The multicolored tomb of José Alfredo Jiménez, one of Mexico’s most prolific songwriters, stands out among the other graves in the Panteón Municipal.
The tomb consists of a traditional Dolores Hidalgo shawl and a gigantic sombrero like the one Jiménez wore in performance, which provides visitors with a shady spot to rest. The entire tomb is covered in colorful mosaic, and if you search carefully you can find small tiles bearing the titles of his songs.
Jiménez popularized rancheras, now an essential genre of Mexican music. They were essentially rural folk songs, using the classic strings, brass, accordions, and “grito mexicano.” Jiménez got his start in the 1940s, and would pen over a thousand songs over his lifetime. Despite the fact that he couldn’t play any instruments or read music, his songs instantly became standards for all mariachis to come.
Inside the sombrero tomb an epitaph reads, “La vida no vale nada,” or “Life is worth nothing.” This lyric was addressed to his brother, who had asked him to write a song about their home state of Guanajuato before he was murdered there. The song was a lament on the state of life and death in the province where they were born. However, Guanajuatenses have taken the sad song and reinterpreted it to mean that life in Guanajuato, though occasionally rough, is priceless.
The monument was constructed on November 23, 1998 by architect Javier Senosiain, husband to José Alfredo Jiménez’s daughter, Paloma Jiménez Gálvez. Senosiain has written about his preference for curving design, and how he believes it to be more organic and natural for humans to spend time in. His style, coupled with the rainbow of the mosaic serape makes the grave a cheerful place to remember one of the fathers of Mexican popular music.
Know Before You Go
The Casa Museo José Alfredo Jiménez provides more information about the life and legacy of the famous mariachi. The grave setting is just inside the main gates to the Panteón Municipal.