Guadalajara: first impressions
After spending two amazing weeks at the beach in Zipolite, Oaxaca, I moved on to Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, where I’ll be taking courses here to be certified to teach English, my new occupation in Mexico. It’s my first time here, so I gave myself a few extra days to get familiar with the city before getting up in the morning to go to school. Before coming here, my friends told me that Guadalajara is considered by many to be the most Mexican of Mexican cities. I can definitely say that I see their point.
Guadalajara is a beautiful old city founded on February 14, 1542 by Cristóbal de Oñate as the Spanish Conquest of Mexico expanded outward from Tenochtitlan, present-day Mexico City, in the decades following the Spanish overthrow of Moctezuma II. Unlike Tenochtitlan, the city’s pyramids and temples were not razed since there was no major indigenous settlement here. In fact, the Villa of Guadalajara, named after the city of Guadalajara in Spain, the Spanish hometown of Nuño de Guzman, relocated in its entirety several times due to water shortages and attacks by locals before finally being planting roots in the Valley of Atemajac. Since then the municipality has grown exponentially from a poulation of 142 to approximately 8,000,000, according to the taxi driver who brought me to my hostel from the airport. Wikipedia reports just over 5,000,000. Whichever is correct, it’s a huge city.
I’m staying in a hostel in the Historic Center of Guadalajara. Like most cities, there are blocks and blocks of residences and ordinary businesses. Then suddenly you end up in one of many plazas, which is almost always adjacent to one or more churches. I have never been anywhere with so many churches so close together, but these are not your ordinary churches at all. The two that stand out the most are the Templo de Expiatorio and the Catedral de Guadalajara. One thing I notice arriving is that the centro historico is a little torn up right now for construction of a third Metro line. Things like this are part of the life of cities, so it’s not really a bad thing, just evidence of a living, thriving city. Guadalajara, sometimes referred to as “the pearl of the west” is Mexico’s second largest city after Ciudád de México. I’ll be here for 5 weeks, so I’ll post more about Guadalajara in the weeks to come.