Category: Mexico


More mural art.

More mural art.

What I refer to as “Midtown Guadalajara” runs east from Chalpultepec to 8 De Julio, and south from Calle Independencia to Libertad (map last below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Older buildings like this still dot the neighborhood.

Older buildings like this still dot the neighborhood.

 

The Avenida Vallarta passes directly through its heart, but much of what’s worth seeing and doing in this eclectic neighborhood happens on its less-traveled streets.

 

2015-04-23 Guadalajara Midtown East 04 newsstand

Midtown newsstand

This is a walking experience, and ready accessibility via public transportation means ‘no car required’.

 

These neighborhoods are a great pastime during the day, but come alive in the evenings, so consider a Saturday night stayover.

 

Museo de la Ciudad (Independencia @ 8 De Julio).

Museo de la Ciudad (Independencia @ 8 De Julio).

Start with the Museo de la Ciudad (Calle Independencia 684, just east of 8 de Julio), which presents the history of Guadalajara from its founding in 1542.

 

This building housed a convent of Capuchin nuns beginning in 1761, and its courtyard is now a venue for installations, exhibitions, lectures, and tastings.

 

Sculptures in the Andador Coronilla.

Sculptures in the Andador Coronilla.

 

Six permanent exhibition rooms house artifacts of the historic, urban, ethnographic, artistic development of the city and its inhabitants.

 

Four other rooms house temporary exhibitions that invite repeated revisits.

 

Andador Coronilla café.

Andador Coronilla café.

 

From the Museo there it’s two blocks to the Andador Coronilla, a street-turned pedestrian thoroughfare line with restaurants, cafés, and studios that offer dancing, drawing, and painting lessons.

 

A cobbler works leather into footwear.

A cobbler works leather into footwear.

 

Laborers and shopkeepers occupy the neighborhoods east of Federalismo, and these streets afford a snapshot of everyday life for blue collar Mexicans.  (See also my post South Centro.)

 

A slow day at the casket store.

A slow day at the casket store.

 

Mural art abounds on neighborhood walls.

Mural art abounds on neighborhood walls.

 

From there it’s another two blocks to the Parque Revolución and the University of Guadalajara, which add its own flavor to the mix.

 

 

One of several bicycle rental racks is located in the Parque Revolucion.

One of several bicycle rental racks is located in the Parque Revolucion.

 

I posted my take on the daytime Parque last week.  In the evening other parts of this neighborhood come alive.

 

Habitat bar and pool, Parque Revolución.

Habitat bar and pool, Parque Revolución.

2015-04-23 Guadalajara Midtown East 15

Painting by Maclovio Perez Garcia at Habitat bar.

 

 

The Parque’s southwest side is home to several restaurants and bars.

 

Habitat features a good selection of craft beers, wifi, and pool tables.  It’s also home to some eye-popping art.

 

1er Piso (Premer Piso) Jazz Club interior (Pedro Moreno @ Escorza).

1er Piso (Premer Piso) Jazz Club interior (Pedro Moreno @ Escorza).

 

West of the park on Pedro Moreno is the 1er Piso Jazz Club.  The door to this walk-up location is both austere and obscure (just west of the intersection on the south side of the street), but the inside has comfortable feel of an intimate cabaret.  1er Piso had good food and a great bar.  Saturday evening performances begin at 10:30PM (reservations recommended).

 

Café Gato Negro (Pedro Moreno @ Robles Gil).

Café Gato Negro (Pedro Moreno @ Robles Gil).

 

Cafe Gato Negro has an inviting atmosphere and serves specialty coffee drinks and a modest menu from 2:30 PM.

 

Next up on the walking tour of Guadalajara’s engaging Midtown:  The Templo Expiatorio and the University of Guadalajara’s Museo Bellas Artes.

 

 

 

 

Interior, Café Gato Negro.

Interior, Café Gato Negro.

 

 

To reach Midtown via public transportation:  From Ajijic or Chapala, take the bus to Guadalajara’s Central Viejo bus terminal (around USD $3.50). 

 

From there it’s a short taxi ride, or you can catch the macrobus a couple of blocks east on the Calzado Independencia.   Take it for the short ride to the Tren Ligera station at San Juan de Dios and ride it two stops to the Juarez station (each about USD$.50).

 

There are a number of boutique hotels in this area, but I rate experience as good at the Hotel Portobelo, and the Casino Plaza, which offers free in-and-out parking.  Find great weekend rates on Hoteles.com.

 

Guadalajara Midtown map

 

See also my related posts on Guadalajara Midtown’s Parque Revolución and Guadalajara’s South Centro neighborhood, or browse the complete portfolio of my Guadalajara posts.

Mural on a Pemex station wall, adjacent to Guadalajara's Parque Revolución

Mural on a Pemex station wall, adjacent to Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución

For those who have sated themselves on Guadalajara’s high profile tourist attractions, the neighborhoods of the city’s midtown offer a change-of-pace urban experience that invite the visitor to return again and again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tren Ligera's Juarez Station, Parque Revolución, Guadalajara.

