Guadalajara’s Historic Landmarks, Mexico

Templo Expiatorio

The Templo Expiatorio

 

 

Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city and the cultural center of Western Mexico. Its status as a city was granted by the Spanish King Charles the sixth in 1550 along with a coat of arms that the city has today. The Central Historic district is the oldest section of the city where it was founded and where the oldest buildings are located. They include a combination of religious and civil colonial buildings which are noted for their architectural and historic significance. While the colonial buildings are the most common style of architecture found in the historic district, one can also find examples of Gothic, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Viceregal and Art Deco designs. One of the buildings,  the Instituto de  Cultural Cabana, is a world  heritage site.

From an architectural standpoint, the Templo Expiatory is perhaps the most interesting building in the  historic district and its neoclassical style was designed by Manuel Tolsa. Although the cornerstone was laid in 1897, the church is made of stone, carved as it was done in the middle ages.The three tympana on the church’s facade are accented with Italian mosaic’s created in the Vaticans mosaic factory. Also seen on the facade is a church clock imported from Germany and installed by German technicians along with a carillon of 25 bells which play 25 religious pieces such as Ave Maria. Whenever a musical piece is played, minature statutes of the 12 apostle’s rotate in and out of the campanile.  Of course a church would not be the same without stained glass and this one has huge stained glass windows created by Jacques and Gerard Degussecau of France. In addition to  the musuems and galleries in the historic area, the sites shown in this gallery are the most popular attractions for cultural tourism in Guadalajara.

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A Japanese Garden in Guadalajara, Mexico

This Japanese garden is found inside a large metropolitan park  that  is called Bosque Colomos. It is one of the most popular attractions in Guadalajara for both tourist and local residents.  In addition to the garden,  there are miles of trails for hiking and bicycling, outdoor exercise equipment, a cultural center for children,  a small lake, a bonsai pavilion, an area for riding horses and a variety of outdoor sculptures.

The traditional Japanese Garden is designed to reflect the countries culture and philosphy which involves harmony with nature, tranquility, serious contemplation and discipline. Several types of Japanese gardens exist and the most common include a rock or zen garden, a tea garden, a water garden and strolling gardens. The latter type of garden can be either a strolling garden designed for recreation and aesthetic pleasure or a strolling garden for meditative walking which will incorporate some spiritual imagery in the landscape.

Lake Chapala Promenade, Jalisco, MX

 

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At sunset, a boat returns to the pier with its passengers.

 

Lake Chapalpa is the largest freshwater lake in Mexico and the village of Chapala has been a  popular weekend and holiday destination for both Guadalajara residents  and international tourist since the 1920’s. The lakefront promenade or malecon has 2 scenic piers, boat rides, restaurants, hotels, playgrounds, skateboard park, mariachi’s, retail vendors and yacht club. One of  the malecon’s landmarks, seen below,  is the old Victorian style mansion built in 1906. It is now a restaurant called Cazadores but was  formerly  owned by the Braniff family of airline fame and fortune, In addition to tourist, ,many local people come to the malecon on a regular basis for picnic’s, see the sunsets or watch the birds who migrate here in the fall.

 

Day of the Dead, Lake Chapala, Mexico

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A tribute to revolutionary hero’s Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata

The day of the dead is a long standing tradition in Mexico similar to Halloween or all saints day in other parts of the world  and was inscribed into the intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO  in 2008. In Mexico, it is also a national holiday celebrated on November 2nd. On this day Mexicans pay homage to deceased family members, friends, national hero’s, luminaries and even world leaders with  personalized altars that offer gifts to the departed. These offerings usually include flowers, favorite foods, beverages and possessions of the dead. Alternately, family members will visit the grave site of departed souls and leave similar offerings.

Today , Katrina’s are the most highly recognized symbol associated with the Day of the Dead. Years ago, however, a Katrina referred to an elegant and well dressed woman of class and privilege  until a mexican artist  created an illustration of a well dressed skeleton during  revolutionary times that was supposed to symbolized the death of mexico’s ruling  class of privileged  aristocrats. Eventually,  the Katrina figure came to represent the joy of life in the face of its end.

The Lake Chapala Society, Ajijic, Mexico

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Located in the heart of Ajijic, the Lake Chapala Society was founded in 1955 by a group of 21 expatriates and today has over 3,000 members.The mission of LCS is to contribute to the social enrichment of its members and the Lakeside community through a variety of services and programs designed to facilitate the integration of  expatriates into the Lakeside community and foster interchange between ex pats and mexicans to name a few. More details about LCS are available at http://www.lakechapalasociety.org and in the photo gallery there are images of the LCS facilities, garden and the recent Woodstock 45th anniversary party.

 

Ajijic, Lake Chapala, Mexico

An historic  Chapel across form the Ajijic plaza

An historic Chapel across from the Ajijic plaza

Ajijic is located on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest freshwater lake,  less than an hour’s drive away from Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. It’s a small village with a population of approximately 10,000  and over half of these people are either retired Americans or Canadians who relocate here for a variety of reasons including attractive scenery, tempered climate, lower cost of living, english is spoken,  and a variety of recreational activities tailor made for the cultural background of North Americans to name a few. So relocating to this part of Mexico also means less cultural shock then would be experienced in many other parts of Mexico or Central America and  this is why Ajijic and Lake Chapala has  been the top choice for most expatriates seeking retirement outside of the states since the 1940’s.  The photo gallery below focuses on the plaza in the heart of Ajijic.

Lake Atitlan National Park, Guatemala

 

Lake Atitlan, volcano's and botanical garden

Lake Atitlan, volcano’s and botanical garden

If you happen to be planning a trip to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico don’t miss the chance to visit Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.  Tour companies offer daily shuttle bus rides to and from Atitlan for a cost of only $50 dollars  round trip from San Cristobal.  This lake is considered to be one of the ten most beautiful in the world  and has been has been a national park since 1955. Besides the lake; the main outdoor attractions include the 3 volcanes that surround the lake and a nature reserve featuring a botanical garden, butterfly sanctuary, hiking trails and cascading waterfalls. Other recreational activities in the park include trails to the top of the volcano’s, rappelling, zip lines, hang gliding, canoeing and bass fishing. The lake also has several indigenous maya communities where it is possible to gain insight into the their culture and purchase traditional hand made arts and crafts at very reasonable prices.

 

 

The magic village of Comitan, Chiapas, Mexico

Here's  the flat top trees in Comitan's main plaza

Comitan’s main plaza is the heart of the city and is noted for these flat top trees.

 

A Pueblo Magico since 2012, this artsy colonial village is located about 60 miles southeast of San Cristobal de Las Casas and is close to the border of Guatemala. It has some good restaurants and hotels, a few interesting musuems and is less than an hours drive away from El Chiflon Waterfalls, the lakes of Montebello, and El Chintuchek archeological site. Comitan also has one of the most impressive zocola’s in Mexico. These town plaza’s are an important part of the Mexican culture and the heart of almost every city both large and small. They serve as a place for people to socialize, find taco stands or restaurants, see special events and hear Mariachi music.  More often than not, most zocola’s  are centrally located across from the cities main cathedral, they usually have a large gazebo where local musician’s perform, lots of park benches and beautiful landscaping. With it’s distinctive flat topped trees, fountain and unique metal scupltures,  Comitan’s zocola is one of the most impressive in Mexico. There are a few photos with additional information in the gallery below.

A Spring Festival, San Cristobal, Mexico

 

San Cristobal is at an altitude of 2300 meters and is surrounded by peaks, pines and oak trees

San Cristobal is at an altitude of 2300 meters and is surrounded by peaks, pines and oak trees

This annual week long celebration of spring  involves quite a variety of events and runs concurrent with the Semana Santa holiday in Mexico. There seems to be something for everyone including art exhibits, sports,  concerts, parades, cultural events, rodeo’s,  bull fights, fireworks and more. Best of all,  most events are free of charge and in San Cristobal de las Casas the weather is spring like almost year around. For more information and a few photos of event activities, see the gallery below.

 

Palenque National Park, Mexico

Commonly refered to as the palace, this structure was actually  a residential and administrative complex.

Commonly refered to as the palace, this structure was actually a watchtower,  residential and administrative complex combined into one.

Palenque is not only an archeological site but a world heritage site and national park as well. There are approximately 65,000 species of flora and fauna within the park that can be seen by hiking the jungle trails surrounding the ruins. In addition, there is an orchid nursery, waterfalls,  and creeks where visitors can swim if desired.. Excavation and renovation of the ruins  began over 100 years ago and continues today as only a small portion of the original cities estimated 1400 buildings have been excavated. Never the less, Palenque was inscribed as a world heritage site in 1987 because its “residential areas, buildings with political and administrative functions, as well as those whose function was ritual are conserved in their original setting, turning the site with its exceptional artistic and architectural features into a living museum.” Of all the Maya archeological sites, this is arguably the most impressive.

House of the Deer, Valladolid, Mexico

House of the Dear

House of the Deer and one of 2 wet bars on the first floor of this house

Translated, the house of the deer is Casa de los Venados in Spanish. This is a privately owned  collection of mexican folk and contemporary art in a home which is over 18,000 square feet and has more than  3000 pieces of museum quality art on display. Most of this art work  has been acquired directly from the original artists over a 35 year period. The owners,  John and Dorianne Venator, are originally from the United States where they  have lived in both Chicago and Portland as well as  their new museum/home in Valladolid.The Venators generously open their musuem/home to the public for tours at 10 a.m. everyday and it is free of charge.  So, if you  are ever visiting the maya riviera don’t miss the chance to tour this impressive, one of a kind display of art. The photo gallery below is just a small sample of the Venator’s art collection.