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Introduction top

Hola! I’m Rudy Maxa in the city that has been called the "City of Roses," the "Silicon Valley of the South," and the "most Mexican of Mexican Cities." Join me as we explore Guadalajara and the seaside resort, Puerto Vallarta, next on "Smart Travels—Pacific Rim".

MexicoWe’re visiting the second city of Mexico. A center of politics, art and industry since the sixteenth century, Guadalajara represents the heart and soul of modern Mexico. Colonial architecture, dramatic murals, mariachi and the vibrant folk art of Mexico are all part of Guadalajara. Then we are off to the Pacific Coast and Puerto Vallarta, a popular getaway for tourists, artists and movie stars.

Unlike many tourist destinations in Mexico, Guadalajara is not a resort. As Mexico’s "Second City" it is a center for commerce, industry and government. This hard working city is also an historical and cultural center with plenty to see and do.

Guadalajara is nestled in the Valley of Atemajac in the foothills of Western Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in the State of Jalisco. A short plane ride will bring us to the Pacific coast and Puerto Vallarta.

GuadalajaraWith its greater metropolitan population of more than 6 million Guadalajara is Mexico’s second most populous city. Attracted by its mild climate and skilled work force, foreign companies and investors have made the city a player in the global economy. At the same time its rich traditions, long history and vibrant art have earned Guadalajara a place in the heart of all Mexicans.


Presidente Intercontinental Hotel top

A good example of Mexico’s vibrant modernity is our hotel the Presidente InterContinental. The hotel’s central location makes it easy to get to the busy "High Tech" business center or the charm of the old downtown.


Founding of Guadalajara Monument top

Guadalajara is the second oldest European city in North America and the major landmarks of the old downtown are within easy walking distance of each other. This was the center of Spanish Colonial Rule outside of Mexico City and a great place to start is behind the Teatro Degollado and the monument that commemorates the founding of Guadalajara.

After Spanish Conquistador Hernándo Cortés’ conquered the Aztecs in Mexico City his lieutenants knew if they wanted to make a fortune they needed to do a little conquering of their own. The trouble was that the local Indians heard what the Spaniards had done to the Aztecs and would have none it. Finally the Spanish King arrested the troublemakers but the settlers they had lead were left to fend for themselves.

After several failed attempts to establish a settlement, the women of the group, led by Beatrice Hernadez said, "I’m staying here and Guadalajara too!" The date: February 14th, 1542.


Cathedral top

By 1560 the city became the capitol of Nueva Galicia and the settlers soon began construction on this Cathedral. It became a symbol of Spanish colonial rule and is now the center of the old downtown.


Rotonda de Los Hombres Ilustres top

Just to the north of the Cathedral you’ll find the Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres. Built in 1952 the Rotonda honors illustrious men and women of Guadalajara. There are no Conquistadors but you will find plenty of politicians, scientists and the painter José Clemente Orozco.


Instituto Cultural Cabanas top

Orozco believed his work should be free to the people and one of the best places to see his work for the people is at the Instituto Cultural Cabañas.

Inside you will find the "Sistine Chapel of Mexico;" an Orozco masterpiece completed in 1939. Our guide Erubey Rodriquez gave us an art lesson.

Erubey: Many art critics suggest that Orozco here painted a great symphony. In painting of course. Begins with the walls. The basic theme here is the Spanish conquest, but also shows a bit about society and his own philosophy.

The climax is on top. That’s his masterpiece. It’s called "The Man On Fire." The most famous interpretation would be the four basic elements of life according to the Greeks.

Fire obviously would be the man in the center.

Wind is the man who has the white face becuase his hair is painted

Water is the man with a beard and a mustache. If you observe carefully on his face you can find lines of blue.

Underneath him you can find a man that lies down. His arms are crossed. He is closer to earth. For that reason representing it.

A UN World heritage site the Cabañas was originally dedicated as a home for the sick and helpless. Now it is dedicated to preserving and advancing the culture of Mexican art, film, music and dance.


Palacio de Govierno top

At the Palacio de Govierno or the Government Palace you’ll find more murals by Orozco, who, along with Diego Rivera, was a leader in the Mexican art renaissance. Deeply influenced by the political movements of the 1920s and inspired by the symbolism of Gauguin he sought to create a truly Mexican National style that incorporated pre-Columbian art. While Orozco’s murals reflected the social realism of his day he managed to avoid factional politics. Rather he showed a deep sympathy for Mexico’s poor.

Here you will find his masterpiece, the imposing painting of Father Miguel Hidalgo, father of the Mexican Republic.

From the pulpit of his church on September 16th, 1810 he cried, "Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Death to the Spaniards!" Soon Generalisimo Hidalgo was leading an army; some say a mob, of twenty thousand on a murderous campaign across central Mexico.

When Hidalgo entered Guadalajara in November he was greeted as a liberator...But Hidalgo’s rag-tag army was no match for Royalist forces. He was captured and executed in July of 1811. Even though Miguel Hidalgo’s revolt had failed it started the independence movement that eventually freed Mexico from Spanish rule ten years later.


