I visited Jalisco as part of a two-week adventure in Mexico, preceding a six-day trip to three beautiful cities - all with highly distinct charms - in the central part of the country: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City, and Puebla. (I can also say my hotels in these three places - Casa de Sierra Nevada in San Miguel, Hotel Condesa in Mexico City, and La Purificadora in Puebla - have all been exceptional). I spent a full week in the friendly, culturally rich, and affordable city of Guadalajara, the second-largest metropolis in Mexico, which somewhat to my surprise, has a remarkably vibrant gay scene.
I'd long heard about the elegant buildings and churches that make up the city's historic center, the stylish shops and cafes of the fashionable suburb of Tlaquepaque, and the easy proximity to the beloved town of Tequila, home to the Sauza, Jose Cuervo, and numerous other fine distilleries. Indeed, there's much to see and do in Guadalajara and the surrounding region. But I hadn't known that the city has nearly two-dozen gay bars as well as gay-friendly colonial B&Bs and plenty of welcoming restaurants and cafes, the majority of them within easy walking distance of the central Plaza Tapatia.
There's also a well-attended Guadalajara Gay Pride festival held at Plaza Liberación in mid-June each year.
Here are just a few quick highlights I'd suggest any GLBT visitors to the city rank among their top priorities:
- Viewing the brilliant (and mammoth) ceiling murals by Jose Clemente Orozco inside Instituto Cultural Cabanas, a former orphanage at one end of the City Center's main plaza that's been converted into a spectacular cultural arts center.
- Eating tacos al pastor (delicious shepherd's-style lamb, pork, or goat tacos prepared at numerous street carts and small cafes around the city) or one of the frozen ice desserts (flavored with vanilla and walnut) sold by street vendors in Tlaquepaque.
- Partying into the wee hours at one of Guadalajara's vibrant, friendly, and wildly energetic gay nightclubs - Ruta Caudillos is a pulsing, see-and-be-seen spot for partying and music by the city's top DJs, Angel's is the place for clubbing and dancing late on Saturday nights, California's is compact but festive and fun, El Ciervo is a long-running gay favorite for drinks and hobnobbing, and Club YeYe is a relaxed but hip gay cocktail bar - these are mostly in the City Center or nearby Zona Rosa
- Staying at one of the city's old-world elegant B&Bs, such as the posh and gay-friendly Villa Ganz in Zona Rosa, or more affordable but still highly charming gay-owned (mixed gay/straight clientele) options near the City Center, such as La Perla and Old Guadalajara B&B.
- Dining at some of the city's more sophisticated, high-end restaurants, which are still quite affordable compared with other large North American cities. Some of the best spots are along the main Independencia pedestrian way in Tlaquepaque, which is a short cab ride away.
- Taking cooking classes or simply enjoying a student-prepared meal at the highly regarded Escuela Culinaria Internacional, one of several excellent culinary schools in Guadalajara.