Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city,
has long been among the most important of Mexican cities economically and politically. Recently, it has come to be a
favorite location for foreign vacationers and retirees.
~ The Heart of Guadalajara ~
Guadalajara, Mexico celebrated
its 450th anniversary in 1992. Throughout the centuries, the city has become rich in history,
and to this day, many of the most historic and beautiful of Guadalajara's buildings still stand as reminders of the significance
Guadalajara has had and will continue to have on Mexico.
to Guadalajara (pop. 3.5 million, elevate 5,214 feet, 1,589 meters) for the same reason that Californians frequently
go to Los Angeles: to shop and choose from big selections at correspondingly small prices.
But that's only part of
the fascination. Guadalajara are calling themselves, uniquely, “Tapatíos”.
Their city is renowned as the “most Mexican”
of cities. A host of visitors, both foreign and Mexican, come to Guadalajara to bask in
its mild, spring like sunshine, savor its music, and admire its grand monuments.
After the 1910-17
revolution, Guadalajara's growth far outpaced the country in general. From
a population of around 100,000 in 1900, Guadalajara grew to more than three million by 2000. People
were drawn from the countryside by jobs in a thousand new factories, making everything from textiles and shoes to silicon
chips and soda pop.
always important in Guadalajara, zoomed during the 1960s when waves of jet-riding tourists came, saw and bought mountains
of blown glass, leather, pottery, and metal finery.
During the 1980s,
Guadalajara put on a new face while at the same time preserving the best part of its old downtown. An
urban-renewal plan of visionary proportions created Plaza Tapatía - acres of shops, restaurants, and offices beside fountain
- studded malls - incorporating Guadalajara's venerable theaters, churches, museums, and government buildings into a single
grand open space.
|~ Guadalajara, Mexico: Aerial View ~
at the eastern end of the plaza, rises the timeless silhouette of the Teatro Degollado.
The theater's classic, column facade climaxes in an epic marble frieze, depicting the allegory
of Apollo and the nine muses. Inside, the Degollado's resplendent grand salon is said to
rival the gilded refinement of Milan's renowned La Scale. Overhead, its ceiling glows with
Gerardo Suárez's panorama of canto IV of Dante's Divine Comedy, complete with its immortal
cast-Julius Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Saladin- and the robed and wreathed author himself in the middle. Named
for the millionaire Governor Degollado who financed its construction, the theater opened with appropriate fanfare on September
13, 1866, with a production of Lucia de Lammermoor, starring Angela Peralta, the renowned
“Mexican Nightingale”. An ever-changing
menu of artists still graces the Degollado's stage. These include an excellent local folkloric
ballet troupe every Sunday morning; tel. 33-3614-4773 for info.
Just to the north
of (on the left as you face) the Teatro Degollado, stands the austere silhouette of the Templo
de Santa María de Gracia, Guadalajara's original (1549-1618) cathedral. The
present building, initiated in 1661, was completed about a century later.
behind the Degollado, where a modern bronze frieze, the Frisa de Los Fundadores, decorates
its back side. Appropriately, a mere two blocks from the spot where the city was founded,
the 68- foot sculpture shows Guadalajara's cofounders facing each other on opposite sides of a big tree. Governor
Cristóbal de Oñate strikes the tree with his sword, while Doña
Beátriz de Hernández holds a fighting cock, symbolizing her gritty determination (and
that of dozens of fellow settlers) that Guadalajara's location should remain put.