Standing below Jose Clemente Orozco’s fiery mural of
revolutionary hero Miguel Hidalgo in Guadalajara’s government
palace, I was enveloped by the passion and violent conflicts of
Mexico’s past. The grand palace is infused with the spirit of
Hidalgo, Benito Juarez and other Mexican heroes, who used its halls
to make dramatic stands in the name of freedom part of
Guadalajara’s rich and complex history.
With Oaxaca in turmoil, Guadalajara is a worthy alternative for
clients seeking a traditional Mexican experience. While it may lack
Oaxaca’s small-town charm, the country’s second-largest city is
often called the “most Mexican” of Mexican cities, offering a
gateway into the world of stately cathedrals, mariachis and violent
Guadalajara also serves as an easy jumping-off point for trips to
Guanajuato and Tequila, the type of old colonial towns that make
people fall in love with Mexico.
Most people first visit Guadalajara for business. Self-proclaimed
as the Silicon Valley of Mexico, the city is host to facilities
operated by IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Siemens and a variety of other
On a recent visit I stayed at the Hilton Guadalajara, next door to
the convention center, which maintains a vigorous schedule of
events. The center features an outdoor pavilion for events and a
shiny new Camino Real just opened across the street, helping to
give the area a vibrant atmosphere.
From the convention center district it is about a 15-minute drive
through the crowded city to downtown, the center for Guadalajara’s
signature cathedrals, monuments and old Spanish palaces.
Downtown is a maze of old plazas, peppered with modern art and
statues of heroes. Highlights included the twin-towered cathedral
that serves as the city’s centerpiece and the massive neoclassical
Instituto Cultural de Cabana, which served as an orphanage, insane
asylum and military barracks over the years. The walls and ceiling
of the main chapel are covered with more of Orozco’s murals,
depicting the heroic Hidalgo battling forces of evil.
The downtown area is peppered with markets, including the massive,
three-square-block Mercado Libertad, and a vast array of jewelry
stores. But I was advised to be patient, there was better shopping
“You can’t come to Guadalajara without going to Tlaquepaque,” one
of my traveling companions said.
Located 10 minutes from downtown, Tlaquepaque (pronounced
Tlock-kay-pak-kay) is a quaint district of shops, galleries and old
restaurants grouped around a peaceful pedestrian mall. We ate lunch
on the tree-covered patio of El Abajeno, serenaded by strolling
The next day we were off to the town of Tequila, the production
capital of the scorching brew that bears its name, located about an
hour’s drive from Guadalajara. There is a party train that runs to
Tequila from Guadalajara on weekends, but it’s better to take a car
or van to allow for some exploring through the stretch of small
towns and endless fields of sugarcane and agave, the succulent used
to produce tequila.
We took an alternative route off the main highway to stop at the
ruins of Guachimontones. Perched on a quiet hillside overlooking a
vast lake, the stone works and rounded temple date back to 2,000
and were only unearthed in 1970.
In the quaint neighboring village of Teuchitlan, vendors offered
jewelry of onyx and other native stones, and we took a few minutes
to explore the museum commemorating the ruins.
Tequila was about an hour’s drive from the ruins. At the center of
town we entered the Mundo Cuervo Hacienda, the perfectly manicured
facility that houses the Jose Cuervo tequila operation. A brief
tour presented the basics of tequila manufacturing, as well as
samples of the Cuervo brew.
Warmed by the liquor, I settled into a bench in the small plaza
around the town’s church, where evening services were just
beginning. As the sun set and families gathered in the square, I
felt I was closer to finding the real Mexico.
Guadalajara is a big, bustling city. Clients should be prepared
for traffic jams and crowds. Taxis are relatively inexpensive.
Guadalajara Office of Visitors and Conventions
Mundo Cuervo Hacienda
WHERE TO STAY
Casa Campos/Tlaquepaque B&B