Guadalajara today, is fast becoming a center for many industries that have recently entered Mexico as a result of NAFTA. (North American Free Trade Agreement) Many international companies have chosen Guadalajara as their home base, instead of the capital of Mexico City, because of the quality of life it offers and its strategic location. As a result of the many new toll roads that have been built throughout Mexico, Guadalajara is only a little more than four hours from Mexico City and three hours to the beach resorts of Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. Even Laredo, Texas is only twelve hours away and the 1,000 mile trip to El Paso can be accomplished in less than 18 hours, the great majority of which by 4-lane highways.
If you are thinking of visiting Guadalajara as a tourist, the city has much to offer. Interestingly, many foreigners have even chosen Guadalajara as the location for their retirement. The city has one of the largest colonies of foreigners (mostly American and Canadian) of any city in the world.
Guadalajara is a 450 year old city of 5 million people with so much culture and sophistication. Incidentally, the name Guadalajara comes from the Arabic or Moorish word, "Wad-al-jidara" which means "river of stones". The Tapitios (the name for the locals) are proud of their beautiful city and eager to introduce you to its beauty and charm. The museums, art centers, the Degollado Theater, the beautiful city parks, churches and exciting markets will fill your days with sights and sounds of Mexico that you will never forget!
The main plaza in downtown Guadalajara is the site of the city's most famous landmark. The Cathedral was started in 1571 and required more than a century to complete. The yellow-tiled twin steeples of the cathedral were rebuilt during the early part of the 19th century after being destroyed during an earthquake. Inside the cathedral are figures of many saints, eleven alters and it is also the final resting place for the recently assassinated Cardinal Posadas. Outside the cathedral are stands filled with rosaries, figures of saints, prayer cards and you can even buy "milagros". These small trinkets are made in the shape of body parts or animals. If for example, you have prayed that your "tennis elbow" or painful knee is healed and it gets better, you can buy a small trinket in the shape of an arm to be placed in the cathedral certifying that you have been cured by a "milagro" (miracle).
The Centro Historico is another name for the "old town" part of downtown Guadalajara. You can get a map of the different important museums, government buildings and plazas at the Tourism Department in Plaza Tapatia. This 7 square-block plaza is filled with important historical buildings and architecture, but is also where most Tapatios spend their free time in the afternoon or on Saturdays and Sundays. Make sure that you see the Plaza de Armas, Plaza de la Liberacion, Plaza de la Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres, the Government Place and the nearby State Museum on Liceo and Hidalgo and the City Museum on Independencia.
The Government Palace is located on the south side of the Cathedral between Morelos and Pedro Moreno streets. In front of this building lies the Plaza de Armas, which boasts a beautiful iron pavillion brought from Paris during the 19th century. The Government Palace was constructed during the 18th century and contains several exceptional murals painted by José Clemente Orozco. Probably the most notable among is entitled, "The Social Struggle".
Just behind the Cathedral lies the spacious Liberation Square. Sunday afternoons on the Square are filled with many people watching magicians and mimes, listening to musicians, buying things from street vendors among the fountains and tabachin trees. One can also admire the statue of Father Miguel Hidalgo, the father of Mexican Independence, who is depicted breaking the chains of slavery, for it was in Guadalajara in 1810 that he signed the decree to abolish slavery in Mexico.
Founder's Square is located at the rear of the Degollado Theater at the end of Plaza Tapatia. The plaza contains a fountain and a relief sculpture of the
first settlers of the city. It marks the exact site where Guadalajara was first settled.