The King Has Spoken

Mexico City has long been seen as the country’s cosmopolitan center, the place where everything is happening. But times have changed, and now, Guadalajara offers intriguing and increasingly popular surprises.

text: Diana Amador | PHOTOS: Gabriel Rodríguez

The year is 1963, and Fun in Acapulco – the 13th film in Elvis Presley’s acting career – hits theaters, marking a victory in the legendary rivalry between chilangos (the residents of Mexico City) and tapatíos (people from Guadalajara). Accompanied by mariachis and wearing a sombrero, Elvis performs a Pepe Guízar song in praise of “La Perla Tapatía” with such charm that you barely notice his subpar pronunciation. But there’s one word you can hear loud and clear: “Guadalajara, Guadalajara.” The King has spoken.


When getting to know this city, dining should be your first order of business. There are countless street food options, but the restaurant Las 9 Esquinas is the perfect place to sample traditional birria (goat prepared with different sauces), tortas ahogadas (juicy pulled pork sandwiches) and barbacoa (shredded barbequed beef). Every weekend, groggy patrons come here to recharge after a long night out, but the recovering partygoers don’t affect the overall family atmosphere. Here, the next generation learns about the city’s signature delicacies, like how the torta ahogada has to be “drowned” in super-spicy sauce before you take the first delectable bite, how you should never use cutlery and how only plastic gloves can prevent catastrophic stains.
Ten minutes away, in Guadalajara’s old quarter, the cathedral is both a religious landmark and an icon of the city’s architecture, a potpourri of inherited styles (baroque, neo-classical, gothic). The very first stone was laid and blessed by Fray Pedro de Ayala in 1561, though it has been built and rebuilt over the years in the wake of earthquakes. With its neo-gothic steeples, described in song as “upside-down calla lilies,” the cathedral attracts whole families dressed in their best attire every Sunday.


In addition to its architectural value, the Cathedral is home to important examples of artistic heritage.

Guadalajara is famous for being one of the country’s most conservative cities, but the folk who live in “Guanatos” haven’t forgotten how to have fun. You’ll find a different kind of pilgrim at La Fuente. Dating back to 1921, the oldest cantina in the city didn’t let women in until the late-1980s. Today, it’s one of the city’s most popular spots. The tables fill up with bottles and caballitos, narrow shot glasses especially made for tossing back tequila. As the hours pass, lonely souls who came in alone end up joining the crowded tables, and the old man who had been drinking mescal by himself at the back now toasts with tattooed youngsters at the front.
About four blocks away, in an 18th-century building designed by architect Manuel Tolsá, the Instituto Cultural Cabañas features some 50 murals by artist José Clemente Orozco. A contemporary of Diego Rivera, Orozco’s work is charged with a strong sense of social awareness and is well worth a visit, especially the fiery work El hombre en llamas (Man of Fire) which adorns the 90-foot ceiling.

Mural El Hombre en Llamas, Instituto Cultural Cabañas.

Orozco’s mural, Man of Fire, at the Cabañas Cultural Institute.

Nearby, you’ll find the Mercado Libertad, the largest indoor market in Latin America. The aisles glow with the colors of decorated tequila bottles, fruit, shopping bags, engraved caballitos and classic mariachi figurines. But if you’re hunting for original pieces at low prices, you’ll have to wait for Sunday, when El Baratillo offers 50 blocks of everything under the sun, from art to pets. The traditional vibe has a touch of the black market, but in the music-filled aisles and the streets lined with improvised dining areas, the party goes on forever (even if you have to drink your beer out of a plastic bag with a straw).
To continue your tour of city classics, head to Avenida López Cotilla. You’ll have to pass through Parque Revolución to reach La Cafetería, a respite for those tired of perusing old buildings, museums and churches. Located in an old mansion, this hipster haven is a great place to just take a seat and watch the bikes and dogs pass by while enjoying the highly recommended “chill-a-killers” (chilaquiles), spicy Mexican comfort food par excellence.



Old-school Party

In a day, you can discover an even older side of the city. Along Avenida Chapultepec, there are dozens of cafés, small restaurants and bars along the happening median where you’ll find everything from exhibitions to folk art, design objects to local fashion. As evening falls, stick around for spontaneous salsa and danzón performances, as couples of all ages are inspired by the rhythm. Who knows? Maybe 20 pesos will get you a quick dancing lesson.
Early on Saturday, pay a visit to the Tianguis Cultural or “El Cultu,” as it’s often called. You’ll spot local bands, new artists, designers and the occasional nostalgia buff selling an endless variety of vinyl records. The Chapultepec area is a bit like Condesa in Mexico City – full of life, people and music – but there are notable differences. Here, the prices are more affordable, and the city’s reputation for attractive residents holds up. Score one point for Guadalajara.
Tequila and mariachis – the ever-present icons of the state of Jalisco – are constant companions on this trip. So it might be time to try something different: order mescal at Pare de sufrir, a bar where the slogan is “stop suffering, drink mescal.” With guapachoza music in the background, it’s hard not to get into the rhythm, regardless of the time. The artisanal mescals come from all over the country. Somewhat tucked away in the same neighborhood is The Rusty Trombone, specializing in craft beers from all over Mexico. If you end up leaving near the break of dawn, head to Ta’Corte on Reforma (near the corner of Américas) for gordibuenas con arrachera (thick tortillas with grilled flank steak). Traditional food at unholy hours.
So forget the idea that nothing’s going on outside Mexico City. That would be a grave mistake. With its tortas ahogadas and more, Guadalajara is cooking up big things, and we wanted to be there for the first delicious bite.


Although it’s famous for being one of Mexico’s most conservative cities, Guadalajara knows how to have fun.


Eyes on the Tapatios

In addition to tequila, the land that gave the world Juan Rulfo is also known for the Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara, held this year between November 29 and December 7, with Argentina as the special guest country. One of the most important literary and publishing events in Latin America, this book fair welcomes more than a half million visitors every year. While browsing the stands, it’s not uncommon to run into famous Latin American authors like Antonio Ortuño, Álvaro Enrique or Mario Vargas Llosa.
This year’s commemorations will include a tribute to Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, who passed away this past April, and a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mexican poet Octavio Paz. in


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