According to legend, the 400-year-old tradition began with a wealthy gold miner named Juan Aquino de la Vega who entered into an epic battle with gold-stealing bandits. De la Vega won the battle and became a Robin Hood-like around the town.
Quinceañera, wedding, baptism, school dance hall – Mexicans sure know how to turn any and every occasion into a good time.
And no fiesta is ever complete without a bopping playlist that can carry the dancing late into the night.
Today, we’ve thrown together 17 classic songs that you’re likely to hear at any Mexican party. They should have ya (or at least dear tía Nora) throwing your hands in the air.
Caballo Dorado – Payaso de Rodeo
We’re kicking off the list with this classic wedding / quinceañera number.
‘Payaso de Rodeo’ to some, ‘No romper mi corazón’, to others. Whichever camp you’re in, there’s no not recognizing it once the DJ has his way. It’s a CALL TO ARMS – one that guarantees a stampede to the dancefloor and a whole lotta clapping, hopping and sliding.
This country band may have been formed way back in 1986 but this masterpiece is destined to outlive us all. Just, watch your feet – if you get ran over, it’s your fault.
2. Luis Miguel – Cuando Calienta El Sol
A forever classic from the sol de Mexico himself, perfect for parties under the hot sun, and for invoking nostalgic vibes of youth’s eternal-summer… yeah, and who’s ever forgetting that music vid?
3. Selena Quintanilla – Amor Prohibido
Straight from the queen herself, this song is a bop and a half. It was famously inspired by the love letters of her abuela, a maid who worked for a wealthy family and ended up falling in love with (and marrying) their son.
Seems like we’re all suckers for a good forbidden romance – it topped the US States Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart nine weeks in a row in 1994.
4. Jeans – Pepe
The four teens of the original Pepe video may have grown up, but Jeans will always hold a special place in our hearts. It’s a throwback to the days of innocence, bad hair, and those tummy butterflies from crushing on a classmate.
5. Café Tacvba – Ingrata
An anthem for every teen in the 90s who figured they were a rebel. This Mexican band straight out of Satellite were a bunch of teens at the time but boy did they just get us.
6. Banda Blanca – Sopa de Caracol
So no we may never truly know what they are saying, but this song was always guaranteed to get you up and grooving at any fiesta.
7. Los Del Río – La Macarena
This Spanish one-hit wonder of the 90s needs no intro. Put it on any speakers, and the dance moves that follow are basically reflex.
La Macarena made the rounds again in recent years when the internet realised what the lyrics were actually saying. Turns out, the song is all about a girl (Macarena) cheating on her boyfriend with two friends, whilst he’s off in military service. Can I get a #childhoodruined.
8. Garibaldi – Banana
With refrains like ‘Mexicana like it (banana)’ and ‘Yo tengo una bolita que me sube y me baja’ (I have a little ball that goes up and goes down), Garibaldi’s Banana is, admittedly, no poetic masterpiece.
What is IS though, is a Latin beat that’s catchy as hell and sure to get you dancing. Plus, what’s life without a little cheap innuendo.
9. Vicente Fernández – El Rey
There comes a time in every respectable Mexican party when it’s time to break out the ranchera.
We were torn between this song and Chente’s Volver, Volver, but, well, it’s one of the best drinking songs of all time. Scoop up two amigos around the shoulders and bellow along: “PeRo SiGo SiEnDo eL rEy”
10. Los Angeles Azules – 17 Años
Guaranteed to have even the oldest guests getting jiggy, the infectious rhythm in this song is not to be underestimated.
No surprise really – Los Angeles Azules are the wizards of cumbia sonidera – a subgenre that fuses the 1950-1970s with synthy electronic 90s music.
11. Maná – Oye Mi Amor
Here’s one from the Guadalajaran pop rock band Maná – the most successful Latin American band of all time. Like, 40 million albums sold worldwide, kind of successful.
And this song? You might love it, you might hate it, but you most definitely, probably know the lyrics.
12. Pedro Infante – Cucurrucucú Paloma
Maybe not a mainstay of your average houseparty, but we couldn’t resist. Tomas Mandaz wrote this Mexican classic in 1954, and it’s since been covered by the likes of Pedro Infante and Luis Miguel.
And boy is it a crooner. The cucurucucú mimics the sound of a dove, and is meant to signal lovesickness.
13. Magneto – Vuela, Vuela
Whilst Vuela, Vuela is actually a cover of a 80’s French pop song, it’s also the song that helped skyrocket Magneto into the limelight.
Dubbed by some as the Mexican Backstreet Boys, Magneto’s song hit the charts in the early 90s and flew as high as its namesake.
14. Los Tigres Del Norte – El Jefe De Jefes
This Mexican norteño band is famous for their ‘narcocorrido’ – music that glorifies drug trafficking. It’s a genre that’s actually illegal to play at live events in some Mexican states, which has landed the band a hefty fine in the past. Regardless, at parties the song’s a hoot.
15. Molotov – Voto Latino
An anthem for proud crowds of Latinx to roar along to, this Molotov song is a classic in its own right.
16. La Chona – Los Tucanes de Tijuana
An energetic and fast-paced norteño song from a band that’s been around since 1987. They started out playing in nightclubs, so there’s no surprise that it’s virtually impossible to not dance to this.
