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LIFE  IN  GUADALAJARA
 
With a population of around six million, Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico and can be considered the most stereotypically Mexican city, especially when one considers its contributions to Mexican culture: tequila, mariachis and the charco (sombrero) hat. Although Guadalajara harbors strong traditions and abundant history in its numerous museums and historic architecture, it is also a modern and industrial city offering a high quality of life relative to most Mexican urban centers.

The city is named after the Spanish city of Guadalajara, whose name originates from its Arabic name Wadi-al-Hajara meaning "Valley of Stones"; in theory the literal translation of the Iberian name (Arriaca), meaning "Stony River"..

In a "Cities of the Future" survey by fdimagazine, Guadalajara was the highest ranking Mexican city and has the second strongest economic potential of any major North American city, second only to Chicago. The geographical location of Guadalajara and its communications infrastructure make it very favorable for commerce with the rest of the country, and also attracts investors and commerce worldwide.

The city is known as Mexico's Silicon Valley due to its strong electronics industry and is also considered Mexico's high tech capital due to its leadership in software and technological development.

The Metropolitan Zone of Guadalajara has several commercial centers; the city is the national leader in development and investment in commercial centers. The current boom of construction and fast development is one of the most important periods in the city’s history. Its cultural wealth has taken an important role in the tourist sector; many of the main cultural events of the country are hosted here.

Despite being the second-largest urban area in Mexico, Guadalajara is surprisingly a lot more relaxed than its capital. Some of the nation's best beach resorts are only a few hours away by car, and the city is host to some of the best cultural festivals in the country.

A good start for newly arrived foreigners may be to register with their respective embassies, or relevant social clubs, thereby beginning the process of incorporating oneself into the flow of things and finding good opportunities to begin networking.

Guadalajara is an enormous city and features tourist attractions for literally everyone. Families are extremely well catered for and the Guadalajara Planetarium and Science Centre is always a good bet. Children of all ages will enjoy the fast rides and enormous Ferris wheel at the Selva Magica theme park, and also the animals at adjacent Guadalajara Zoo. For a more tranquil afternoon out, consider visiting the relatively peaceful Metropolitan Park (Parque Metropolitano) and the Bosque la Primavera forest, where you can stroll, play, and picnic and relax.

Visitors, both foreign and Mexican, come to Guadalajara to bask in its mild, spring-like sunshine, savor its music, and admire its grand monuments. The city-center heart of Guadalajara is a bustling downtown, but is mostly low-rise and relaxed compared to large North American cities. Nevertheless, buses empty hordes of passengers curbside, subway trains scuttle underground, shoppers peruse department store displays, businesspeople relax for coffee-shop lunches, pigeons scurry and flutter and families stroll the broad, fountain-decorated plazas.

With such a historic past, Guadalajara is filled with interesting buildings and reminders of yesteryear. Highlights in the historic centre of Guadalajara are the towering cathedral, the Regional Museum, and the classic Degollado Theater. Also of interest is the Government Palace (Palacio de Gobierno).

The cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin of the Assumption was begun in 1561 and was finished about 30 years later. A potpourri of styles—Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance and Classic—make up its spires, arches and facades. A “cross” of plazas surrounds the cathedral: Plaza Guadalajara in front (west) of the cathedral, then, moving counterclockwise, the Plaza de Armas to the south, Plaza Liberación to the east (behind), and the Plaza de los Jaliscienses Ilustres to the north of the cathedral.

The Degollado Theater’s classic columned facade climaxes in an epic marble frieze, depicting the allegory of Apollo and the nine muses. Its resplendent grand salon is said to rival the gilded refinement of Milan’s renowned La Scala. 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 millionaire Governor Degollado, who financed its construction, the theater opened on September 13, 1866 with a production of Lucia de Lammermoor starring Angela Peralta. An ever-changing menu of artists still graces the Degollado’s stage, including an excellent local folkloric ballet troupe every Sunday morning.

Stroll along Plaza Tapatía which is graced by its own monuments, markets and galleries. At the end of the plaza you will find the Hospicio Cabañas, Latin America’s largest colonial building, and the site of the José Clemente Orozco museum, with a treasury of art by the renowned muralist. Built around 200 years ago, Guadalajara's Cabanas Cultural Institute (Instituto Cultural Cabanas) features beautiful gardens, frequent displays of art and weekly ballet performances.

The sprawling Libertad market, also known as San Juan de Dios, was built in 1958 on the site of the traditional Guadalajara tianguis (open-air market). If you follow the elevated pedestrian walkway south you can explore the Libertad’s produce, meat, fish, herbs, food and handicrafts stalls.

The University of Guadalajara’s grand neoclassical building was designed in large part by noted architect Rafael Urzúa and was erected in 1918. Originally intended as the Jalisco state legislature, it became part of the university during the mid-1930s.

In the Paraninfo, muralist José Clemente Orozco crafted a pair of monumental works between 1936 and 1939. Spreading across the cupola overhead, Man—as creator, thinker, questioner, investigator and celebrator—displays the master’s contemplative side. In contrast, above the stage spreads The People and Their Leaders in which a fire-ringed crowd confronts the evils of militarism, brutality and false science.

Construction of the monumental Templo Expiatorio (Temple of Atonement) commenced in 1897 by Italian architect Adamo Boari, celebrated for construction of the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City. Although the soaring neo-Gothic facade and its towering 25-bell carillon are impressive enough, the radiant contemporary French stained-glass windows inside are the main attractions. Besides biblical themes, one of the glass panes is of architect Ignacio Díaz Morales, who finished the interior construction in 1972 (and who is buried in the Grand Crypt beneath the sacristy behind the altar). The bells, accompanied by a mechanical procession of the Twelve Apostles, toll daily, at 9 a.m., noon and 6 p.m.

The neo-Roman Los Arcos triumphal arch was erected 1939–1941 on what was, at the time, the edge of the city limits. Los Arcos is more than just a monument. In addition to the Tourism Office, it houses temporary art exhibits and an unusually frank mural, illustrating the best and worst of Guadalajara.

Since it opened in 1987 as the largest exposition center in Latin America, Expo Guadalajara has maintained leadership among both its national and international counterparts, both in attendance and occupancy rates. It hosts more than 120 events annually, including some of the most important industry-wide exhibitions in Mexico. Designed to international standards, Expo Guadalajara was built on a single level and spreads over an area about a fifth of a mile (300 meters) on a side. Nearly daily, a huge squadron of booths buzzes with activity in the main exhibition hall. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll catch one of the big fairs, such as Fashion (January and July), Ice Cream (February), Computers (March), Handicrafts (June), Furniture (September), Jewelry (October), or books (November). Stop by the convenient food court in the middle of the complex for a light meal or refreshment.

Guadalajara has many restaurants offering fine cuisine, particularly traditional Mexican fare. The historic district and Tlaquepaque Square offer many excellent restaurants, including some great seafood choices. Guadalajara also offers all the usual chain restaurants, be they American or Mexican. Other types of restaurants include French, Swiss, Lebanese, Spanish, Argentinean, Japanese, seafood and Italian. For entertainment, Guadalajara has something to suit every taste—from jazz to techno or from mariachi bars to pubs. Many places have live performances, and there is the sound of music around every corner.


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