When lacking an official fiesta, you can create your own at a number of nightspots around town.
Some sidewalk cafés around the zócalo regularly have live music. Just follow the sound to café El Importador (southeast zócalo corner), the marimba band in front of the El Jardón (southwest corner), and seasonally at the Hotel Marques del Valle restaurant (north side of zócalo). Music typically continues until about 11 p.m. daily.
Nearby, behind the cathedral, the restaurant El Sagrario (120 Valdivieso, tel. 951/514-0303 or 951/514-3319, 8 a.m.–midnight daily, $7–12)has live music nightly beginning about 9 p.m.
Bar La Farola (20 de Noviembre 314, corner of Las Casas, 951/516-5352, 11 a.m.–2 a.m. daily), a block west and a block south of the zócalo, founded 1916, claims to be Oaxaca’s longest-running cantina. The Farola’s dignified old-style pub ambience attracts a middle-to-upper-class local clientele, some young, some old, who come to relax over food, drinks, and the rhythms of a live latin-jazz-salsa trio.
Moving uphill, north, from the zócalo, the action is often livelier and louder (recorded hip-hop, reggae, and salsa) at restaurant-bar Tentación (Matamoros 101, open 8 a.m. until sometimes as late as 2 a.m. Tues.–Sat.).
One of the most intense in-town nightspots is Candela (Murguia 413, corner of Pino Suárez, tel. 951/514-2010, from about 10 p.m. Thurs.–Sat.), which jumps with hot salsa and African-Latin rhythms. Arrive at 10 p.m. for dance lessons; call to confirm. (Women, be aware that a well-known cadre of local Romeos regularly frequents this and other such downtown spots.)
The hottest new nightspot in town among 20-somethings is the class-act Bar La Pasion (hidden beyond the rear of Restaurant Mayordomo, Alcalá 303, noon–3 a.m. daily) with giant flat TV screens, studio lighting, and loud, live music. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, you can recognize it easily after about 8 p.m. by the large crowd out in front.
The success of Bar La Pasion has spawned a number of newer nightspots. One of the liveliest is La Cantinita restaurant-bar across the street (Alcalá 302, tel. 951/516-8169, 1 p.m.–2 a.m. daily). Above the front door, a sign announces “entrance prohibited to all persons who like to fight, are in a bad mood, or are angry.” The attraction is loud, live salsa and hip hop and lots of folks in their 20s and 30s dancing, drinking, and eating.
For a more subdued atmosphere, try the luxury hotels, which host live dance music in their lobby bars especially on weekends and holidays. Call to confirm programs at Camino Real (tel. 951/516-0611), the Victoria (tel. 951/515-2633), and the Fortín Plaza (tel. 951/515-7777).
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition