Jonathan Palomar arrived in San Antonio today, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with him to enjoy a delicious lunch prior to rehearsal for tonight’s show at JazzTX. Here’s a snippet of our conversation:
CM: So, Jonathan, you’ve completed your first year with Mariachi Vargas. How does it make you feel?
JP: Well, I hadn’t realized I’d been in the group that long until I saw a photo from a year ago pop up on Facebook. I realized at that moment that a whole year had gone by.
I feel very fortunate to be in the group and to have had the opportunity to perform and travel all over—Spain, Italy, Switzerland, the entire U.S. and Mexico. Next February we’ll be in South America, then we’ll be in Chile and Argentina.
CM: I want to go! Can I be a groupie?
On tour in Spain
CM: How have you adjusted to different foods all over the world?
JP: I like trying different things. In Italy, everything was good—the pasta, the pizza, the flatbread… The only place where I didn’t like the food was in Spain. There’s not enough spices in their food… it’s kind of bland. When we were in Switzerland, they took us to two different Mexican food restaurants that were owned by people from Mexico, and they were very good. Who would have thought! One was a taquería and the other was a regular restaurant, and both had authentic Mexican food. I had tacos and pozole. They also took us to this charming little village where we enjoyed some amazing goat cheese.
CM: How about the touring schedule? How have you kept yourself healthy on the road?
JP: Well, actually sometimes we’re so tired or there’s hardly any time to grab a meal, so sometimes we can’t eat well. We often just have to eat whatever we can find. Meals are usually not scheduled, so we learn to squeeze in a meal whenever there’s a moment.
CM: What about the people?
JP: In Italy, it feels like we’re in Mexico. People are very warm. What’s so amazing about Vargas is that no matter where we go, people know us. Sometimes they see us at the airports with our shirts, and they respond with great excitement. Switzerland and Italy were exclusively Vargas shows, and Spain was us backing Luis Miguel. People responded well wherever we went, whether it was by ourselves or with Luis Miguel.
In Cancún with daughter Mía and wife Anisa
CM: How about your family?
JP: I have a wife and a 10-year-old girl. They’re both in Los Angeles. I was born in Mexico City, but I consider LA my home now. My family is used to my busy travel schedule.
CM: You’ve lived in many different places, right?
JP: Yes, I’ve moved around quite a bit. I lived in Mexico City up until the age of 19, and then my family moved to Guadalajara. I lived in San Antonio for a few months back in 2006, and then I moved to Denver, Colorado to be with my then fiancé and now wife. I lived in Colorado for five years, but I never got used to the snow!
CM: So how does it feel to be back in San Antonio?
JP: I remember the Extravaganza when I was living here in San Antonio, and it was always such a cool thing to attend. I even remember teaching at some of the workshops back then. It was 2006. Now, I actually get to play with Vargas in the concert, and it’s a whole different level of excitement. It’s been an awesome experience, because I grew up listening to all of Vargas’ music, and now it’s amazing to actually be part of the group.
CM: Did you know that your photo was selected as the face of Mariachi Vargas for this year’s Extravaganza?
JP: That’s so awesome! Someone sent my wife a photo of one of the billboards and she sent it to me, and I was like, “Wow, this is really cool!”
CM: I don’t take credit for these. My awesome nephew, Javier Vela, is the photographer and my graphic designer, Robert Herzik, pulls it all together.
So how’s it working out with two guitar players in the group?
JP: Well it’s not the first time that Vargas has had two guitar players. There’s some old videos when Vargas was in France many years ago that show two guitar players in the group. Actually, we have so much work these days that we really need two guitar players. While I’m here enjoying a fabulous lunch with you, Arturo Vargas is preparing for a concert tonight in Mexico City.
Father and son
CM: How does it feel to follow in the footsteps of your father, Rafael Palomar, who was the guitar player for Mariachi Vargas from 1982 to 2002?
JP: It’s always been hard to live up to the talent and style of my father. People expect me to be a great musician and vocalist like my father, and I’m trying my best to follow in his footsteps. Carlos Martínez, musical director of Mariachi Vargas, has me sing many of the songs my father use to sing back when he was in the group.
CM: Well, it’s time to go to rehearsal, so our time is up. Are there any last remarks you’d like to share at this time?
JP: Well, I’m looking forward to an awesome week as part of this year’s Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza. I look forward to seeing everyone, and congratulations to you, Cynthia, for your 24 years of producing the Extravaganza!
CM: Thank you, Jonathan. I have an awesome team, and that’s what makes it work!
In Spain with Mariachi Vargas members Gustavo Alvarado, Roberto López and Jorge Aguayo