The Tren Ligera’s Juarez Station, Parque Revolución, Guadalajara.

 

 

 

From working-class neighborhoods on its eastern edge that offer up colorful mom-and-pop shops, newsstands, and street food vendors to the stately boulevards and historic mansions on its west end, midtown is a great weekend experience.

 

 

 

Students on a break in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Students on a break in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

 

 

A nighttime stay-over is a must, because while daytime browsing is great fun, it’s in the evening, that these neighborhoods really come alive.

 

 

 

 

 

Street merchants line the entrance to Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Street merchants line the entrance to Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

A weekend stay-over is made even sweeter by bargain rates on hotels that cater to businessmen during the week.

 

Doing homework in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Doing homework in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

 

Midtown is home to museums and monuments, sidewalk cafés, bookstores, bars and clubs with live music, and a checkerboard of eclectic and sometimes funky shops.

 

 

 

 

Flower merchant, Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Flower merchant, Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

 

 

 

At its heart is the Parque Revolución, located where the Avenida Juarez becomes the Avenida Vallarta at the intersection of Calzado de Federalismo.

 

 

 

 

 

Student relaxing in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Student relaxing in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

 

It’s hard to miss.  An ever-changing mural which covers the billboard-sized wall of a Pemex station is visible from blocks away.

 

 

 

Taco stands about in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Taco stands about in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

The Parque Revolución is only a 20 minute walk from the Centro Historico, or two subway stops from the San Juan de Dios Market station, which is located adjacent to the market on the side facing the Plaza de los Mariachis.

 

Hanging out in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Hanging out in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

Here the lines of the Tren Ligera subway system converge just blocks from the University of Guadalajara.  While there’s no question that the concentration of students fuels much of this neighborhood’s ambiance, it’s a also convenient place for workers from nearby shops and offices to grab lunch.

 

Students hanging out, Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Students hanging out, Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

Here you can enjoy a street taco, buy indigenous art and crafts or a bouquet of flowers, and get a haircut or shoeshine.

 

 

Heading to class at Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Heading to class at Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

Or you can just order yourself a paleta, pick a shady bench, and soak up the atmosphere.

 

Barbacoa (barbecue) taco stand in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Barbacoa (barbecue) taco stand in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

 

 

 

On a weekday afternoon, students on their way to and from classes – or just in between classes, study and congregate on the Parque’s north side, where a collection of street vendors holds permanent court.

 

Hanging out in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Hanging out in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

 

The mood here is nothing if not mellow, and has the familiar feel of parks near universities worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting a haircut in Guadalajara's Parque Revolución.

Getting a haircut in Guadalajara’s Parque Revolución.

 

 

There’s more to see here than can possibly be covered in a single post, so my next posts will take you on a walking tour of midtown, where you can enjoy the Guadalajara that tourists rarely experience.

Altared states

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 01In Mexico, altars are not found just in churches.  Makeshift and highly original altars appear on highways throughout Mexico as poignant reminders of traffic fatalities, and they’re a signature facet of the Dia de Los Muertos.

On each December 12, they honor the Virgin of Guadalupe, Catholic Mexico’s patron.

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 03

In many towns, several days of public observances lead up to the holiday, but on the afternoon of this December 12 in the village of Ajijic, families are still putting the finished touches on freshly constructed altars.

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 05I walk the cobblestones streets capturing their images as I reflect on the tradition.

Catholicism has a long history of incorporating and reshaping local religious deities into its observances to ease the path to conversion, but perhaps nowhere has the practice taken a more remarkable turn than in Mexico.

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 06The legend has it that ten years after the Spanish Conquest, a Mexican native named Juan Diego saw a vision of a brown-skinned maiden on a hill near Mexico City which had once been the site Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 07of a temple to a female Aztec deity.

Speaking to him in his native tongue, she asked that a church be built at that site in her honor.   He was instructed by the city’s archbishop to return to the hill and ask for a sign to prove the lady’s identity, and in she healed Juan’s sick uncle.  She also told him to gather flowers from the normally barren hill, where Spanish Castilian roses now miraculously bloomed.

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 10She arranged the flowers in his cloak, and when he opened it before the archbishop on December 12, they fell to the floor to reveal the image of the Virgin on the fabric.

To the indigenous peoples, the vision was interpreted as a legitimization of their own Mexican origin.

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 12

As the common denominator among the varied which make up Mexico, so it’s no surprise that the Virgin is sometimes referred to as “the first mestiza”, or “the first Mexican”.

Part of the power of this image for indigenous Mexicans was the pre-Colombian symbolism with which it is imbued.

 

 

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 13

 

The blue-green color of her mantle was once reserved for the divine couple Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl.

Her belt symbolizes pregnancy and a cross-shaped image symbolizing the cosmos and called nahui-ollin, is inscribed beneath the image’s sash.

