We had a few days to fill in between house sits in Ajijic, Mexico. The second largest city in Mexico – Guadalajara, is just an hours bus ride away so we decided to spend 2 days in Guadalajara.
Getting to Guadalajara
After making enquiries at the local bus station, with our limited Spanish skills, we discerned that there was a direct bus leaving every hour from Ajijic costing 56 pesos (AUD$3.90).
Unbeknownst to us, the day we were travelling (Monday 19th November) was the Public Holiday celebrating Mexico’s Revolution Day.
Revolution Day is actually November 20 but the Mexican’s make it a long weekend on the third Monday in November. Subsequently, the bus was extremely crowded.
Hotel Pedro Loza
On arrival we took an Uber to our hotel and were fortunate to get an early check-in. The Hotel Pedro Loza is a historic 19th-century colonial-style mansion and originally the home of a local Bishop. The hotel was recommended by a house sitting friend and we weren’t disappointed. It was lovely with an eclectic combination of luxury and style and had a wonderful atrium (where the included breakfast was taken) with ornate chandeliers suspended overhead. Surrounding the atrium were a number of lounges containing period furnishings where you could relax and chat. It was not somewhere we would normally stay but very enjoyable.
Here’s a video showing you different areas of the hotel.
We began our 2 days in Guadalajara with a short walk from the hotel to the historic centre of Guadalajara. After checking in we strolled into town and were confronted by massive crowds enjoying the Public Holiday. This long weekend also coincides with annual sales called “Buen Fin”. This is Mexico’s equivalent of the Thanks Giving Black Friday sales in the USA and prices are substantially reduced on almost everything. The city centre was heaving with people carrying bundles of goods and enjoying the beautiful, sunny day.
After getting our bearings we strolled around looking at some of the wonderful colonial architecture and the many plaza’s surrounding the massive Cathedral. Gudalajara is not short of open spaces and squares for the inhabitants to enjoy. There are many ornate fountains and plenty of trees providing shade to take in great vistas. The historic centre around the Cathedral is laid out in the shape of a large cross, running West to East. The impressive Cathedral is positioned in the centre. To the East is the Plaza de la Liberacion and Teatro Degollado. This large plaza has a large fountain at each end, a very large GUADALAJARA sign in the middle and statue of Miguel Hidalgo (more about him later).
The West is the front of the Cathedral with the Plaza Guadalajara and nearby is the commercial centre. North and South (the short arms of the cross) have the Rotonda of Illustrious Jaliscienses and Plaza de Armas respectively.
The Rotonda of Illustrious Jaliscienses (Rotunda of the Illustrious People of Jalisco) is a square surrounded by statues. These are of notable people from the state of Jalisco who distinguished themselves in arts, science, education, human rights, law, and politics. Unfortunately for us the Plaza de Armas was undergoing renovations and surrounded by fencing. It looked like it was a very appealing square.
Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Jalisco
Close to the Cathedral is the Palacio Municipal (Town Hall) and the 18th century Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Jalisco (Governers Palace). We stumbled across the Governers Palace by chance and were very happy we did. It turns out that this was where Mexican freedom fighter Miguel Hidalgo issued his decree abolishing slavery in 1810. (Slavery, in this case, was Mexican slavery under the Spanish).
The design of the Palace is a traditional Mexican/Spanish government building. It is a square construction with a large open atrium in the centre. Comprising two levels it has large rooms along the exterior perimeter with a covered balcony/walkway on the interior perimeter. We entered a stairway to climb to the second floor and were astounded at what confronted us. A massive mural showing, what appeared to be a priest, wielding a fiery torch against dark forces. We later learned that this was the aforementioned Hidalgo representing his fight against slavery. It depicts the revolutionary leader wielding a flaming torch to ignite the independence movement. It was very impressive but even more so as it was painted by renowned Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco who was partially blind and had only one hand!! Both injuries the result of an accident involving gunpowder in his teens.
We explored further and found the Congress Hall featuring another Orozco mural depicting Hidalgo as well as national hero and Mexican President Benito Juarez. This depicts him freeing Mexico’s slaves by signing the word “freedom” – albeit with a deep, blood red that suggests the human cost of this breakthrough. This mural was Orozco’s last as he died whilst doing it.
