Western Mexico's preeminent center for arts and creative innovation, flamboyant Tlaquepaque outshines even Guadalajara for its exuberant cultural heritage. Historically, the far North Eastern pueblo of Jalisco State was known as San Pedro during colonial occupation and subsequently, Georgetown. The etymology of Tlaquepaque stems from the town's historical roots as a Nahuatl settlement and means “place above land of clay”. Ironically, the conurbation of Guadalajara city is well known for its production of pottery and glass, much of which now fuels its thriving artisanal economy.
Located 4 km South East of Guadalajara, the municipality of Tlaquepaque is often regarded a mere suburb of the city. Home to over 500,000 inhabitants of mixed Hispanic and Indian origin, its vibe is distinctly more upbeat and less sombre than Guadalajara which prides itself on its strong colonial heritage. Favored by the wealthy aristocracy of Guadalajara for its tranquility and creative ambiance, the old town became a popular upmarket extension of the city during the 18th Century, where only the richest could afford to reside. Stunning feats of European-inspired decadence line nearly every street of Centro Historico (Historic Center) featuring huge colorful portales and archways, beneath which boutique art shops and private gallerias have now sprung up.
A verdant green and tranquil space, El Jardin Hidalgo within the Centro Historico remains the hub for Tlaquepaque's ceremonial traditions. Planted with bougainvillea and seasonally flowering shrubs, its heart is marked by an ornate kiosk, crowned with a single stone eagle and painted in the salmon pink often favored for the great villas. During the summer months, the kiosk is transformed into a bandstand and live theater stage, featuring mariachi bands and danza Azteca performers for the Feria de San Pedro in June, along with the annual Expo EnArt outdoor exhibition. At the South of El Jardin Hidalgo stands the 12 foot statue of Fray Miguel Hidalgo (the great Father of Independence) while his trail is commemorated by the granite-headed eagle, just to his right. The North quarter faces the beautiful facade of El Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Solitude) beset with monuments dedicated to Tlaquepaque's founder Fray Luis G. Arguello and great artisans of the city.
In stark contrast to Guadalajara, much of Tlaquepaque remains untainted by road developments and subways with more than 60% of El Centro entirely pedestrianized. With its huge arcades and proliferation of authentic Mexican restaurants, El Parián Plaza is a peaceful shopping experience with stall vendors happy to let you browse to your heart's content. Avenida Independencia is far more bustling and vibrant – the age-old haggle 'n' trade ambiance conveying the true character of traditional tianguis (outdoor markets), once found upon every street.
Located 35 km (22 miles) from the spectacular Lago de Cajititlan, the metropolitan city remains a popular choice for overnight stays and exploration of the mountain curtain, surrounding the infamous Lake Chapala. Upon the lagoon's North shore sits the quaint pueblo of Cajititlan, which has only recently found fame owing to its “Festival of the Three Kings” held every Christmas. Its also a great place to explore traditional Mexican fishing techniques, with several local experts offering guided days onto the laguna for a mere 30 pesos. Steeped in history and artisanal greatness, this little pocket of Jalisco is a great start if you're seeking a taste of traditional Mexico.