Like the photos we snap between flights and courses, the balance between unclouded tradition and present sophistication exists only within a moment. Deep within the heart of Mexico, Guadalajara sparks ablaze with fiery intensity. Caught in an instant, magic still resides within these streets… it’s just up to you to find it.
Globalization has become both the boon and bane of the modern traveler turned adventure seeker. Equipped with a wealth of digital tools and intricately imagined ways of connecting, the world is pulled into reach with newfound speed and ease. Still, this world is definitively less individual than it once was. Hungry to find these hidden pockets preserved within rapid maturation of culture, I found solace in an unlikely friend. A few hours drive from spring break mecca Puerto Vallarta, the city of Guadalajara stands in striking contrast. Far from the realm of cookie cutter resort life, here, Mexican culture thrives with a welcoming eye to the vogue and the cosmopolitan.
Whisked from the tarmac through a smoky thoroughfare, we quickly traversed through a sea of slowly rising buildings that dissipated into the forward thinking Americana district. East of the city’s center, a large statue of the Roman goddess of Minerva loomed overhead. Constructed by Joaquin Arias Mendez (and oddly bearing his resemblance), cascading water surrounds the fountain which stands alone as the compass in which the entire city gathers beneath to celebrate and direct life. These monuments to Mexican revolutionaries and historical greats seemed to grow from every corner, sprouting a rebirth of context and new meaning.
Immediately greeted in Spanish, I stepped out onto brick laid streets and into the skeletal interior of Hueso, a restaurant named quite literally after the bones adorning the walls and large plates. A single string of tables linked diners like vertebrae sharing family-style meals; a trend which would follow us throughout our stay in the city. At Hueso, each meal built on a lavish, cultural expression of just balanced indulgence, attention to detail, and service that put many of the Michelin starred restaurants of New York and Paris to shame. In short, I was impressed (and full).
Closing out the evening with a snifter of clear Mezcal on the terrace of the newly constructed Hyatt Regency, I flicked through my photos from the day. With the city reflected in my glass, it quickly became apparent what a beautiful relationship Guadalajara had with the future. The view was raw and unrefined, but carried a nuanced elegance just like the drink in hand.
Over the next few days, hand turned to foot and we hit the streets. Life and family seemed to encapsulate the city. A walk through a 19th century catholic church, the Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento, revealed a college graduation taking place inside. A stroll through the shopping district in Guadalajara’s sister city, Tlaquepaque, and a man knelt not 10 feet away to propose to his expectant sweetheart. I snuck photos between the floors of Latin America’s largest indoor market and passed a soccer ball with children in the central courtyard. Smiling beneath the beating sun, I kept my thoughts to myself, but I’d be lying if I didn’t feel the magnetic draw of this place. For holiday, for solace, for a wedding, or business trip… we were all here for the same reason: to celebrate life and Guadalajara.
Although my Spanish could’ve used a refresher, my smiles were always met with smiles, and typically “hola” preceded the immediate clinking of glasses. Only an hour away from its namesake, we set out toward Tequila, a small town with a big reputation, also within the Jalisco city state. We soon tasted a few of Jose Cuervo’s offerings aboard an antique trainline repurposed to ferry inquisitive revelers straight to the mecca of distillation. The ride was smooth and we were treated with views of stunning mountains and vast fields of growing agave. Mexican law states that tequila can only be produced within the state of Jalisco and within just four municipalities. Protected also by both North American and European organizations, the precious blue agave juice (and its distillate) is as recognized as champagne. As we chugged toward the streets of Tequila, the sound of faint mariachi could be heard over the chatter of visiting Mexican families that crowded the central square.
Deemed a Pubelo Mágico, the Mexican government’s official designation of cultural significance, Tequila, felt almost like a secluded hamlet nestled between the rolling hills. Here, we spent the day tasting through various blanco, reposado, and anejo tequila varieties and enjoyed lunch at the Hotel Solar de Las Animas. Soon the sun began to lower, and our guide ushered us away from the throngs of people toward the outskirts of town where the chalky cobblestone quickly turned to red volcanic soil. Protected and presided over by their ever watchful Jimadors, the farmers responsible for young agave plants introduced the process to us with scientific fervor. The agave plant takes almost a decade to reach its harvest point and the plant’s watchful caretakers met the challenge of slow cultivation with calm patience and fortitude. Dust blew up from the road and soon it felt as if the rest of the city had joined us in the fields. One last toast, and the congregation joined tune with the five-piece mariachi band that stood by the roadside. Much like the Jimadors themselves, the city radiated a history and blessedness only the birthplace of tequila could.
With tequila in both our rear view and our system, we returned with a thread that lead back to the people of Mexico. I spent my last night as I did my first, taking in the city with something strong in hand. As a traveler, you open yourself to another world, take it in, and let it change you. All it took was a sip of smoke, and the fire of Guadalajara became a part of me too.
Where to Stay
Where: Puerta de Hierro, Guadalajara, Jalisco
Why: The newly constructed hotel hosts you in the center of town, offering a raw, undefined view.
Learn More: https://andaresguadalajara.regency.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html
Where to Eat & Drink
Where: Colonia Lafayette, Guadalajara, Jalisco
Why: Each meal builds on a lavish, cultural expression of just balanced indulgence, attention to detail, and service that put many of the Michelin starred restaurants of New York and Paris to shame.
Learn More: http://www.huesorestaurant.com/
Hotel Solar del Animas
Where: El Rastro, Tequila, Jalisco
Why: After a morning of tequila tasting, dine at this hotel for a gourmet lunch.
Learn More: http://www.hotelsolardelasanimas.com/hotel-tequila
What to See & Do
Where: Tlaquepaque, Jalisco
Why: A stroll through the shopping district in Guadalajara’s sister city reveals the magnetic draw of this town for holiday, solace, wedding, or business trip.
Learn More: http://www.tlaquepaque-centro.com/
Where: Tequila, Jalisco
Why: Spend the day tasting through various blanco, reposado, and anejo tequila varieties, as well as interacting with the Jimadors who tend to the agave plants responsible for tequila.
Learn More: https://www.mundocuervo.com/eng/jose-cuervo-express