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 14She was also called “mother of maguey,” the source of the sacred beverage pulque, which was also known as “the milk of the Virgin.” The rays of light surrounding her are interpreted to represent maguey spines.

 

 

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 08

 

Although the Virgin is the recognized religious symbol of Catholic Mexicans, she is also closely intertwined with the spirit of Mexican nationalism.

Mexico’s first president changed his name to Guadalupe Victoria in her honor, and patriot armies carried flags emblazoned with her image during Mexico’s War of Independence and the Mexican Revolution.

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 15When the army led by Padre Miguel Hidalgo, the father of Mexican independence, attacked Spanish Royalists, they placed her image on brightly colored reeds and wore the same image on their hats.

Hidalgo’s grito, the hallmark cry of the battle for Mexican independence, ends with the words…”long live the Virgin of Guadalupe!”

 

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 20

Following Hidalgo’s capture and execution, his successor José Morelos declared that the Virgin was the power behind his victories, and her image was incorporated into the seal of the Congress of Chilpancingo,

Her feast day was also written into the constitution.  In this century, Mexico’s revolutionary Zapatista National Liberation Army  named their “floating capital city” Guadalupe Tepeyac honor of the Virgin.

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 24

Nuestra Senora Ajijic 2014 25

 

 

Latin American liberator Simón Bolívar wrote, “… the veneration for this image in Mexico far exceeds the greatest reverence that the shrewdest prophet might inspire.”

Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes once said that “you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

Nobel Literature laureate Octavio Paz wrote that “the Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery”.

 

See my other related posts on Mexico’s religious festivals and traditions:

 

 

 

2014-11-19 Fiesta de San Andres 018

Ticket booth, Calla Colón, Ajijic, Jalisco

The Jesuits who arrived on the heels of the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500’s assigned a Catholic patron saint to each Mexican village.

In many towns, the name of the patron saint has been tacked onto the native city name.

In the village of Ajijic along the shores of Mexico’s Lake Chapala, the saint is San Andrés (St. Andrew) the patron of fishermen.

Amusement rides lined up on Calle Colón, Ajijic, Jalisco

Amusement rides lined up on Calle Colón, Ajijic, Jalisco

The historic name of this village is San Andrés de Axixic, but most everyone here knows it simply as Ajijic.

This year, the ten-day fiesta patronal – the patron saint festival – begins on Friday, November 21.

Metal sculpture on Plaza gazebo railing, Ajijic, Jalisco.

Metal sculpture on Plaza gazebo railing, Ajijic, Jalisco.

It arrives on the heels of the Dia de la Revolucion holiday, and anticipates holiday observances that begin two weeks after the fiesta with the Christmas posadas, and do not end until early in February with the Fiesta de la Candelaria (Candlemas).

Metal sculpture on Plaza gazebo railing, Ajijic, Jalisco

Metal sculpture on Plaza gazebo railing, Ajijic, Jalisco

As I walk to the village plaza to see how the preparations are proceeding, only forty-eight hours remain until the start of the fiesta.

Metal sculptures of water fowl that adorn the plaza gazebo railing seem also to be looking  out over the preparations.

Metal sculpture on Plaza gazebo railing, Ajijic, Jalisco

Metal sculpture on Plaza gazebo railing, Ajijic, Jalisco

 

 

Street renovation, Ajijic, Jalisco

Street renovation, Ajijic, Jalisco

The run-up to this year’s event is marked by no small amount of suspense, because street renovations around the fiesta site, begun only weeks ago at the rainy season’s end, are still incomplete.

Street renovation, Ajijic, Jalisco

Street renovation, Ajijic, Jalisco

The road construction crew is working at a frenetic pace rarely seen in this part of the world.

Street renovation, Ajijic, Jalisco

Street renovation, Ajijic, Jalisco

The workers setting up for the fiesta seem undeterred by the chaos.

Plaza canopy raising, Ajijic, Jalisco

Plaza canopy raising, Ajijic, Jalisco

Around the plaza men are setting up canopies for booths that will sell food, beverages, and souvenirs.

Video game parlor is the first amusement up and running

Video game parlor is the first amusement up and running

 

 

Under one of the canopies, a group of boys is already putting just-powered-up video games to the test.

 

The electronic games sit side by side with an air hockey game and a foosball table!

 

 

 

 

Kiddie ride on Calle Colón, Ajijic, Jalisco

Kiddie ride on Calle Colón, Ajijic, Jalisco

 

 

 

 

The carnival ride operators have just begun to arrive, but one ride has already been set up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ferris wheel assemble, Calle Colón, Ajijic, Jalisco

Ferris wheel assemble, Calle Colón, Ajijic, Jalisco

 

 

 

 

 

Nearby, a crew labors to erect the scaffolding of a Ferris wheel.

 

Occupational safety is left to the workers, who seem to be largely unconcerned about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ducky seats awaiting assembly, Calle Colón, Ajijic, Jalisco

Ducky seats awaiting assembly, Calle Colón, Ajijic, Jalisco

 

 

 

 

 

Other rides in various states of assembly now fill the Calle Colón adjacent to the Plaza.

