It’s been a little while since the last entry, sorry! Time to play catch up again.
Guadalajara is the second biggest city in México with about 4 million warm (well, at least living) bodies, coming in at about 70th worldwide. It may not be the biggest city in México, but it’s often referred to as the most ‘Mexican’ city. Tequila and Mariachi bands come from Guadalajara. That, and the population is more on the indigenous side of the spectrum than Mexico City.
The bus ride from Mázatlan to Guadalajara is a smooth 8 hour trip. It’s mostly one big climb up into the mountains. The countryside the toll highways cut through is for the most part empty of people. The small rural villages that do pop up are still working on basic infrastructure stuff like ’solid walls’ and ‘a roof not made of palm fronds’. Best I could tell, there was electricity in every village I saw, but not in every neighborhood or street (’street’ being a relative term kinda like ‘path’).
Anyway, the cities (like Guadalajara) do for the most part have modern luxuries like pavement. However, as you can see in this picture of a suburb of Guadalajara…
Those baize and black cylindrical looking things that you can see on every roof – those are water filtration systems. This is your loud warning – don’t drink the tap water. If the locals aren’t drinking it, you shouldn’t either. (I had to test this anyway, and yeah, it did a number on my internal flora and fauna. Thank God my guardian angle hooked me up with some antibiotics before I left San Francisco.)
I stayed at the HI in the Centro Histórico in Guadalajara. A great hostel for a those traveling alone – a very welcoming group of people, the hostel was organizing activities for guests several times a week. This is the HI crew out for a few drinks at an outdoor jazz club:
The Centro Histórico (or all of Guadalaraja for that matter, or even this whole side of México) is centered around the Guadalajara Cathedral. Construction on the Cathedral started in 1561, which would be about three generations before the Mayflower landed up near Boston.
It’s totally not kosher to take a picture inside the Cathedral, but if there’s one good thing about using an iPhone, it’s that you can discretely break the rules…
BTW, if you’ve never been in a real cathedral, it’s worth your time. This was my first experience, and I was expecting it to essentially be a very big church. That’s like comparing a 152 with an A380. I just wasn’t prepared. The effect of the detail on the stone, the high ceilings, the organ filling every last corner and crack with full, powerful sound – it’s stunning.
Around the Cathedral are four Euro-style plazas, called ‘Zócalos’ in México. They’re open air and everyone is just hanging out. There was free wifi for my iPhone, but I didn’t see anyone busting out a full laptop. I did run across some sort of military flag ceremony though.
Transit geeks out there will be happy to know Guadalajara has a small but functional metro, similar in size to San Francisco’s.
I didn’t get a chance to ride the metro, but I did take the local bus across town to and from the Nueva Central Caminonera and el Centro. That went straight through the neighborhoods. I unfortunately didn’t get any pictures worth posting… but the feel of the regular neighborhoods of the city was unlike any city in the US or Canada. The streets are very narrow, the sidewalks are covered with people, and the traffic drives extremely fast. Stop signs are, seriously, yield signs. Red lights – nobody coming? Just like a pedestrian on market street – the bus slowly inches out and then bamn! hit the gas and cut across the intersection. All righty then.
The commerce is organized differently than in the States. If the US has generally been moving toward the ‘one store has everything possible’ model, in Guadalajara they use the ‘this neighborhood only carries this particular good’ model. So if you want anything to do with fabric, you go to the fabric neighborhood. Every store there will have fabric and threads galore. If you want tires or rims, go to the tire neighborhood. The hostel I stayed at in the Centro Histórico was in the money changing neighborhood.