Guadalajara is known as the ‘Perla de Occidente’ the Pearl of the West- or ‘La Ciudad de las Rosas’ the City of Roses-. For many years it was considered as a thoroughfare city for the travellers. During the last decades, Guadalajara has became a very touristy city and an obliged visit in West of the country.
Being the capital of the state of Jalisco, home of tequila and mariachi music, Guadalajara is a city with a nice flavour of province and tradition, but including all the features of a big metropolis, having more than 6 million people.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Guadalajara, which make it the beautiful place it is, is the fact that is a green city, with many trees and plants. Another factor for its beauty is that Guadalajara’s old buildings have been conserved, and its architectural tradition has followed through with their look. This is why you will thankfully not see many tall buildings; this aspect certainly makes it a world apart from the other large cities in Mexico.
The most beautiful area in the city, without a doubt, is the historical downtown or Centro Histórico, mainly the Plaza Tapatia. To fully enjoy this area, you should start out with the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Cross of Plazas that surrounds it. Each one of the plazas has particular features that make them very beautiful in their very own way. After that you can look at the Degollado Theatre. If you keep walking you will find beautiful buildings and plazas, the Callejón del Diablo ‘ The Devil’s Alley- and some outside coffee places and restaurants. When you are almost in the middle of the Plaza Tapatía, you will see a very long water mirror with some fountains, which is quite stunning. At the end of it, you will be able to see the Instituto Cultural Cabañas. If you get out of the Plaza around this area, you will get to the Mercado Libertad, an excellent place to buy cheap souvenirs and handcrafted products. Walking a little further you will find the Plaza de los Mariachis, a good spot to sit down, rest, have a snack and listen to mariachi music. While you are downtown, one of the funnest things to do is to take a ride on a Calandria, which are small carriages pulled by horses that will take you around the area. You should talk with the driver, it is a good way to know more about the local culture.
Another beautiful and interesting area of Guadalajara is the Zona Rosa, nickname given to Chapultepec Avenue. Formerly it was called La Fayette; today it’s a beautiful street full of trees, with a central reservation. Along this avenue you can find many coffee places, bars, restaurants and stores. As you walk through Chapultepec, you can admire several monuments and squares. Since you are on this avenue, you should stop to have a coffee at the Café Azteca, a very traditional place. At the end of the Zona Rosa, there is a big area of fabric stores; here you can find any type of material, and it is, unsurprisingly, a favourite spot for future brides.
Maybey the most attractive area of the city is Avenida Vallarta. This beautiful and green street that ends at Los Arcos and La Minerva is filled with attractions. One of the most interesting things in there, are the old colonial mansions built along the avenue, which are gorgeous. During the Colonial period this was one of the favourite areas of the upper classes. One of these mansions is today the Casa de la Cultura Jalisciense. Also in Vallarta you can find many restaurants, outside coffee places and bars like La Charla; several boutiques and night clubs like Lado B or La Marcha. A couple of year ago the Centro Magno was built on this avenue; it is the most modern shopping mall in the city, full of boutiques, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. Among these places we find the Hard Rock Café and El Arca.
Avenida López Mateos is the road that connects Guadalajara’s North with its South; is one of the most important streets in the city, and here you can get to see the city’s most modern features. López Mateos is basically a commercial avenue; on it you can find Plaza del Sol, a traditional shopping mall, but it is also the ideal place to look for a bar or restaurant.
The Zapopan area is characterised for being the home of the Basílica de la Virgen de Zapopan. It is a very nice area, full of plazas and gardens, great to take a walk here; you can visit the Huichol Art Museum and the Plaza de las Américas. If you are in Zapopan, the Hostería del Ángel is highly recommended for a meal, it is a great restaurant that serves good wine and Spanish tapas.
Tlaquepaque is a pottery and handicrafts area; crowded with arts and crafts stores. You can find anything here, from a small ashtray to a large sculpture. In the centre of Tlaquepaque is El Parian, an area full of bars and restaurants, where, while you enjoy traditional snacks, you can hear trios, mariachi or marimba music. One of the most attractive places in Tlaquepque is the Galería Sergio Bustamante, it offers very original, modern craftsmanship, which comes complete with a certification of authenticity. A very good restaurant in the area is the Abajeño Campestre, a big garden where you can eat exquisite Mexican food, listen to mariachis and see folkloric dances.
Tonalá is another pottery producing area, less beautiful than Tlaquepaque, but equally attractive. In Tonalá you can get into the factories, and see how the people are working. You can learn about glass blowing, which is spectacular. At Tonalá you can find very cheap second hand products, which have such a small defect that you can’t even notice it.
Chapalita, although not a very commercial area, is nevertheless an interesting part of the city. During the 40’s and 50’s it was the residential area of the upper classes. Nowadays it’s a pleasant area, where you will find cafés like Greta or the Dali Café; as well as the beautiful Glorieta Chapalita. Walking through Chapalita, is a good way to get to know the daily life of the middle classes from Guadalajara.
Guadalajara is a city full of attractions; the visitor will enjoy its cosmopolitan atmosphere which has not forgotten its rural traditions and customs. Don’t forget this is the city where you can taste the best tequila in the world. So enjoy.