 

Seats decorated as fancifully painted animals are strewn around waiting to be dropped into place.

 

 

 

 

Newly arrived ride, Calle Colón, Ajijic, Jalisco

Newly arrived ride, Calle Colón, Ajijic, Jalisco

The ‘carneys’ hit the fiesta circuit at the rainy season’s end with their wives and  children, often sleeping in the vehicles with which they haul their amusements from event to event.

During the fiesta, it’s not unusual to see them keep their equipment secure by sleeping in the seats of their rides.

Power grid, Fiesta de San Andres, Ajijic, Jalisco

Power grid, Fiesta de San Andres, Ajijic, Jalisco

 

The ride operators, as always, tap directly into power lines, and a tangle of wires has already begun to form on the cobblestones.  There’s not a electric meter in sight.

Any fire marshal would close this party down in a heartbeat, but here the set-up has gone unchallenged year in and year out.

The fiesta may be a work in progress as I walk the site, but atmosphere already feels like a nostalgic throwback to days long gone north of the border.

Bumper car parking lot,  Ajijic Plaza, Jalisco

Bumper car parking lot, Ajijic Plaza, Jalisco

There is no exotic, high-tech equipment here, and most of these rides would look completely at home in a 1940’s amusement park.

This event, though, is far less about the carnival amusements, and much more about an opportunity for the people of the village to reaffirm their sense of community.

In forty-eight hours, as dusk fades, the rides will crank up and fluorescent lights in dayglo colors will begin spinning.

Children, their parents, and their grandparents will make their way to the Plaza to  mark the passage of another year.

Elaborately costumed bands will pump out ear-splitting tunes until the wee hours of the morning, street vendors will hawk roasted ears of corn and other delectable curbside noshes, and ice cream sales will be brisk.

If you’re unable to experience this event in person, drop by these pages in the next few days for more on the festivities.

7 Leguas tequila distillery, Atontonillco El Alto, Jalisco, Mexico

7 Leguas tequila distillery, Atontonillco El Alto, Jalisco, Mexico

The Siete Leguas tequila distillery is located in Atotonilco El Alto, about two hours’ drive east of Guadalajara, and this family-owned distillery drips with tradition and pride.

 

Although most well-known tequila brands are now owned by multinational corporations, more than 100 distilleries still make nearly 1,000 brands of tequila, ranging from including boutique brands and others available only domestically.

 

Atontonilco El Alto, Jalisco

Atontonilco El Alto, Jalisco

Tequila has a long history.  The Aztecs fermented beverage called pulque from the agave plant long before the Spanish arrived, and when the conquistadors ran out of brandy they began to distill agave.   Today’s tequilas are typically 75-80 proof.

Agave plant window detail, 7 Leguas distillery

Agave plant window detail, 7 Leguas distillery

By law, tequila can only be produced only in the state of Jalisco, where it’s so popular that it often accounts for half of liquor store shelf space.

Just as with wines, regulators police tequila’s Appellation of Origin label to assure the purity of the product.

Harvested agave piñas are oven-baked

Harvested agave piñas are oven-baked

 

More than 300 million plants are harvested in Jalisco each year, and also as with wine, terroir is critically important.

 

Baked agave  ready for  further processing

Baked agave ready for further processing

 

Agaves from the highlands are larger and have a sweeter aroma and taste than lowland agaves, which have a slightly herbal fragrance and flavor.

Plants grown in the highlands typically yield sweeter and fruitier-tasting tequila, while lowland agaves produce tequilas with an earthier flavor.

Baked piñas are milled the old-fashioned way

Baked piñas are milled the old-fashioned way

Antique engine on display

Antique engine on display

Planting, tending, and harvesting the agave plant remains a manual effort that relies upon know-how passed on through generations of the jimadores who harvest it.

Modern piña mill

Modern piña mill

Ripening of the plant is promoted by regular trimming of the stalk which grows from the center, which prevents it from flowering.

When plant is ready to harvest, jimadores trim away the leaves to reveal the  pineapple-like core of the plant – the piña, which can weigh up to 250 pounds.

Shredded piñas are loaded into distillery vats

Shredded piñas are loaded into distillery vats

Once harvested, piñas are oven-baked to break complex starches down into simple sugars before shredding or mashing.

Distillation vats

Distillation vats

Extracted agave juice ferments for several days in large vats to produce a low-alcohol wort, which when twice-distilled produces silver tequila.

Aged in oak barrels

Aged in oak barrels

Some tequilas are aged in wooden barrels to mellow the taste and lend color.  In recent years, regulators allowed the creation of a new tequila category called “extra añejo,” which must be aged a minimum of three years.

Distillation vat

Distillation vat

Many growers believe that increasingly hot and dry summers resulting from calentamiento – global warming – are causing agave to mature more quickly, at the expense of sugar content.  It typically takes eight to twelve years before an agave plant is ready to harvest.