After leaving the Palace we mingled with the holiday crowds enjoying buskers and various street stalls selling food and trinkets. Our days explorations concluded with a cold cerveza (beer) on the balcony of a bar overlooking the happy crowds.
The only full day of our 2 days in Guadalajara started with a ‘free’ 3 hour walking tour with Camina GDL tours. This was an excellent tour and provided history and context to all the sights we visited. As it turned out we basically re-visited most of the places we had seen on our own ramblings the day before. But this time we actually got to understand what we were looking at!!
In front of the Cabanas museum there are a number of ‘unusual’ art works combining seats with human forms. We found them quite interesting.
As luck would have it Tuesday is the day for free admission to Guadalajara’s museums. We took advantage of this following the walking tour and visited the Cultural Institute Cabañas museum and the Regional Museum of Guadalajara.
In 1983 this neo-classical building became a museum and a centre for the arts and culture in Guadalajara. It was constructed in 1805 under the direction of Bishop Don Juan Cruz Ruiz de Cabañas (hence it’s name) and known as the “House of Mercy”. It was built as a home for orphans, elders, and destitute people. At times it was also used for military purposes during the Independence war in 1810 and the Mexican Revolution in 1910.
We were interested in visiting because the original chapel had 57 frescoes painted by Jose Clemente Orozco (mentioned earlier in this post) over a 2 year period. Tours explaining the murals are held hourly and our guide provided a very animated overview. One of the fantastic things about these is that Orozco used a method whereby the perspective of the art changes depending upon where you view it from. It’s an optical illusion and amazing to see in person. We’d recommend coming here if ever you spent 2 days in Guadalajara.
In researching things to do during our 2 days in Guadalajara we came across Lucha Libre – Mexican Wrestling. This is scheduled every Tuesday and Sunday evening and fortunately we were in town on a Tuesday night. We walked down to the aptly named ‘Arena Coliseo’ and purchased 2 tickets in the Ring 2 area (5 rows from the ring) for 250 pesos each (about $17 AUD). What an experience!! It is all choreographed (as we expected) but the costumes and masks and atmosphere were great. The crowd is fully engaged in the show and were very active participants over the course of the 2 hours of entertainment. Besides heavy interaction with the wrestlers the crowd chant and ‘wind up’ each other – all in very good humour.
We watched three 6 man tag team bouts. The wrestlers in the first bout appear to be still learning their routine as there were many obvious pauses and positional set ups. The second bout was between 6 women wrestlers. It was good to see that there is no discrimination in this ‘sport’ against various body shapes (in both the men and the women!). Bout 3 was another 6 man tag team event and these guys appeared a bit more professional and provided a fun show. The final bout was a one on one between ‘Diamente’ and ‘Azul Rush’. Much of their grappling was out of the ring and in (and on) the ringside crowd.
Each bout is the best of three rounds. This enables the promoters to provide a show with a smaller number of wrestlers and extend the length of each bout. To remove all doubt that this is pure ‘entertainment’ they even have young women coming out between rounds with boards advising the round number.
To complete the whole experience you don’t even need to get out of your seat for food or drinks or souvenirs. You simply get one of the many vendors wandering around to do this. One chap balanced a huge basket of tortillas in foam containers on his shoulder and carried a bucket of salsa in the other! The family next to us ordered four serves and we watched as he took a big scoop of salsa, poured it onto the tortillas and asked us to pass them along to them. A truly memorable night.
Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento
On our last morning here we took a walk to another church – the Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento. It’s construction commenced in 1897 and wasn’t completed until 75 years later in 1972. According to Wikipedia “The church is of neo-Gothic style and is considered the greatest work of its kind in Mexico.”
It was interesting to see a Gothic style church that wasn’t hundreds of years old and in very good condition. The primary reason for visiting here was to see the wonderful stain glass windows. It was a sunny day and the stain glass displayed brightly throughout the church. One interesting feature, that we haven’t seen elsewhere, was the stain glass windows in the main spire. These completely enveloped the spire all the way up to tip and were beautiful. Another place worth seeing.
Our 2 days in Guadalajara were really interesting. It is the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco and has a large place in this countries history. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the historic centre of Mexico’s second largest city with it’s many plaza’s, churches and fountains.