“Don Juan” Ron
Let’s start with a bit of history; Mexico has 31 states set up much like their US counterparts. Many people recognize Mexico City, Acapulco, Cancun and Cabo San Lucas. But I had to check my map when I was invited for a travel conference in Jalisco. Does it help if I tell you Puerto Vallarta is in Jalicso? The travel conference (North American Travel Journalist) took place in that beach resort city some 200 miles away, followed by a day in Tequila, one of the two treasures of Jalisco along with Mariachi. Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest metropolitan area with a population of 6 million. My home for 2 nights was the Fiesta Americana with a room on the executive floors that offered a continental breakfast, canapés and wine in the evening.
Guadalajara (Arabic for river that runs among the rocks) is located 350 miles from Mexico City in the western end of Mexico (remember, Puerto Vallarta borders on the Pacific Ocean). The Mariachi Band was “born” in Cocula, about 46 miles southwest of Guadalajara and is immortalized with a Mariachi Museum. We detoured for lunch at the 16-room Hotel Hacienda del Carmen, about 36 miles from Guadalajara. The converted monastery offered horseback riding, golf, tennis and a modern spa in sharp contrast to the 282-year old building. The individualized rooms were large with high ceilings and modern bathrooms. On the way into Guadalajara we stopped to tour the Guachimontones archaeological site, just outside the city of Teuchitlan. It was a long walk up to the site. They took pity of me and let me ride the van up to the top.
We spent a day in the historic downtown center. It is the oldest section of the city where it was founded and where the oldest buildings are located. We visited the cathedral, capitol building (seat of the Jalisco government), Plaza de Armas (central plaza), Plaza Tapatia, Plaza de Mariachis and the Hospicio Cabanas. Don’t miss the Cultural Institute, with the J.C. Orozco paintings on the ceilings and walls portraying graphically the history of Mexico, both religiously, governmental and socially. The same artist has several murals in the capitol rotunda. Make sure you get a guide to explain the symbolism of all his work. They will give you an insight into Mexican history from rule by Spain through independence (1810), celebrated every September 16th. The Centro Histórico is packed with shops. You’ll find the most products under one roof at Mercado Libertad, one of Latin America’s largest markets. The adjacent cities of Tlaquepaque and Tonalá are arts-and-crafts meccas. We spent an hour there walking & shopping.
Now for the national drink- Tequila. The finest brands are 100% Blue Agave which is not a cactus but part of the lily family. Others can be labeled tequila without the 100% agave imprint. There are white or silver and gold (caramel added for color) perfect for mixing and in Margaritas; Reposado that is aged 2 months to 1 year and Anejo, aged 1 to 5 years using oak casks. Don’t confuse tequila with mezcal, made from other agave and in the state of Oaxaca. The two major centers for tequila are one hour east (town of Arandas) and one hour west (town of Tequila) of Guadalajara. Your first visit in the town of Tequila should be the private Museum of Sauza; then the public Museum of Tequila and finally the tour at Cuervo, the largest producer. After a tour of the distillery and the agave fields try to get an invite to La Rojena, Cuervo’s private reception area across the street from the distillery.
The agave plant is of the lily family
Cuero’s private reception area
Jalisco has something for everyone; culture, history, artifacts, shopping, great weather, fine dining, terrific hotel choices and of course Mariachi music, plus Mexico’s national drink- Tequila.
About the Author:
Ron Kapon has over 50 years experience in the wine & spirit field, starting with his first drink (mixed with water) at age three. His family’s business – Acker, Merrall & Condit – was established in 1820 and is the oldest wine merchant in the United States as well as the largest wine auction company in the world.
Click www.ronkapon.com to check out Ron’s website or connect with him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/vinoron