Now it’s on to the tasting!

Note:  While 7 Leguas maintains an office within the city, the distillery is located on the outskirts of town nearer to the agave fields. 

Visit the web site here.

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

What has to be the largest Mexican flag in all of Mexico waves over Dolores Hidalgo.  It’s visible from the mountain road long before the city appears, and it’s a beacon which flies there for good reason.

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

The town – to which the name of Mexican patriot Father Miguel Hidalgo is now affixed – is where Hidalgo uttered the Grito – his famous cry for Mexican independence – on September 16, 1810.

Within a year, his rebellion’s early successes were reversed and his head was impaled on a spike upon the ramparts of the Alhondigas in Guanajuato, where his army achieved its first major victory.

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

It would take ten more years for Mexico to free itself from the Spanish crown, but every year on September 16, the Grito is re-enacted in the city’s historic central plaza – the zócalo – as in thousands of cities across Mexico.

But Dolores Hidalgo’s role in the Mexico’s War of Independence is only one of the good reasons that the city has been named one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos” – Magical Towns.

Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores and statue of Father Hidalgo, Dolores Hidalgo zócalo

Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores and statue of Father Hidalgo, Dolores Hidalgo zócalo

The center of Dolores Hidalgo is the zócalo, and it’s dominated by a statue of Father Hidalgo and by his historic church, the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.

As I walk the plaza, I check out a church facade done in the ornate Spanish Baroque “Churrigueresque” style and bearing intricately carved figures.

Street food, Dolores Hidalgo

Street food, Dolores Hidalgo

 

History buffs will enjoy the nearby Museo de la Independencia, in which are displayed artifacts of the war of independence.

Ice cream flavors, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Ice cream flavors, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

 

Until I visited Dolores Hidalgo, I thought that Michoacán was the epicenter of Mexican ice cream, but a walk around the zócalo – where homemade ice cream is sold daily from the many push carts –  quickly convinced me otherwise.

Ice cream vendor, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Ice cream vendor, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Nowhere but the at the State Fair of Texas annual Fried Food Contest – known for its improbable ingredients –  have I tasted so many quirky (yet all very tasty) flavors.

Chili ice cream, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Chili ice cream, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

On my visit, featured flavors ranged from the traditional fruits and nuts and chocolate to the truly exotic and even bizarre.  But who wants vanilla, chocolate or strawberry when you can have mango or papaya?  Perhaps avocado or corn?  Fried pork skins, chile, or mole?  Shrimp or octopus?  Or maybe cerveza, tequila, or pulque?

Ice cream made to order, Dolores Hidalgo

Ice cream made to order, Dolores Hidalgo

Vendors are constantly competing to come up with the next new flavor, so it’s an experience constantly re-invented.

Today, Dolores Hidalgo it is widely renowned for its ceramics, the production of which directly or indirectly employs more than half of the city’s workers.  It was Father Hidalgo who introduced Talavera pottery techniques from Puebla to the people of Dolores Hidalgo.

Ceramics workshop. Dolores Hidalgo

Ceramics workshop. Dolores Hidalgo

Since 1997, only ceramics from Puebla can be designated as “talavera,” but the Puebla techniques are still practiced here, as they have been for three centuries.

 

Ceramics artisans, Dolores Hidalgo

Ceramics artisans, Dolores Hidalgo

While Dolores Hidalgo is one of the main producers of majolica glazed tiles, its workshops produce a staggering array of ceramics including dinnerware, vases, pots and jars, mosaics, bathtubs, bathroom sinks, and soap dishes, and even light switch covers and bird baths.

Ceramics workshop. Dolores Hidalgo

Ceramics workshop. Dolores Hidalgo

There are plenty of shops selling ceramics on the side streets just off the zócalo, but it’s far more interesting to visit one of the workshops that line the approach to town.  There visitors can walk among the artisans as they work, which is a real treat, since everything is made and decorated by hand.

Because Dolores Hidalgo is not a major international tourist destination, it retains much of its colonial charm and all of its Mexican authenticity.  No visit to Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, or Queretaro is complete without including this side trip.

Also in the state of Guanajuato and just down the road from Dolores Hidalgo is a mystical world heritage site that’s the subject of my next post.

Read my other related posts:

Rivera’s roots

Bronze of Diego, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bronze of Diego, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Diego Rivera was a prominent Mexican painter whose large scale wall frescos dealt mostly with social and political themes arising from Mexico’s 1910 revolution.

 

He painted in Mexico City and in the U.S. between 1922 and 1953, and was instrumental in establishing the Mural Movement in Mexican art.

 

Guanajuato’s Museo Casa Diego Rivera is located in the house where the artist was born, and where he lived until the age of ten, when his family moved to Mexico City.

 

Exterior, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Exterior, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Living quarters on the ground floor are furnished in period antiques.

