The Beatles never played a concert in Mexico, yet no other country in the region has been able to match its Beatlemania. Forty-three years after the band dissolved, Mexico boasts more than 50 Beatles tribute bands and holds the record for radio time—12 hours weekly—dedicated to music of “Los Bitles,” as they are known in Mexico. It may be the result of a thwarted passion: in 1965, Mexico’s then-authoritarian regime banned a Beatles tour on the grounds that Mexican youth “were not ready” for male rock’n’rollers with long hair.
The Beatles stopped touring in 1966, and although Paul McCartney played a Mexico City concert last year, Mexican fans never quite got over missing the chance to see the Fab Four. In 2009, Mexican filmmakers and self-proclaimed Beatlemaníacos Diego Graue and Raymundo Marmolejo followed Ricardo Calderón, president of Mexico City’s unofficial Beatles fan club Todos Juntos Ahora (after The Beatles song “All Together Now”), to Liverpool, where Calderón organizes an annual pilgrimage of Mexican tribute bands to the city’s Beatles Week Festival. The bands joined hundreds of Beatles impersonators for the honor of playing at The Cavern, the club where their four idols were discovered in 1961. Calderón, an eccentric 59-year-old collector of Beatles paraphernalia, is the star of the 90-minute film released three years later under the title Esperando a los Bitles (Waiting for The Beatles).
Ironically, few Mexicans have actually seen the film. The directors have not been able to gain the rights to the film’s soundtrack—which prevents it from being distributed to theaters. To date, however, it has successfully been shown at local non-profit cultural events as well as U.S. film festivals, and Graue hinted that it might soon become available online. It is not simply a film about The Beatles, he says, but a tribute to their millions of fans around the globe, and a passion that cuts across age, social class and national borders.
Indeed, as the film demonstrates, The Beatles have long since transcended their music. The film’s allusion to the Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot is no accident. Graue compares Mexicans’ obsession with The Beatles to their craving for spiritual and emotional fulfillment.
All photos courtesy of Raymundo Marmolejo.