Sunday, May 17, 2009

Guadalajara

March 18th to 21st

Guadalajara is Mexico's second largest city after the capital with over 5 million inhabitants, and it suffers from almost as many letter A's in it's name. 

As a city it made a stuttering start in 1532, originally sited by the Spaniard Nuno Guzman a hundred kilometers further North in Zacatecas state. It failed due to a lack of water and the local Indians who kept beating people up. It was relocated after only a year, to what is now a suburb of the modern day city, but Guzman disliked the new site and moved once again. It took the Indians just 2 years to find him; and this time they completely destroyed the place. Credit to the man though, he kept going and finally, the fourth version worked.  

Guadalajara is famous as the birthplace of the Mexican sombrero, Tequila andMariachi music. A full Mariachi band consists of a minimum of 3 violins, 2 trumpets, a Mexican guitar, a guitarron (an acoustic bass) and maybe even a harp! They dress in silver studded "Charro" suits and wide brimmed hats and play restaurants and plazas. It's great entertainment....



With impeccable timing, we arrive just as the city sets about staging it's annual Tequila Festival. Plazas are lined with stalls offering free samples and there are hundreds to choose from. We've got our work cut out and take a hotel close by....


I like Guadalajara. For a big city, it has a really nice layout, centred as per most Mexican cities around it's huge cathedral....


What's nice about it is that the cathedral is surrounded on all 4 sides by huge plazas. Plaza de la Liberacion to the east stretches for 2 blocks and terminates in the impressive Degollado Theatre building. Behind that is plaza Tapatia with it's pedestrianised walkways complete with statues, fountains and street performers stretching for 500m. It's fantastic to have so much open space right in the centre of a huge metropolis.... 



South of the cathedral is Plaza de Armas with it's imposing Palacio de Gobierno -town hall. Inside are incredible murals of Independence leader Miguel Hidalgo by Mexico's favourite muralist Jose Clemente Orozco. The bandstand stages regular Jaliscan and Classical music concerts, and the band is just getting into place for tonight's show...



Plaza Tapatia culminates in the Intitute of Culture building. This incredible edifice originally served as an orphanage for over 150 years, but also saw insane patients, soldiers and prisoners during it's stints as an asylum, barracks and prison. It houses another 54 murals by Orozco on the walls and ceiling of the church....



Completed inside just 3 years, they make bold and powerful statements against opression by social organisations such as the catholic church, the government and labour movements. There are other more historical representations of the Spanish conquest and modern day Mexico....



North of the cathedral is the Rotunda of Illustrious Men of Guadalajara set with 20 bronze statues of illustrous heroes - Architects, artists, lawyers and scientists. Speaking with locals, the line up would appear to be contentious, and with the inclusion of the first woman, it would appear a name change from Illustrious Men is in order....


There are several high quality museums to explore including the regional museum where Sue contemplates the deep, underlying meaning hidden in the artist's obvious angst ridden search for understanding. Or did they just spill the paint?


To cap it all, there are live bands on several stages througout the city to help keep the Tequila vendors in business by attracting the crowds.... 



We could easily spend more than the 4 days we have in Guadalajara. There are many other museums and galleries to explore, not to mention the planetarium and the parks with their butterfly houses, aviaries and exotic plants. Oh.... and just one more tequila! However, the road is calling and it's back to the bici tomorrow...