The upper floors house a permanent collection of nearly one hundred original works and sketches that span more than forty years.

Rivera was a man of contradictions.

Born into a well-to-do family, he became an ardent Marxist and his politics made him a persona non grata in Guanajuato for much of his life.

Born the son of a Catholic father and a Converso mother whose Jewish ancestors had been forced to convert to Catholicism, he was a lifelong atheist.

Address plaque, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Address plaque, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

A year after his twin brother died at the age of two, Rivera began drawing on the walls of the family house and his parents installed chalkboards and wall canvasses to encourage his talent.

He was already studying art in Mexico City at the age of ten, and continued his studies in Madrid and then in Paris, where he lived and worked among the Montparnasse artists and where his friend Modigliani painted his portrait.  Rivera also traveled extensively through Italy, studying Renaissance frescoes.

His early work embraced the emerging school of Cubist art, but by 1917 he began to adopt a new style that emphasized simple forms and large patches of vivid colors with an Aztec influence.

Dining room, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Dining room, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

He painted his first significant mural, “Creation,” at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City in 1921.  During the work he carried a pistol to protect himself from right-wing students.

His murals at the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico City were painted between 1922 and 1928, and soon afterward he produced works for Cuernavaca’s Cortés Palace.

Salon, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Salon, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Rivera arrived in Moscow in 1927 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution.  Also attending was Alfred Barr, later the founding director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where a retrospective exhibition of Rivera’s works was held in 1931.

While in Russia, Rivera received a commission for a mural in Moscow’s Red Army Club, but was expelled from the country because of involvement in anti-Soviet politics, and the next year he was expelled from the Mexican Communist Party.

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Following his return to Mexico City, he produced a series of murals in the National Palace.

In 1929 he married his third wife, artist Frida Kahlo.  He was 42 and she was 22,  Their mutual infidelities and his violent temper would lead to their divorce in 1939 and remarriage in 1940.

Memorial, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Memorial, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

In 1930, after completing a commission for murals in the National School of Agriculture at Chapingo, and the Palace of Cortés in Cuernavaca, Rivera accepted commissions from the City Club of the San Francisco Stock Exchange and from the California School of Fine Art.  The work he produced there is now on display in the Diego Rivera Gallery at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Between 1932 and 1933, Rivera completed the twenty-seven panels of his work “Detroit Industry”, commissioned by Edsel Ford, on the walls of an inner court at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

His 1933 mural “Man at the Crossroads”, commissioned by John D. Rockefeller, was removed from the Rockefeller Center following a furor over its inclusion of the image of Lenin.

When Diego refused to remove it, Rockefeller ordered Rivera to leave and the mural destroyed.  The censorship became a cause celebre among New York’s artistic community.

Rivera family photos, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Rivera family photos, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

While Rockefeller detested Rivera’s art for its politics, Edsel Ford saw the art separately from the politics, and was a staunch defender of the artist’s talent even during the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s.

The negative publicity over the Rockefeller Center mural, though, lost Rivera a commission for the Chicago World’s Fair.

In 1934, Rivera  repainted the Rockefeller Center mural in Mexico city’s Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

He returned to the U.S. for the last time in 1940 to paint a ten-panel mural for the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco titled “Pan American Unity”.

The mural and its archives now reside at City College of San Francisco.

There’s plenty more to see on a future visit, but it’s still been a great day trip from San Miguel de Allende.

For more on Guanajuato, check out my earlier posts:

A panel from Diego Rivera’s work “Detroit Industry” appears on the cover of my latest novel, Lifelines: An American Dream, available now on Amazon.

 

The first sight of Guanajuato is breathtakingly beautiful.  Thousands of brightly colored buildings are draped across the hills like a mosaic carpet, and the colors are warm in the morning sunlight.  It’s picture postcard perfect.

Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato has played an important role throughout much of Mexico’s history, including its service as one of  Mexico’s provisional capitals  up until its capture during the French intervention in 1863 .

Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato, Mexico

Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

This city’s spirit is well summed up by its  Plaza de la Paz – the Peace Plaza.

 

This is where the wealthiest of colonial families built their homes.

 

It is also the site of the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato – the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato.

 

One of the plaza’s most distinctive feature is an allegorical sculpture of the woman “Peace”.

Since much of Guanajuato’s through traffic has been routed through the tunnels of abandoned silver mines which run below it, the narrow streets of the Centro Historico are very pedestrian-friendly, and beg to be walked.

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

The Alhondigas de Granaditas – The Granary – dominates the  old city, and has played a central role in its history for more than two hundred years.

Alhondigas de Granaditas (center) and Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato (lower right), Guanajuato, Mexico

Alhondigas de Granaditas (center) and Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato (lower right), Guanajuato, Mexico

Today it is one of the venues for the Festival Internacional Cervantino, held here every fall since 1972.

The festival  celebrates the life and work of Miguel Cervantes, who is considered by Spanish-speakers to be as significant an influence on their literature as Shakespeare is to English literature.