17. Elvis Crespo – Suavemente
Sultry and sexy, this song is pure Latin rhythm heaven. Not only is it perfect for making eyes and swinging hips across a dancefloor, it also helped popularize merengue music.
18. Ramón Ayala – Tragos Amargos
Contested by some as the ultimate drinking song, would any list of Mexican party songs be complete without some Ramón Ayala to top it off?
Along with tequila and mezcal, pulque is the one of the most iconic Mexican alcoholic beverages. Its origins ago deep in history and speak of the indigenous past and present of the country. This is what you need to know about this mythical drink that is making a comeback as a mainstream road to indulgence.
So what exactly is pulque anyway?
Pulque is beautiful in its simplicity. The drink is the fermented sap of the maguey or agave plant. It has a thick, gooey consistency that takes some time getting used to. It has a milky color in its pure state, but many pulquerias add fruit juices and honey to make it a curado or flavored pulque. This is how journalist Emily Sargent described pulque in The Times: “sweet, thick, syrupy agave juice served inexplicably in pint-jug portions”.
It was known as octli by the Aztecs and is surrounded by fascinating myths.
Credit: Instagram. @neomexicanismos
Pulque has been drunk for at least 1,000 years. The Aztecs believed that the liquid collected at the center of the succulent known as maguey was actually the blood of Mayahuel, the goddess of the maguey. It was also believed that if you got drunk on octli a rabbit would possess you. There were 400 rabbits known as Centzon Totochtin, and they were the children of Mayahuel. Up to this day, some pulque drinkers spill some of their drink to the floor as an offering to Mother Earth. The word pulque is Mexican Spanish, dating in print to 1877.
Pulque is a key element of Mexican popular culture.
Credit: Instagram. @celsotours
In particular, pulque is a constant in visual memories of the Mexican Revolution. Salud!
There are even B-movies that honor pulque culture!
Credit: La Pulqueria / Videocine
In the 1970s and 1980s, low-quality films known as sexy-comedias-mexicanas showcased pulque culture in various films. The most famous is La Pulqueria, directed by Victor Manuel Castro and featuring la creme de la creme of Mexican comedians and the most famous boxer in Mexico’s history, Ruben Olivares.
Pulque is now being consumed by Mexicans of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Credit: Instagram. @neomexicanismos
For decades, pulque was associated with the lower classes, which speaks of the sad but inherent racism that permeates Mexican mestizo culture. For example, it was common to see homeless men drunk on pulque featured in Mexican cinema. The drink has made a huge comeback in the past 15 years, and pulquerias, traditional dens where people meet to drink pulque, are popular amongst city dwellers of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Pulque production is mostly artisanal and “organic.”
Credit: Instagram. @estampas_de_mexico1
Rather than being distilled as with tequila and mezcal, the elixir that emanates from the maguey is left to be fermented. First, the sap is extracted from the center of the maguey and then placed in 50-liter barrels called tinas. After than, mature pulque, known as seed pulque, is added to jump start the fermentation, which takes from one to two weeks. The pulque maker needs to consider factors such as the weather and the quality of the sap to determine the exact fermentation period that stops the pulque from turning sour and undrinkable. It is more art than science.
Pulque is the product of a long, natural process.
Credit: Instagram. @cocinafacil
Pulque is a labor of love. Each maguey plants needs to mature for at least 12 years before the sap can be extracted. After that, it produces sap for only one year at the most. That is a long wait, but the benefits are worth it.
And hey, it brings some health benefits too!
Credit: Instagram. @bandita_chilanga
Of course you need to drink it in moderation, but pulque does bring important nutritional benefits. An academic paper states that for some Mexicans “pulque was the third most important source of iron (non-heme form), ascorbic acid, riboflavin, and other B-vitamins”. Carnales, it’s science!
Pulquerias usually have creative names.
Credit: Instagram. @semahernandez
Great names include “My Office”, “Memories of the Future”, “Drink and Go”, “I’m Waiting for You Here at the Corner”, and “The Recreation Center of Those Across the Street”. A true testament of Mexican everyday creativity and knack for humor.
The state of Hidalgo is pulque heaven.
Credit: Instagram. @mexico_desdeadentro
Even though pulque is produced across the country, particularly the areas surrounding Mexico City, the state of Hidalgo takes the crown as the most prolific. There are about 250 pulque haciendas in the state.
In Tlaxcala, the state government has organized a tour called “la ruta del pulque.”
Credit: Instagram. @enriquenoriega
You can visit different production sites… and perhaps be possessed by a rabbit if you drink a bit too much!
There is no right or wrong way when it comes to pulque-drinking receptacles!
Credit: Instagram. @nilsbernstein
You know how people get snobbish when you drink white wine with a red wine glass? Well, that is not the case with pulque, which you can enjoy in basically anything that holds the nectar from the gods. Each pulqueria has its own style when it comes to serving methods.
You can even drink it directly from the plant when it has been naturally fermented.
Credit: Instagram. @neomexicanismos
Yes, even a used Coke bottle will do! Just look at this pulque master!
Or you can also drink it straight from a maguey leaf.
Credit: Instagram. @oscarlemuss
Can you think of a more Instagrammable way of doing this? We can’t!
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