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|Guadalajara Points of Interest and Useful Information|
The most easily recognized building in the city is the cathedral, around which four open plazas make the shape of a Latin cross. Later, a long swath of land was cleared to extend the open area from the cathedral east to the Hospicio Cabañas, creating Plaza Tapatía.
Construction on the cathedral started in 1561 and continued into the 18th century. Over such a long time, it was inevitable that remodeling would take place before the building was ever completed. The result is an unusual facade that is an amalgam of several architectural styles, including baroque, neoclassical, and Gothic. An 1818 earthquake destroyed the original large towers; their replacements were built in the 1850s, inspired by designs on the bishop's dinner china. The blue and yellow that you see are Guadalajara's colors. The interior is open, airy, and majestic. Items of interest include a painting in the sacristy ascribed to the renowned 17th-century Spanish artist Bartolomé Estaban Murillo (1617-82).
To the cathedral's left is the Plaza de Armas, the oldest and loveliest of the plazas. A cast-iron Art Nouveau bandstand is its dominant feature. Made in France, it was a gift to the city from the dictator Porfirio Díaz in the 1890s. The female figures on the bandstand exhibited too little clothing for conservative Guadalajarans, who clothed them. The dictator, recognizing when it's best to let the people have their way, said nothing.
Facing the plaza is the Palacio del Gobierno. This handsome palace, built in 1774, blends Spanish and Moorish elements. Inside the central courtyard, above the staircase to the right, is a spectacular mural of Hidalgo by the modern Mexican master José Clemente Orozco. The Father of Independence appears high overhead, bearing directly down on the viewer and looking as implacable as a force of nature. On one of the adjacent walls Orozco painted The Carnival of Ideologies, a dark satire on the prevailing fanaticisms of his day. Another of his murals is inside the second-floor chamber of representatives, depicting Hidalgo again, this time in a more conventional posture, writing the proclamation to end slavery in Mexico. The palacio is open daily from 10am to 8pm.
In the plaza on the opposite side of the cathedral from the Plaza de Armas is the Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres. Sixteen white columns, each supporting a bronze statue, stand as monuments to Guadalajara's and Jalisco's distinguished sons.
Facing the east side of the rotunda is the Museo Regional de Guadalajara, Liceo 60. Originally a convent, it was built in 1701 in the churrigueresque (Mexican baroque) style and contains some of the region's important archaeological finds, fossils, historic objects, and art. Among the highlights are a giant reconstructed mammoth's skeleton and a meteorite weighing 1,715 pounds, discovered in Zacatecas in 1792. On the first floor, there's a fascinating exhibit of pre-Hispanic pottery, and some exquisite pottery and clay figures recently unearthed near Tequila during the construction of the toll road. On the second floor is a small ethnography exhibit of the contemporary dress of the state's indigenous peoples, including the Coras, Huicholes, Mexicaneros, Nahuas, and Tepehuanes. It's open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5:45pm.
Behind the Cathedral is the Plaza de la Liberación, with the Teatro Degollado (deh-goh-yah-doh) on the opposite side. This neoclassical 19th-century opera house was named for Santos Degollado, a local patriot who fought with Juárez against Maximilian and the French. Apollo and the nine muses decorate the theater's pediment, and the interior is famous for both the acoustics and the rich decoration. It hosts a variety of performances during the year, including the Ballet Folclórico on Sunday at 10am. It's open Monday through Friday from 10am to 2pm and during performances.
To the right of the theater, across the street, is the sweet little church of Santa María de Gracia, built in 1573 as part of a convent for Dominican nuns. On the opposite side of the Teatro Degollado is the church of San Agustín. The former convent is now the University of Guadalajara School of Music.
Behind the Teatro Degollado begins the Plaza Tapatía, which leads to the Instituto Cabañas. It passes between a couple of low, modern office buildings. The Tourism Information Office is in a building on the right-hand side.
Beyond these office buildings, the plaza opens into a large expanse, now framed by department stores and offices and dominated by the abstract modern Quetzalcoatl Fountain. This fluid steel structure represents the mythical plumed serpent Quetzalcoatl, who figured so prominently in pre-Hispanic religion and culture, and exerts a presence even today.
At the far end of the plaza is the Hospicio Cabañas, formerly an orphanage and known today as the Instituto Cultural Cabañas, Cabañas 8. This vast structure is impressive for both its size (more than 23 courtyards) and its grandiose architecture, especially the cupola. Created by the famous Mexican architect Manuel Tolsá, it housed homeless children from 1829 to 1980. Today, it's a thriving cultural center offering art shows and classes. The interior walls and ceiling of the main building display murals painted by Orozco in 1937. His Man of Fire, in the dome, is said to represent the spirit of humanity projecting itself toward the infinite. Other rooms hold additional Orozco works, as well as excellent contemporary art and temporary exhibits.
Just south of the Hospicio Cabañas (to the left as you exit) is the Mercado Libertad, Guadalajara's gigantic covered central market, the largest in Latin America. This site has been a market plaza since the 1500s; the present buildings date from the early 1950s.
There's always something going on from September to December. In September, when Mexicans celebrate independence from Spain, Guadalajara goes all out, with a full month of festivities. The celebrations kick off with the Encuentro Internacional del Mariachi, in which mariachi bands from around the world play before knowledgeable audiences and rehearse with other mariachis. Bands come from as far as Japan and Russia, and the event takes on a curious postmodern hue. There are concerts in several venues. In the Degollado Theater, you can hear orchestral arrangements of classic mariachi songs with solos by famous mariachis. You might be acquainted with many of the classics without even knowing it. The culmination is a parade of thousands of mariachis and charros (Mexican cowboys) through downtown. Catch it if you're there during the first 10 days of September.
On September 15, a massive crowd assembles in front of the Governor's Palace to await the traditional grito (shout for independence) at 11pm. The grito commemorates Father Miguel Hidalgo de Costilla's cry for independence in 1810. The celebration features live music on a street stage, spontaneous dancing, fireworks, and shouts of "!Viva México!" and "!Viva Hidalgo!" The next day is the official Independence Day, with a traditional parade; the plazas downtown resemble a country fair and market, with booths, games of chance, stuffed-animal prizes, cotton candy, and candied apples. Live entertainment stretches well into the night.
On October 12, a procession honoring Our Lady of Zapopan celebrates the feast day of the Virgin of Zapopan. Around dawn, her small, dark figure begins the 5-hour ride from the Cathedral of Guadalajara to the suburban Basilica of Zapopan. The original icon dates from the mid-1500s; the procession began 200 years later. Today, crowds spend the night along the route and vie for position as the Virgin approaches. She travels in a gleaming new car (virginal in that it must never have had the ignition turned on), which her caretakers pull through the streets. During the previous months, the figure visits churches all over the city. You will likely see neighborhoods decorated with paper streamers and banners honoring the Virgin's visit.
The celebration has grown into a month-long event, Fiestas de Octubre, which kicks off with an enormous parade, usually on the first Sunday or Saturday of the month. Festivities include performing arts, rodeos (charreadas), bullfights, art exhibits, regional dancing, a food fair, and a Day of Nations incorporating all the consulates in Guadalajara. By the time this is over, you enter the holiday season of November and December, with Revolution Day (Nov 20), the Virgin of Guadalupe's saint's day (Dec 12), and several other celebrations.
Vincent Vacations - Authorized Guadalajara Points of Interest and Useful Information Travel Tips - Vacation Planner
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