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

The Alhondigas is best known, though, as the site of the first battle in Mexico’s War of Independence.

 

 

In 1810, insurgents led by patriot Miguel Hidalgo entered the city to find that Royalist troops and  sympathizers had barricaded themselves – and millions of pesos of silver – in the Alhondigas.

 

The Royalists were counting upon the granary’s thick and windowless walls and single gated entrance to resist a siege, and they were able to fight the rebels to a stalemate.

Statue of El Pípila, Guanajuato, Mexico

Statue of El Pípila, Guanajuato, Mexico

The impasse was broken when miner Juan José de los Reyes Martínez, better known to history by his nickname of El Pípila, armored himself with a large flat stone strapped to his back and crawled to the wooden gate with a flask of tar and a torch.

Martínez’s  courageous act enabled the patriots to take the building, and his heroism is commemorated by a colossal statue of him that now overlooks the city.

Murals, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

Murals, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

The building now serves as the Museo Regional de Guanajuato, documenting the city’s history  from before the Spanish Conquest.

Mural, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

Mural, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

Its architecture honors heroes of the Mexican Revolution with mascarons, gargoyle-like sculptures that incorporate their faces.

The walls of the main stairwell contain murals by José Chávez Morado that allude to Independence, along with paintings and photographs.

It is a long-standing tradition to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day with a reenactment of Miguel Hidalgo’s “El Grito de Dolores” – the call to arms – in the Alhondiga’s large courtyard.

An eternal flame is re-lit here each year on the anniversary of the battle.

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

It ‘s no surprise that this charming and historic city is one of Mexico’s thirty-two World Heritage Sites.

Coming up next in Guanajuato:  Museo Casa Diego Rivera, the Mexican muralist’s childhood home.

Also in Guanajuato:  Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, the opulent home and magnificent gardens built by one of the city’s silver barons.  Read more…

Hacienda style

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato is one of Mexico’s five colonial “silver cities.”

 

Silver was discovered here in the 1600’s, and within a century Guanajuato had become the largest single source of silver in the world.

 

 

Gardens and house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens and house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magnificent churches and mansions were built with the riches, and one of those mansions survives today as a museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

The former Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, less than three miles from the city center and just off the highway from Irapuato, covers almost five acres.

It was one of several estates owned by Captain Gabriel de la Barrera.

 

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

The main house sits among themed, formal gardens, several of which evoke the feel of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

Main house entrances, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house entrances, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

The hacienda house was divided into living space, hacienda offices, a chapel, and a  work yard where mined minerals were processed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main house courtyard, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house courtyard, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

The façade has a strong Baroque influence, and the beamed ceilings and handrails are all original

Private chapel altarpiece, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Private chapel altarpiece, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

The altarpiece in the private chapel, covered in gold leaf, once stood in the cathedral of Jaen, Spain.

 

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

In Mexico, the word hacienda describes the largest of estates. These were profit-making enterprises that had their origins in land grants made by the Spanish crown to conquistadors and royal officials.

The first was a grant made by the Spanish crown to Hernán Cortés.

 

 

 

 

Main house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

Some haciendas were plantations, some were ranches, and others were mines or factories.  Many engaged in more than one of these enterprises.

 

 

 

 

Main house Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

While most hacienda owners – known as hacendados or patróns – lived in or near their haciendas, many of the largest landholders were absentee owners.

 

 

 

 

 

Main house window, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house window, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

The Catholic Church acquired vast hacienda holdings or loaned money to hacendados.

As mortgage holders, the Church’s interests lay with the landholding class, a relationship which eventually left it on the wrong side of Mexican Revolution.

 

 

 

Bedroom, main house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Bedroom, main house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

Haciendas are sometimes confused with encomiendas, another type of royal land grant which included the labor of its indigenous population.

These grantholders were responsible for instructing the natives in the Spanish language and Christian faith, and protecting them from warring tribes, in return for which they were entitled to exact labor or other tribute.

 

 

 

Hacienda offices, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Hacienda offices, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

While the encomienda technically honored honor Queen Isabella’s command that natives were “free vassals of the crown” not to be enslaved or displaced, many were forced into hard labor and subjected to corporal punishment or death if they resisted.

 

 

 

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

Many hacendados were also granted encomiendas, which gave all of their enterprises access to a pool of indigenous labor.

The Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera affords a beautiful setting and unique insight into the lives of the Spanish overlords, but it’s also hard to forget that such prosperity came at a terrible price.  An indigenous Mexican population estimated at twenty-five million persons before the Spanish conquest had, within a century, been reduced by war, disease, and forced labor, and other abuse to a little over one million.

There’s still more to see in Guanajuato, including the boyhood home of twentieth century Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, and the city’s historic center, one of the birthplaces of Mexican independence.

Tantalizing Tlaquepaque

There are countless galleries and artisans' workshops here.

There are countless galleries and artisans’ workshops here.