For a closer look at the life and art of Orozco visit the Casa Museo José Clemente Orozco. You'll find vital stats on the Casa Museo at the bottom of the page at vive.guadalajara.gob.mx. For a quicker examination of his work, there's also José Clemente Orozco On-line.


Teatro Degollado top

Guadalajara prospered as the capital of the newly formed state of Jalisco in an independent Mexico. One symbol of its political and cultural importance is the Teatro Degollado. Dedicated in 1866 the theatre seats over thirteen hundred people in true neoclassical splendor. The theatre is now the home of Philharmonic Orchestra of Jalisco and the University of Guadalajara’s Ballet Folklórico.


Mercado Libertad top

For the wildest shopping experience you’ve got to visit the Mercado Libertad, the largest market in Mexico.

This market was built in 1958 but there has been a tianguis, or open air market, on this spot since pre-Columbian times. Markets like this give us a close up look at daily life in Mexico where there is plenty to see and eat.

Rudy: Dose tacos carnitas por favor.

There are plenty of great restaurants in Guadalajara but the locals like their fondas or permanent food stalls. The food is best and safest if it is piping hot.

Excellente, gracias.


La Chata Restaurant top

If you would rather eat at a restaurant it’s hard to go wrong in Guadalajara. Just a few blocks from the Cathedral my son Alexander, his friend Mandy and I found a restaurant serving traditional Mexican cuisine at La Chata.

There has been a lot said about the safety of Mexican food and water. Travelers anywhere can have problems when they drink the local water. But to stay on the safe side avoid tap water and stick to bottled water, juices, soft drinks, beer and wine. Cooked foods, as well as peeled vegetables and fruits and usually just fine. Avoid salads and unpeeled fruit. Wash your hands often but don’t become obsessed. Just don’t eat anything raw that you can’t peel.

To the beauty of Guadalajara and the gentleness and genuine-ness of the people. To that I drink.


Tonala Handicrafts Market top

On Thursday’s and Sunday’s I like to go to the Handicrafts Market in Tonalá, a suburb of Guadalajara. Just off the main market is the Casa de Artesanos where you can find traditional ceramics on display and for sale. In pre-Columbian times Tonalá was known as a religious center and Spanish missionaries called it a factory for Paganism because of the many workshops making pottery with images of the pre-Christian gods. Throughout Tonalá artisans working in ceramics, iron and glass carry on this strong artistic tradition. Small workshops and factory stores such as this glass blowing shop still turn out hand made goods for locals and tourists alike.


Tlaquepaque top

About five miles from downtown Guadalajara is the charming suburb of Tlaquepaque. Come here for furniture, antiques, art and artists. In fact you might even meet a few artists.

Once a quite country get-a-way for Guadalajara’s upper crust the town, now surrounded by the city’s sprawling suburbs, has re-made its self into a center for galleries, shops, trendy restaurants and the home of artisans such as Paco Padilla.


Paco Padilla top

Rudy: Paco, how did you get involved in ceramics?

Paco: Well my Father had this work shop in ’51, ’52, about these years. So all my brothers and sisters, we have to learn. We were the workers for our Father. When I was six years old I begin to paint here with him.

Rudy: Can we work with you on design?

Paco: This is my better work to make special orders. For example the other day came a very old lady, "I want a cup with the face of my husband when he is angry."

Rudy: (Laugh)

Paco: "And tell: Don’t be angry very often," or something like that. So, you know, sometimes very funny.

Paco is also a well-known folksinger who sings of beauty, love and life in Tlaquepaque.


Rodo Padilla top

Paco’s brother Rodo has his own workshop where artisans prepare wax models for bronze and ceramic statues. Others work in a ceramic assembly line preparing original works for local shops.


Ricardo Preciado top

Traditional methods of shaping iron still prevail in Ricardo Preciado’s workshop. Even though his wrought iron furniture, chandeliers and gazebos are sold world wide, quality and craftsmanship demand that each piece is still shaped by hand.


Carlos Bustos top

Accomplished artists such as sculptor Carlos Bustos find just the right creative atmosphere here in Tlaquepaque.

Art, color and culture fill the pedestrian friendly streets. You never know what beauty you will see or what exciting music you will hear.


Mariachi top

At the heart of Mexican culture is the music of the Mariachi. The origins of Mariachi music, even its name, is hotly debated and shrouded in myth. What scholars do know is the music was first played in the small towns south of Guadalajara in the early nineteenth century. At first the bands consisted of violins and various sized guitars and a harp. Trumpets were added in 1930s to help carry their sound over early radios. But the lead singer still attracts the pretty girls.

During and after the Mexican Revolution of the 1920s the Mariachi, dressed in the traditional costume of the Mexican Cowboy or charro, became the standard image of Mexican folk culture, indeed, the National symbol of Mexico itself.

We were lucky enough to also catch a performance of Tlaquepaque’s Ballet Folklórico and their spirited demonstration of the traditional folk dances and costumes of old Mexico.

