Ciudad Acuña celebrates legacy of ‘El Mariachi’ the movie

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CIUDAD ACUÑA, TAMAULIPAS – It’s been 28 years since Cheech Marin tended bar and Antonio Banderas shot a bunch of bad guys inside the place. Still, visitors keep coming to the Corona Club to have a drink, look at pictures on the wall, and celebrate the legacy the films “El Mariachi” (1992) and “Desperado” (1995) left on their city.

Those movies “have great significance for Acuña and for the bar,” said Gerardo Garza, owner of the iconic business on Calle Hidalgo, where the gunfight scenes for both productions were shot. “As it is, Acuña has always had tourists – from Texas (military) bases, the colleges in Austin, Texas A&M, San Marcos, San Angelo, Houston, and others looking for a good time. They also come because this is the birthplace of ‘El Mariachi.’”

Acuña is across the border from Del Rio, Texas.

The “Mariachi” is a Mexican protagonist concocted by Garza’s uncle, Carlos Gallardo, and University of Texas graduate Robert Rodriguez. A roving musician taking on a Mexican drug lord, the original indie movie was made on a $7,000 budget with locals as actors.

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It won the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award in 1993 and went on to gross $2 million at theaters. In 2011, the Library of Congress designated it for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry for its cultural and aesthetic value.

A traffic sign directs drivers to the USA or Ciudad Acuña in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021. Acuña is across the border form of Del Rio, Texas. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
A traffic sign directs drivers to the USA or Ciudad Acuña in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021. Acuña is across the border form of Del Rio, Texas. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Garza said his uncle and high school and college pal Rodriguez had been making home movies since they were teenagers.

They would record each other, family members, and friends. Their success with “El Mariachi” led to the Hollywood-backed sequel “Desperado” featuring Banderas, Salma Hayek, and Marin as the bartender. A third movie featuring the El Mariachi character starred Johnny Depp but was filmed in Guanajuato.

“People come, ask (about the movie) and take pictures. It’s not just people from the United States but from Mexico as well. They all remember the scene with Cheech Marin behind the bar and Antonio Bandera firing his guns all over the place,” Garza said.

The bar, floor, and walls remain as in the movie. Photographs of the production, cast, and town hang on the walls. On a recent Friday evening, green and red lights lined Calle Hidalgo in anticipation of the Mexican Independence holiday. Inside the bar, a small crowd of locals enjoyed drinks and loud Mexican music.

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Source: KSWB San Diego

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