With a population of over 4 million Guadalajara may only be Mexico’s second largest city, but much of what the world knows of Mexico – including tequila and mariachi music – originates here and in the surrounding state of Jalisco.   Spanish colonial Guadalajara was already 250 years old by the time the U.S. won its independence in 1783, a point made amply clear by the buildings in the city’s historic centro.

Streetfront, Hotel Mendoza, Guadalajara

Less than an hour’s drive from Lake Chapala, an el centro tour is eminently walkable, thanks in part to the proximity of many sites to each other and in part to their connection by miles of pedestrian malls and plazas.

There are a number of good and reasonably priced hotels in the immediate area, but I’ve returned again and again to the Hotel Mendoza, a boutique hotel that’s within 4 or 5 blocks of every site visit planned for this day.

Lobby, Hotel Mendoza, Guadalajara

The Mendoza is on a quiet side street with underground parking, and while the typical rooms here are simply done, the public areas exude lots of elegant, Old World charm.

Dome of Templo Santa Maria de Gracia, Guadalajara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A small swimming pool sits at the bottom of the Mendoza’s open air atrium, and through my room window facing it I can see just next door the dome of the Templo Santa Maria de Gracia, the day’s first site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Templo Santa Maria de Gracia, Guadalajara

 

 

 

The simple style and modest scale of the Templo stands in sharp contrast to its younger successor, Guadalajara’s mammoth Catedral, which sits only a couple of blocks away.

Templo Santa Maria de Gracia, Guadalajara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The combination creates an intimate setting that makes Santa Maria a favorite site for local weddings, and many of its icons project an almost whimsical style.

Father Hidalgo, Plaza de la Liberacion, Guadalajara

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Maria de Gracia is adjacent to the expansive Plaza de la Liberacion, where the requisite statue of Father Miguel Hidalgo stands eternally forming the words to the Grito, the call that sparked Mexico’s fight for independence.

It’s a cry which is ceremonially repeated by every Mexican president on Mexico’s Independence Day.

(If you’re here on a day trip, there’s a pay parking garage underneath the Plaza.)

Catedral, Guadalajara

 

 

 

 

Guadalajara’s signature Catedral sits at the far end of the plaza.

As with many other Mexican cathedrals, the blocks at all four compass points around it are occupied by public spaces, a legacy of the expropriation of church lands that at their height accounted for up to one-fifth of all Mexican landholdings.

 

 

The Catedral is so massive that only a view from the rooftop deck of the Mendoza can take it all in.   The front view which showcases the two towers is an icon reproduced endlessly throughout the city.

Catedral, Guadalajara

The design and workmanship of this place evokes that of its European contemporaries so thoroughly that it could just as easily be located in Italy or Spain.

Catedral, Guadalajara

Catedral, Guadalajara

It’s worth it not only to walk its entire length and breadth, but to sit for a while in one of the pews and soak up the atmosphere.

Catedral, Guadalajara

Catedral, Guadalajara

A block from the Catedral to the northeast lies the Rotonda de Ilustres Hombres monument, a tribute to Jalisco’s favorite sons. Their statues guard the circle of columns. The subsequent addition of female honorees has led to a gender-neutral renaming of the monument as the Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres.

Rotonda de los Hobres Ilustres

Teatro Degollado (on right), Catedral (in distance), Guadalajara

The Rotonda pocket park is a tranquil setting, and a good place to give your feet a rest before returning one block to the Plaza de la Liberacion. where the Teatro Degollado sits directly opposite the Catedral.
 

 

 

 

 

 

The Degollado is a gem of an opera house that was dedicated in 1866 and has been renovated several times since.

Teatro Degollado, Guadalajara

The neoclassical façade is striking, but a beautiful stained glass dome makes a daytime visit to the interior a must.

Teatro Degollado, Guadalajara

The pedestrian mall continues eastward behind the Degollado (check out the great tableau sculpture which runs at street level for the entire length of its back side), leading toward the ever-present profile of the Hospicio Cabanas, and lined with shops, street vendors, and street performers.

Pedestrian Mall to Plaza Tapatio, Guadalajara

On the way I stop for lunch at Restaurante La Rinconada.  The food is good, but the setting is even better. It’s full of Old World panache, and the bar is a classic with a view out onto the street.

Restaurante La Rinconada, Guadalajara

The Hospicio Cabanas is now a museum which houses the giant-sized works of Mexico’s famed muralist, Jalisco-born José Clemente Orozco, but has served a number of functions over its nearly 200 year history, including that of hospital and orphanage. Orozco and his work deserve their own dedicated blog post, but the work speaks for itself and the admission charge is modest.

Hospicio Cabanas, Guadalajara

The Hospicio Cabanas sits on the edge of the Plaza Tapatio, a huge plaza under which passes the busy Calzado Independencia thoroughfare.

Plaza Tapatio, Guadalajara

 

Plaza Tapatio, Guadalajara

Contemporary sculptures in bronze cast eerie shadows over the landscape.

Plaza Tapatio, Guadalajara

 

 

If you wish to walk further, the Plaza Tapatio is within a block of the San Juan de Dios jewelry mart and the sprawling Mercado Libertad (See my separate post.)

La Fonda de San Miguel, Guadalajara

For dinner I’ve chosen La Fonda de San Miguel, which turns out to be a bit hard to find because the courtyard restaurant has almost no street-facing presence, and is reached by a short corridor.

At one time a convent, its rooms have been converted into a B&B.  It’s an intimate setting, and a nice break from the sounds of the street.
On the way back to the hotel I pass sites seen earlier in the day and find them much to my surprise surrounded by animated crowds enjoying the cool evening and magnificently lighted structures.

The Catedral, the Rotonda, and the Teatro all glow magically in the night air.

Catedral, Guadalajara

Rotonda des los Hombres Ilustres, Guadalajara

 

 

Teatro Degollado, Guadalajara

Teatro Degollado, Guadalajara

I pass through the hotel lobby I carry with me a memory of an outstanding day, and the knowledge that today’s sites are only the tip of the Guadalajara iceberg.

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