I’ve been traveling around Mexico since the mid-’70’s, when the local arts and crafts market was a lot like shopping in the former Soviet Union:  All of stores carried much of the same, mundane merchandise, and selection was limited.

A bookworm metal sculpture awaits the rainy season.

A bookworm metal sculpture awaits the rainy season.

 

 

 

 

In the years since, Mexican artisans have responded to cheaply-made foreign knock-offs of their work with new and original designs, materials, and fabrication techniques.

Their efforts have taken Mexican artisanship and artistry to a new level and made it highly sought after  in the global market place.

 

El Jardin Hidalgo plaza, Tlaquepaque

El Jardin Hidalgo plaza, Tlaquepaque

 

 

San Pedro Tlaquepaque – known to most simply as Tlaquepaque – is one of five municipalities (think NYC boroughs) that make up Metropolitan Guadalajara.

 

A vendor sells sugar cane treats.

A vendor sells sugar cane treats.

It’s long been the home of talented artists and craftsmen, and today their work is sold here in boutiques that would fit in nicely among the shops on Fifth Avenue, Rodeo Drive, or Magnificent Mile.

 

Find pottery in every imaginable size, shape, and color.

Find pottery in every imaginable size, shape, and color.

It’s not surprising that Tlaquepaque is best known for its fine pottery, since the town takes its name from indigenous Nahuatl words meaning “place above clay land”, but its artisans also produce elegant blown glass.

Shops here also sell work from all over Mexico including ceramics, wood and bronze sculpture, wood furniture, paper-mâché art, and embroidered cloth.

The variety of materials used to create these works is amazing

The variety of materials used to create these works is amazing

Tlaquepaque was a village in its own right long before the Spanish Conquest, but today retains its Spanish colonial character, and much of its architecture dates back to the 19th century.

It holds a special place in Mexican history, for it was here in a house on the corner of Independencia and Contreras Medellin Streets that the Plan de Iguala, which granted Mexico independence from Spain, was signed.

 

A mare awaits her next trip.

A mare awaits her next trip.

A statue of Miguel Hidalgo, father of Mexican independence, towers over the central El Jardín Hidalgo plaza.

During the San Pedro patron saint festivities in June, many street stalls and art sellers set up their wares in the plaza.

 

 

 

El Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, Tlaquepaque

El Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, Tlaquepaque

Adjoining the Jardin are the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Solitude), and the Templo de San Pedro Tlaquepaque , which dates from the 1600’s.

A herd of while horses in metal explodes onto the street.

A herd of while horses in metal explodes onto the street.

Several of the main streets are closed to all but pedestrian traffic, which makes for unhurried strolls through cobblestone streets and alleyways, and plazas and gardens.

 

 

Work of Guadalajara artist Sergio Bustamante

Work of Guadalajara artist Sergio Bustamante

One of my favorite galleries is that of Sergio Bustamente, a Mexican artist and sculptor and a Guadalajara resident area since childhood.

 

First exhibited in Mexico City in 1966, his early work was done in paint and paper mache, but by the mid-1970s he was creating works – many reflecting animal themes – in wood and bronze.

 

He began designing furniture in 1979, and creating ceramic sculptures into the ’80’s.   Latest among his creations is a line of limited edition jewelry in which each piece is hand crafted and bears a certificate of authenticity.

 

Photography is prohibited in the gallery, but you can browse the full catalogue of Bustamante’s work  here.

Furniture and decorative items in wood are abundant in Tlaquepaque

Furniture and decorative items in wood are abundant in Tlaquepaque

 

Just down the block from the Bustament gallery you’ll find the Museo Regional de la Cerámica (Regional Ceramic Museum), which gives a great historical overview of this craft.

There are plenty of great dining choices here. Catty-cornered from the Jardin, the El Parián pavilion is home to a number of restaurants and bars.

You’ll also find a number of cafes and restaurants – many with patio seating – scattered throughout the district’s. Among these, I recommend Casa Fuerte.

El Abajeno, which has another location in Guadalajara on the Glorieta Minerva and had been serving locals for almost 50 years, is also popular.

Be advised, though, that breakfast offerings are limited, and restaurants here are most crowded on Sundays, when many of the shops are closed.

Sculpted metal mariachis silently serenade

Sculpted metal mariachis silently serenade

Expect at any of these to be serenaded by one the mariachi bands for which Tlaquepaque is well known.

 

Since many cultural activities here are schedule in the evenings, it’s worth making your visit  an overnight stay here.   

The area’s hotels are a short drive from Guadalajara’s city center, and there are a number of delightful B&B’s (click each for TripAdvisor ratings and photos ) including:

The new Plaza Forum Rio Nilo mall is located about 3 kilometers from El Jardin Hidalgo at the intersection of Avenidas Rio Nilo and García Barragán. 

Stores there include the Liverpool and Suburbia department stores, Best Buy, Office Max and a Cineplex.  Nearby you’ll also find Home Depot, WalMart, Auto Zone, Radio Shack.