Very similar to Mexico City. Night life, busy food scent, top restaurants and art. Starting with the Mercado San Juan de Dios (the corner of Avenida Javier Mina and Calzada Independencia). To help choose among the many food sellers, watch where the locals are and grab a stool at those stands. You can feast for days on torta ahogada (a “drowned sandwich” stuffed with fried pork, covered in a spicy tomato and chilli sauce and served with avocado, onions and radishes), birria (slow cooked joint of lamb or goat chopped and served in a tomato based broth with tortillas and salsa), pozole (a stew of either pork or chicken with corn and assorted vegetables), fish ceviche (made from whatever is fresh that day, marinated in lime juice and served with tostadas (fried tortillas) and crackers, and the Mexican breakfast of eggs, frijoles (home cooked beans), queso (white, crumbling, slightly salty cheese) and tortillas. For those on a tight budget, look out for the filling comida corrida (meal of the day), usually a soup and main course including tortillas, rice, salad and a drink, which is served from about noon onwards.
The Mercado Libertad, sometimes called the Mercado de San Juan de Dios after the neighborhood in which it is located, is close to the Hospicio Cabañas and the Plaza de los Mariachis. This vast emporium of nearly 500,000 square feet distributed on three floors sells all manner of products from fresh produce, meat and flowers to handicrafts, cowboy hats and boots to electronic gadgets and appliances. After working up an appetite browsing the stalls and bargaining for souvenirs, head to the second floor where you'll find plenty of fondas (small family-run restaurants) to sample some of Guadalajara's culinary specialties.
Locals know which places serve the best food, so follow their lead: head to the busiest stalls for some authentic comida jalisciense (food of Jalisco state). Tortas ahogadas, the signature dish of Guadalajara, are "drowned sandwiches" made with a dense roll stuffed with pork and drenched in spicy salsa. Or satisfy you hunger with a filling bowl of pozole, corn hominy soup made with either pork or chicken. If you like your food hot and spicy, choose red pozole; otherwise stick with the white. Another specialty of Jalisco is birria, a spicy Mexican meat stew made with either goat or lamb. The meat is baked slowly with spices, traditionally in an underground earthen oven. A plate with minced onions, cilantro and limes accompanies your bowl of birria so you can garnish it to your liking. Buen provecho (Bon appetit)! One of the best ways to experience a destination is through its food, and Guadalajara is no exception. The market is the best place to begin your gastronomical exploration of Jalisco's capital.
The heart of tequila
The agave is a plant native to Mexico. From the west in Jalisco, to the southeast in Yucatan, different kinds of agave plants have left their imprint in history and defined our country’s landscape, giving it an unmistakable flavor to our identity.
Its leaves are fleshy, thick, and sharp, and just like cacti, they accumulate water in the inside to survive. The agave plants are so versatile that humans have used them to extract fibers, paper, candy, vinegar, honey, sugar and three kinds of liquor that make Mexico proud: tequila, mescal and pulque. There are over 200 species of agave plants and they differentiate from each other by their shape, size and color.
Cazuela de Tequila a tyipcal drink from Guadalajara
The Mexicas would worship the maguey plant, or American agave, which they considered the representation of Mayahuel, the goddess of drunkenness that would feed their 400 children the pulque emanating from her numerous breasts. Mayahuel was related to the moon, the feminine, the vegetation and its lifecycle. The liquor extracted from this plant is called pulque, and it was a sacred drink that could only be enjoyed on special occasions by the tlatoanis or governors, monks or the elders.
From another specie known as henequen and native to the Yucatan Peninsula, Mayans extracted fibers to manufacture ropes and carpets. Later on, the henequen plant was the engine of a great industry in this region at the end of the 19th century.
By combining several species of agave, we obtain the mescal, a traditional liquor in the Oaxaca region, and whose artisan production amazes and enchants visitors. It is called mescal because that is the name of the agave plant’s heart, where a delicious nectar is found. Mescal means in the Nahuatl language, “the moon’s home”, and contextually, it refers to the heart, the essential or the core of something.
Finally, from the blue agave, or Agave Tequiliana Weber, the country’s most famous drink is produced, a hard liquor related to the festive and brave feature of all Mexicans: the tequila. It is also an allegory to our history since it fuses the goodness of an endemic plant with European techniques brought by the Spaniards during the colonial era.
In Mexico, tequila is synonymous with partying, pride and complicity among friends. In the warmth of a few tequila drinks, people spend great nights; with tequila people drink a toast to their success, and tequila makes life’s pains much easier to swallow. With a tequila shot, life’s memorable anecdotes begin, and with another shot we remember them.
Jalisco, the birthplace of Tequila
Hieratic and elegant, the agave raises its sharp leaves towards the sky. Thousands of blue-green spades can be observed in the horizon with the sky’s red sunset and the night sounds starting to appear. This is the agave landscape in Tequila, Jalisco, which in 2006 was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and it is the departing point for history with a rich Mexican flavor.
Ancient tequila factory
During the colonial era, those fields of blue agave in Tequila were highly valued because they provided the raw material for roofs, needles, awls, needles and fibers to produce paper and threads. The aloe vera from its leaves was also used to treat wounds, and even the plant’s ashes were used as detergent.
Someone once realized or remembered that the mescal, or the agave’s heart, was consumed as a candy, and when fermented, it produced a delicious liquor. Spaniards quickly took advantage of this finding, and even with the alcohol prohibition in the United States, the Tequila mescal wine became very famous among clandestine social centers.
Due to its great demand, the Spanish kings authorized their production, as long as the applicable taxes were paid. After Mexico’s independence in 1821, the tequila drink monopolized the market left by Spanish wines and triumphant took the throne as the national drink.
The tequila took the international spotlight during the golden era of the Mexican movie industry, between 1930 and 1940. A bottle of tequila was the ever-present friend of great Mexican actors in their adventures along haciendas, horses and balconies under the moonlight and with mariachi music as the soundtrack.
Today, the tequila is legally protected by an origin denomination; that is, only the drink distilled from blue agave harvested in Jalisco and some regions of Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacan and Tamaulipas, can be called “tequila”.
The tourism industry has contributed to the consolidation of the tequila as a Mexican icon by naming the city of Tequila a Magic Town, which has served as the base of a great variety of tourism offerings, such as the Tequila Express, which is a train departing from Guadalajara and with stops at the most prominent tequila haciendas of Jalisco; and the Tequila Route, which links several towns where visitors can enjoy stays at boutique hotels and take on adventure activities, in addition to tasting tequilas of different brands.