About Guadalajara

Founded in 1542, Guadalajara is a cosmopolitan city, of more than five million. A commercial, industrial, transportation and agricultural center, it is the second largest city in Mexico. It is situated about a mile high on the edge of the high central plateau. Because of its altitude it has a very pleasant climate the year round. The warmest period is in May and early June before the rainy season begins. The rainy season lasts from mid-June to mid-September. During this time it rains nearly every day, usually in the late afternoon. Light clothes and comfortable shoes are recommended. A sweater or jacket may be needed at night. Rain gear is advisable for the summer; several layers of light wraps for the winter.

Guadalajara and its environs include a number of towns and municipios interesting for their historic and colonial significance and their artisanship. These include Zapopan, Tlaquepaque, Tonalá, Ajijic and Tequila.

Guadalajara has an international airport which handles the flights of a number of major U.S. airlines. Auto, train or bus transportation is also an option.

Guadalajara is a bustling city - Mexico's second largest. There are no large all-controlling industries. Rather there are a number of small to medium-sized enterprises that serve the local population or process regional products for national and international distribution. Its west central location makes it a distribution and transportation center.

As a center for tourism, Guadalajara nurtures a number of related industries – hospitality, entertainment and artisanship. The entertainment arts are seen in the ballet folclórico, bullfights, mariachis, the cinema, professional soccer, parades and other entertainment spectacles. The Jaliscan craftsmen and artisans specialize in ceramics, blown glass, metal design, woodworking, papier-mâché, leather and textiles.

For more than 10,000 years humans have inhabited the high mesa known as the Valley of Atemajac which covers the area over which Guadalajara now spreads. The earliest known inhabitants of the region left a now badly deteriorated and largely unexplored mound and shards of sophisticated pottery know as Guachimontones.

After four attempts at founding, Guadalajara was finally awarded its city charter in 1539 by Carlos Quinto of Spain, just 20 years before the birth of Shakespeare. The very hostile natives were finally subdued with appeals to the Virgin of Zapopan. It flourished as a military outpost until the development of Mexico reached the region.

As the capital of the state of Jalisco, Guadalajara houses a number of municipal, state and federal offices. It is home to six universities and offers the usual amenities of a metropolitan center. In the last 25 years a number of U.S., British, German and Japanese international corporations have set up maquiladoras, assembly plants, in the industrial parks surrounding Guadalajara.

Guadalajara is a city of flowers and fountains. It is a city of parks and monuments. It has a large number of historically significant structures including its 17th century cathedral and many beautiful and well-preserved baroque colonial churches, some dating from the 1600s.

The nearby Hospicio Cabañas was completed in 1810. Designed by ManuelTolsá, one of the best architects and sculptors of the time, it was probably the most spectacular orphanage in the New World offering the homeless 160 rooms, 78 corridors, 2 chapels and 23 flower-filled patios. The Hospicio Cabañas now houses art exhibits and features the work of one of the great Mexican muralists, José Clemente Orozco. The 53 Orozco murals here display Orozco’s incisive critique of the part the Church and the government have played in the conquest and subsequent development of Mexico. The most spectacular is the central mural, EL Hombre de Fuego, (The Man of Fire) depicting a human figure enveloped in non-consuming flames, symbolic of the unquenchable human spirit.

The huge Plaza Tapatia, actually three plazas, was constructed in modern times in the shape of a 7-block long cross around the cathedral with underground parking. The Plaza is also home to Degollado Opera House as well as many major government buildings. The San Juan d Dios Market, a five-story covered market, the largest in Latin America, is nearby. The market is very much like a U.S. mall and operates in the mode of an oriental bazaar.

The Plaza Tapatia serves as a formal and informal civic center to celebrate Mexican history and art. It is a central park, an open market and a gathering place for large open-air civic events such as concerts and political rallies as well as for small Sunday outings. It is the place to get a shoeshine or just spend a few minutes chatting with friends or neighbors.

We emphasize the many jewels of Guadalajara because CIRIMEX uses the wonderful, engaging city and its environs as a 24-hour a day, 7 days a week language and culture laboratory. Getting acquainted with its history, culture, politics, economy, arts, entertainment, social practices and religious base is a basic tool for probing the Mexican culture. It also provides multiple interesting opportunities for practicing Spanish!


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CIRIMEX students are also encouraged to explore the suburbs and nearby pueblos that offer special insights into Mexican reality. These include Tonalá, Tlaquepaque, Zapopan, and Ajijic. CIRIMEX provides almost daily tours to a number of these cultural sites. Students may opt for one guided tour during the school week. Transportation is provided.

Tonalá tours are offered on Thursdays. Tonalá is a working pueblo, a center for the manufacture of ceramics since before the conquest. On Thursdays and Sundays, Tonalá holds a huge tianguis, street market. There are 10 or 12 square blocks of street stalls offering every kind of practical merchandise as well as the work of local craftsmen.

Students visit a glass blowing factory, where boys 10 to 15 years old, work alongside older more experienced workers, to learn the glass blowing trade, in an institution much like a medieval guild.

Students tour the Sermel paper-mâché factory and it outlet store. They stop at the Bernabe Shop, where 4 generations of the Bernabe family produce the highly-valued petatillo designed pottery. From observation and conversation with the craftsmen and their assistants, students learn about the crafts themselves and about the economics and politics of operating a small business in Mexico and competing in the international market, as well as important insights into the reasons for external migration.

On Saturdays a tour is offered to Tlaquepaque, a suburb that is home to many craftsmen, artisans, art shops and specialty boutiques. It maintains the atmosphere of an artist colony so it is a stop in every tourist's itinerary. In the late afternoon students and tourists alike enjoy stopping to relax in the Parian, the city center, with a snack or cold drink to hear the mariachis play.

On Sunday's the tour will include the Ballet Folclórico, when it is offered, or visit to the Plaza Tapatia, the Orozco murals and the San Juan d Dios central market. The tour usually concludes with a short 45 kilometer trip to Lake Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico, now a resort and retirement mecca, drawing wealthy retirees from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Students tour the lakeside villages of Chapala and Ajijic and enjoy a relaxing lakeside lunch at the Real de Chapala.

They may also observe the tiny fishing villages economically destroyed as the lake became too polluted for fishing and the small farm pueblos also wiped out by the collapse in 1994 of the ejidal system, a federal system for land-holding via collective farming. The ejidos had provided a, however scant, livelihood for millions of compesinos. Students see for themselves the dead and dying pueblos whose working men and women have already fled north.