Mariachi is the music of Mexico so enjoy the experience. If you are wondering what they are signing about, well, it’s the standard type of folk song. You know: Revolutionary heroes, love, farming, love, the hardships of life, love, women, love, men and that universal subject of music, love.


Tequila top

A thirty-minuet drive north of Guadalajara brings us to the town of Tequila and another famous product of Mexico. There you will find La Rojena, the distillery of Jose Cuervo, the oldest in Mexico.

When the Conquistadors arrived in the sixteenth century the local Ticuilas Indians were already fermenting and drinking the juice of the Agave plant By the late 18th Century Jose Antonio Cuervo was distilling this juice to make what is now known as Tequila.

Today, true tequila is made from the juice of the Blue Agave plant in the region to the north of Guadalajara. The Agave is not a cactus, but a succulent plant related to the lily. It takes eight years under the watchful eye of the Jimador for the plant to mature.

When harvested the spiny leaves are cut off leaving the succulent piña. This is slowly steamed or baked, crushed to extract the sweet juices, which are fermented and then distilled. The distilled tequila is clear. Some of the tequila is then aged in oak barrels from a few months to over a year and acquires a distinctive flavor and a golden color.

Anamaría: I want you to look at the color of the liquid. Hold your glass up and you can really see the beautiful golden hue. We find that people are now much more educated about tequila. They’re enjoying and learning about the category. There fore they are taking the time to best pick the tequila that best suites their palate.

Rudy: But we are really drinking this as we would a single malt scotch or a Boudreaux or Burgandy, or any wine for that matter. Looking at the color, looking at the legs. Nosing it. Tasting it.

Anamaría: That’s the way tequila should be enjoyed. Very sweet and smooth, isn’t it?

This is a great way to end the day but our trip is not over yet. Tomorrow we’re going to Puerto Vallarta.


There are regular bus and train tours leaving Guadalajara daily for the town of Tequila. You'll find some details at Frommers.com.


Puerto Vallarta top

Puerto VallartaJust a short plane trip or a half a day’s drive from Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta is on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

Here you’ll find sandy beaches, warm breezes, and plenty of sunshine.

Local legend holds that Banderas Bay was a refuge for the Pirates who plied the Pacific cost up until the nineteenth century. No one saw much use for this remote bay and the sleepy little fishing village on its shore didn’t even get named until 1918. It was an American movie director and an adulterous love affair that finally put Puerto Vallarta on the tourist map.


"Night of the Iguana" top

In 1963 a local promoter sold director John Huston on the natural beauty of Banderas Bay. The charming village quickly won over the film crew and the Hollywood stars that John Huston brought to shoot his film, “Night of the Iguana:” Sue Lyon, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Richard Burton.

The tag line of the movie read, ‘One man, three women, one night’. Of course it was the fourth woman, Elizabeth Taylor, who caused all the trouble. Liz meet Dick when they shot "Cleopatra" together and they fell in love. She just wanted to be with him. The trouble was Dick and Liz were married; to other people. The Pope was outraged, Congress tried to revoke Burton’s visa, the town was filled with Paparazzi and the world fell in love with - Puerto Vallarta.


Casa Kimberley top

Well even though Richard was married to Sybil Williams while filming "Night of the Iguana" he bought a house over looking the village so Liz would have someplace to stay. Casa Kimberley is now a bed and breakfast and open for tours.


Hacienda San Angel top

Dick’s love of Puerto Vallarta outlasted his love for Elisabeth Taylor because in 1977 he bought this house for his fourth wife, Susan Hunt. The house has been restored and is now part of the luxury hotel Hacienda San Angel.


Art Galleries top

The lush green mountains, the blue waters and the magical light that attracted John Huston and a league of film directors after him has also attracted a small army of artists and a colony of art galleries. If you need a bright, colorful addition to your art collection or you just like to browse, there is something just for you.


Relax top

The real attraction of Puerto Vallarta is the opportunity to do nothing. Explore the old village and enjoy the music. After a bite at an open air restaurants take a leisurely stroll along the Malecon, the sea-side promenade; it is the place to be seen. You can always relax on the beach or go for a swim. If it’s too crowded for you in town there are plenty of other beaches not far away.


Buenos Dias... top

Puerto Vallarta is the perfect ending to our stay in Mexico. The sun, the sea and the mountains of the Pacific coast bring us back to a Mexico that is a little more relaxed, a little more laid back, and very much part of the soul of Mexico.

Its time for us to go, but since I’m here and I have a film crew I thought I’d do a remake of "Night of the Iguana." Now if I could only find someone to play my Ava Gardner. Well, until next time I’m Rudy Maxa, Buenos Dias, Amigos.


Interested in planning your vacation to Mexico?
Start your trip at
Expedia.com/Mexico or Puerto Vallarta.



For a closer look at the life and art of Orozco visit the Casa Museo José Clemente Orozco. You'll find vital stats on the Casa Museo at the bottom of the page at vive.guadalajara.gob.mx. For a quicker examination of his work, there's also José Clemente Orozco On-line.

There are regular bus and train tours leaving Guadalajara daily for the town of Tequila. You'll find some details at Frommers.com.