Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico and is one of my favorite places to visit beyond the country’s beach resorts. Known as the land of tequila and mariachi, it is rich in history and traditions; it has recently developed into Mexico’s Silicon Valley.
Guadalajara plays host to some dazzling architecture with its Hospicio Cabañas, a hospital built in century XIX and with its cathedral. The local culture is on display with traditions such as charrería, folkloric dance, jarabe tapatío and tequila.
The muralist José Clemente Orozco is considered one of the “big three” Mexican painters along with Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Although there are examples of his art in New York and California, his true masterworks are found in the public buildings of Guadalajara.
Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.Isabelle Eberhardt
Inspired by the great satirical illustrator José Guadalupe Posada, Orozco learned at a young age that art could be a tool to challenge the powerful. During Mexico’s revolution, his artwork reflected his worries about the massive death toll of the conflict that lasted from 1910 until 1920.
Some of Orozco’s greatest masterpieces are located at Guadalajara’s Instituto Cultural Cabañas. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this elegant Guadalajara building was once used as an orphanage and hospital. The walls and ceilings of the building are lined with 57 frescoes that take aim at authority figures and depict history as a brutal, bloody struggle.
Guadalajara’s most conspicuous landmark the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady with distinctive neo-Gothic towers was rebuilt after an earthquake destroyed the original towers in 1818. Begun in 1561 and consecrated in 1618, the building is almost as old as the city itself.
San Pedro Tlaquepaque
Located a short 11km from Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque served as our base for the surrounding municipality, it is situated about half-way between the city’ international airport and the historic center of Guadalajara. We stayed at the lovely La Villa del Ensueno Boutique Hotel. It was originally built to be a guest house and to receive family and friends.
In Tlaquepaque you can see works by Sergio Bustamante , a Mexican sculptor best known for his depictions of animals and inventive humanoid creatures. Working in papier maché, wood, bronze, and ceramic, Bustamante's sculptures are often painted or glazed, allowing him to bring even greater heights of imagination and surrealism to his creatures.
"One of the memories that lived on my childhood was the sensation to be able to fly. At the age of eleven years in the hot weather of Sinaloa and surrounded by an accumulation of fantasies, I felt that I flew transformed into a personage of my readings, obsessed by heroes and of swordfighters."
The ex-pat community of Ajijic sits on the shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest lake. About a half-hour drive from Guadalajara’s international airport positions the town close enough to the big city benefits of Guadalajara, while still being tucked away from the urban sprawl in a unique natural setting.
The compact town of Ajijic with its narrow cobblestone streets hosts both Americans and Canadians, maybe more of the latter. The streets are lined with colorful houses and small boutiques and galleries. Since ex-pats make up about 50% of the population during the winter season, visitors will find a greater variety of shops and restaurants than they would in a typical small Mexican town.
On Wednesday there’s the weekly tianguis or farmer’s market where a variety of vendors sell fresh produce, while others hawk household goods, curios and crafts. There’s also a mix of food vendors selling traditional Mexican food at rock-bottom prices.