History of Guadalajara
When you talk of Guadalajara, you are essentially talking about the 450 years of history which have made it what it is now. It is essential to know a bit about the past in order to live Guadalajara’s present to the full.
The area of Jalisco was inhabited by various indigenous groups, up until the conquest. Among them were the Chapalas, the Huicholes and other groups, which in some way or other belonged to the Aztec Empire, but being rather separate from TenochtitlÃ¡n enjoyed certain liberties.
When the Spaniards began their conquest and colonization of Mexico, they tried to establish Guadalajara in order to have representatives of the Spanish crown in the Eastern part of the country. With this in mind, a group headed by NuÃ±o de GuzmÃ¡n was sent over to conquer the people who were settled there. They named the area Nueva Galicia.
There was a total of four attempts to found the city. The first attempt was in NochistlÃ¡n in 1531, when the indigenous people fought hard to avoid the colonization of their land. Then there was an attempt to found it in TonalÃ¡, in 1533, were again it proved impossible. The third attempt was at TlacotlÃ¡n, but the Indians resisted, and the battles ended in death for many of the conquistadors. They then resorted to call in Pedro de Alvarado, who at the time was in the centre of New Spain. Far from succeeding in a proper foundation, he had to flee and later died.
On February 14th , 1542, Antonio de Mendoza y CristÃ³bal de OÃ±ate, looking for shelter from the Indian attacks, found a safe place in the Valley of Atemajac, and decided to found the city of Guadalajara on that very spot. When Mendoza and OÃ±ate were about to declare the city founded, no one dared cheer, fearful as they were from the three last attempts. However, Beatriz HernÃ¡ndez -a fabulous, courageous woman- stood next to them and cheered the crowd on, until they all accepted the chosen place and showed their support.
In many aspects, the area was not a good choice: it was a large plain, but was ideal for preventing attacks from the indigenous settlers.
Charles I, King of Spain, gave Guadalajara the title of city, as well as its Coat of Arms. Its name was given in honour of NuÃ±o BeltrÃ¡n de GuzmÃ¡n, who came from Guadalajara in Spain. The event of the foundation of the city took place where the Teatro Degollado and the Plaza de los Fundadores stand today. In this plaza you will find a freeze depicting the scene.
In the beginning, the main activities which Guadalajara concerned itself with were mining and agriculture. In a short space of time, large haciendas started to appear, which helped the growing city become a large commercial centre in Eastern Mexico.
On May 10th, 1560, Guadalajara was named the capital of the kingdom of Nueva Galicia, and so for many years carried this name. As the city growed in population and importance, the need for a cathedral became more evident. This was requested to Spain, and Fray Pedro de Ayala laid the first stone of the Catedral Metropolitana, the same which exists today.
In 1700 Fray Galindo y ChÃ¡vez, Bishop od Guadalajara, points out the need for a university, but it isn’t until 1742 that Mota Padilla starts the process of creating a university. In 1774 Charles III of Spain sends a document asking for reports from various places in New Spain, which specified the pros and cons of building a university in the city. Finally, in the late 16th centiry and with the adequate funding, the courses, timetables and subjects are approved, and the University of Guadalajara goes ahead.
In 1792 the first printing press is established in a place called Plaza de Santo Domingo. The frist publication which it produced was the “Elogios FÃºnebres” (Funerary Elogies), a piece dedicated to Fray Antonio Alcalde.
In 1810 the first independent newspaper was born: “El Despertador Americano”. Also during this year -while Don Miguel Hidalgo and Costilla (Father of Independence) was in town- slavery was abolished in the building that today houses the Palacio del Gobierno. Also measures were taken to establish the ‘Gobierno Insurgente’ in this same building.
After the War of Independence in 1810, the area got the name of Jalisco -a name which remains today, as Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco-, which means “place of jal”, as the whole area is full of this type of stone.
In December 1926 the Cristera War started, and the state of Jalisco was one of the main centres where this was developed. Due to this conflict many people in the state of Jalisco sought refuge in Guadalajara, giving it an excessive population boost. The Cristera War finished the 29th June, 1929.
In 1965 the Fiestas de Octubre (October Celebrations)were definitely established as the city’s local celebrations. These have survived till today as one of the most important events in Guadalajara. From the start, they were given a touristic value; in them, three basic activities of the state of Jalisco are combined: commerce, culture and entertainment.
In the last decade of last century, Guadalajara suffered one of the most dramatic events in tis entire history, which left its mark on people’s lives, and somehow made people confront the government. on the 22nd April, 1992, a terrible gas explosion occurred, as a result of an accumulation in the drainage systems. It caused the destruction of part of the city, the death of 212 Guadalajarans and a high number of homeless families. After this event, there were help groups created, as well as groups created to remember the event. Guadalajara still mourns every year on the anniversary of the tragedy, and sadness prevails at this time.
The state of Jalisco has produced many different famous people, namely the excellent muralist JosÃ© Clemente Orozco, and three great writers: Francisco Rojas GonzÃ¡lez, Juan Rulfo and Juan JosÃ© Arreola, among many others.
Today, Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco, the second largest and most important city in the country. It has around six million inhabitants, and is a large metropolis, with every feature which a cosmopolitan city should have.