Associated Press file photo
Friday, Sept. 12, 2008 | 2 a.m.
If ever there were a time to shout “Viva Las Vegas!” this would be the weekend for it.
Here in Las Vegas (which means, of course, “the meadows” en espanol), Mexican Independence Day is mas grande than Cinco de Mayo. Mexicans celebrate their 1810 independence from Spain — Grito de Dolores — every Sept. 16. And thousands of Mexican visitors head north for Vegas (which was, of course, once on the northern frontier of Mexico) for a big weekendlong celebration with most of the biggest names in Latin music — Luis Miguel, Enrique Iglesias, Marco Antonio Solis, Alejandro Fernandez and Jaguares, for starters — at nearly every marquee room in town. It’s practically a Mexican Woodstock.
It wasn’t always this way.
Juan Elias, whose Arizona-based company, Elias Entertainment, produces two major mariachi events in Las Vegas this weekend, marvels at the explosive growth in Latin entertainment in Las Vegas.
“We started the Mariachi Festival 18 years ago,” Elias says, “and when you talked about Latin entertainers in Las Vegas back then, it was Jose Feliciano, Trini Lopez and Vikki Carr — they would play the smaller showrooms, 600, 800 capacity.”
Over the years, the Mexican Independence Day weekend grew into a Vegas phenomenon, Elias says.
“It’s become a very popular weekend for the Latin market in Las Vegas. Some of the Strip production shows go dark over this weekend, and if you look around Las Vegas this weekend, most of the big rooms are taken over by the Latin artists.”
Most of the big dogs of Mexican music will be in town through Monday, but Luis Miguel is el perro mas grande, big enough for Caesars Palace to give Cher the weekend off, big enough to fill the 4,000-seat Colosseum four nights running, without any help from the Anglo media. He’s there tonight through Monday.
Madrid-born, Miami-bred Enrique Iglesias’ international, bilingual success — 50 million albums sold worldwide — has nearly eclipsed his famous dad’s (that would be Julio). The junior Iglesias is stopping by the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday as part of an 11-city tour with Aventura, New York’s Kings of Bachata, who update Dominican dance music with hip-hop and reggaeton.
One of the most important figures in the rise of Mexican and Latin music to world prominence, Marco Antonio Solis, plays the Pearl at the Palms on Saturday. And Alejandro Fernandez, the son of Vicente Fernandez, sings at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Monday. The younger Fernandez used to be nicknamed “El Potrillo” (The Little Colt) by the media and his fans.
But wait, there’s mas: Mexican rockers Jaguares play the House of Blues on Saturday. Opera legend Placido Domingo performs at Planet Hollywood on Monday, joined by the Las Vegas Philharmonic, soprano Ana Maria Martinez, and mariachi musicians in a concert of opera and zarzuela selections.
Paul Rodriguez and the Latin Kings of Comedy are at T.I. on Friday night, and Mexican-American comedian “Fluffy Man” Gabriel Iglesias is at the Monte Carlo on Friday and Saturday. Husband and wife singers Amanda Miguel and Diego Verdaguer appear at the Hilton on Saturday. Los Reyes de la Cumbia in “La Internacional Sonora Show” perform Monday at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay.
Sad songs say so much: The passionate, melancholy beauty of traditional Mexican mariachi music will be the focus of two festivals in Las Vegas over Mexican Independence Day weekend.
Some of the world’s finest mariachi bands will perform at the 18th annual Las Vegas International Mariachi Festival on Saturday at Planet Hollywood. America’s 13-man Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez and Mexico’s 13-man Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan top the bill at the four-hour festival, which also features singer Aida Cuevas and impressionist Gilberto Gless, the Mexican equivalent of Danny Gans, who pokes fun at the melodramatic mannerisms of such Latin pop stars as Luis Miguel, Juan Gabriel, Vicente Fernandez and Ricky Martin.
Las Vegas’ own Mariachi Los Reyes de Jalisco will be on tap to create the sentimental soundtrack for the second annual Las Vegas Tequila Fest, a free, invitation-only event for food and beverage professionals and tequila enthusiasts. The event, Friday and Saturday at the Rio, offers tastings of blancos, flavored tequilas and premium sipping tequilas from such established labels as Herradura and Sauza, and newer boutique brands such as Senor Rio and Tres Amigos.
There’s even a big fight this weekend: Ring Magazine world lightweight champion Joel “El Cepillo” Casamayor meets former two-division world champion Juan Manuel Marquez in a 12-round championship bout Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
And way off the Strip, the American offshoot of the Mexican circus Circo Atayde has set up its bright blue big top in the parking lot in front of the Rancho Indoor Swapmeet on Rancho Drive, with performances through Sunday.
IF YOU GO
Luis Miguel: 9 tonight through Monday; Colosseum at Caesars Palace; $95-$250; 474-4000, www.harrahs.com
Paul Rodriguez and the Latin Kings of Comedy: 9 tonight; T.I.; $45-$60; 894-7722, www.treasureisland.com
Gabriel Iglesias: 9 tonight and Saturday; Monte Carlo; $51-$55; 730-7777, www.montecarlo.com
Las Vegas Tequila Fest: 4-8 p.m. today and noon-6 p.m. Saturday; Amazon Room at the Rio; free, admission by invitation only; www.lasvegastequilafest.com
Circo Atayde: 7:30 tonight, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; Rancho Indoor Swap Meet, 2901 W. Washington Ave.; $10-$30; (888) 282-9339, www.ataydeusa.com
Enrique Iglesias and Aventura: 8 p.m. Saturday; Mandalay Bay Events Center; $55-$75; 632-7777, www.mandalaybay.com
Jaguares: 7:30 p.m. Saturday; House of Blues; $40-$65; 632-7200, www.hob.com
Marco Antonio Solis: 8 p.m. Saturday; Pearl at the Palms; $78-$128; 942-7777, www.palmspearl.com
Amanda Miguel and Diego Verdaguer: 8 p.m. Saturday; Las Vegas Hilton; $34-$115; 732-5111, www.lvhilton.com
Las Vegas International Mariachi Festival: 8 p.m. Saturday; Theatre for the Performing Arts at Planet Hollywood; $58-$188; 785-5555, www.planethollywood.com
Alejandro Fernandez: 9 p.m. Monday; Mandalay Events Center; $75-$200; 632-7777, mandalaybay.com
Placido Domingo with Las Vegas Philharmonic: 8 p.m. Monday; Planet Hollywood; $89-$394; 785-5555, www.planethollywood.com
Los Reyes de la Cumbia in “La Internacional Sonora Show”: 10 p.m. Monday; House of Blues; $15-$20; 632-7200, www.hob.com