I was not entirely looking forward to my stay in the second largest city in Mexico. The smell of cow manure as I exited the plane did nothing to change my mind either. To top it off, I was suffering a server allergy attack that was more than likely provoked from my mildewy and grimy hotel room in San Jose. Through a constant bombardment of sneezes, I managed to take a bus into the center of town and check into another crummy hotel. I mustered up the energy to have a look around the city. For the most part, I have continually disliked Mexico. From Tijijuana to Cancun to Cabo San Lucas to Mexico City, I’ve had very few remarkable experiences outside of fun induced from the novelty of underage drinking. And on first impressions, Guadalajara appeared to be no different: It is a poor and dirty city in the middle of the desert. And when I say dirty, I mean really dirty. I spent a few hours walking through the town, gagging on the atrocious smells of overflowing sewage and hurrying past wrecked and vandalized buildings, massive junkyards, and gangs of teenagers in dirty t-shirts.
Yet, as the mildly hallucinogenic allergy medicine began to wear off, and as I spent more time asking for directions, sitting in cafes and generally hanging around the town, Guadalajara actually began to grow on me. Once I got past the giant smog cloud, I noticed a natural bustle in the city that breathed life into its one of a kind mariachi bands, bull fights, and Mexican hat dances. For the first time, I suddenly saw what was truly Mexican. I relaxed in places where ordinary Mexicans spent their leisure time, sitting in magnificent plazas and enticing parks along side talented guitarists, laughing ladies, authentic cowboys, and naked babies. More so, I discovered a rural charm when I ventured outside the city to the suburbs of Tlaquepaque, Tonala and the town of Tequila (where the liquor gets its name sake). In these places, I found Mexico’s finest traditional crafts and folk art set within impressive outdoor bazaars, historic colonial houses on cobblestone streets, and the most unique blend of Indian and Spanish traditional and modern culture that make up the complex country that I soon began to admire.
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