers two theater seasons yearly.There are many festivals that take place in San Miguel de Allende, such as the Music Chamber Festival, the Short Film Festival, Jazz Festival, Guitar Festival


Teatro Degollado

Teatro Diana cultural center

Teatro Auditorio Buero Vallejo - also has performances
Cabañas Cultural Institute - Instituto Cultural Cabañas, better known as Hospicio Cabañas, is a public agency whose objective the promotion and cultural diffusion.

Lake Chapala

Lakeside Little Theater


Teatro Daniel Ayala Pérez

The Center de Espectaculos Carta Clara is concert venue

Riviera Maya / Quintana Roo

Teatro Cirque du Soleil

Teatro de Cancun

Teatro de la Cuidad Solidaridad

El Danxica Dance & Arts festival takes place in late November in an area called the Caribe Mexicano.  El Caribe Mexicano is made up of eight principal tourist areas; Cancún, la Riviera Maya,Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Holbox, Chetumal, Zona Maya y la Reciente Grand Costa Maya

Puerto Vallarta

Teatro Vallarta

El Centro Cultural Cuale is the city’s school of arts

Act II Entertainment

La Paz

Teatro de la Ciudad

San Cristobal

Teatro de la Ciudad Hermanos Domínguez

Vocabulary for your own searches of cultural center websites

Days of the week

  • Domingo - Sunday

  • Martes - Monday (cerrada = closed)

  • Lunes - Tuesday

  • Miercoles - Wednesday

  • Jueves - Thursdays

  • Viernes - Fridays

  • Sabado - Saturday.

Search Terms

  • Espectáculo de danza - Dance performance:

  • Tickets: boletos

  • Teatro - theater

  • Danza - dance

  • Live events - eventos en vivos

  • Programación - events

  • Ocio - leisure

  • Baile - dance

  • Leyendas - legends

  • obras infantiles - works for children

  • Descuentos - discounts

  • Entrada libre - entry free

Related links:  Opera in Mexico is vibrant too, as these aspiring opera singers demonstrate

Since we don't have a centuries-old culture, Mexico is willing to showcase what we do have. A night with Jim Morrison's contribution to American culture through the eyes of a Mexican theater production. Ventanas Mexico

Helpful insights for attending a Mexican rock concert. Ventanas Mexico

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About the author:

Kerry Baker is a partner with Ventanas Mexico and author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online." Create unique lesson plans tailored to your goals and learning style using the best free learning features on the web via links in this book. It also contains lesson plans by level.

More than 300 sites were researched to link you to the best free features on the web, many of which you'd never find in a simple Google search.  Use it with your laptop, e-reader or tablet, like the Amazon Fire.

Don't be an expat who doesn't speak any  Spanish!  Get started today, before you make your Mexico dream a reality.

Also check out "If Only I Had a Place," geared toward the aspiring expat to Mexico.  This book is more than a how-to. It sets you up with a fluid system that can become your infrastructure to your best expat life.  Take a look at the reviews!  The book includes a listing of rental concierges who can look at the place before you commit from a distance.