The city of Guadalajara would move four times before coming to its modern site in February 14, 1542, when a group of young Spanish families settled in the area that is now the city’s current location. Guadalajara prospered in 1560 when it was declared the capital of Nueva Galicia province. At the heart of a rich agricultural region, the city quickly grew into one of colonial Mexico’s most important population centers and became the launch pad for Spanish expeditions. Miguel Hidalgo, a leader in the fight for Mexican independence, set up a revolutionary government in Guadalajara in 1810, but was defeated near the city in 1811, not long before his capture and execution in Chihuahua. The city was also the object of heavy fighting during the War of the Reform (1858−1861) and between Constitutionalist and Villista armies in 1915.
By the late 19th century, Guadalajara had overtaken Puebla as Mexico’s second-largest city. With a population of more than 4 million inhabitants, the city is a huge commercial, industrial and cultural center and has developed into the hi-tech and communications hub for the northern half of Mexico.
Guadalajara is the traditional cultural center of Mexico. From the heart of this region, some of Mexico’s most iconic traditions originated. Visitors are captivated by mariachi music, wide-brimmed sombreros, rodeos, artisan makers and neogothic architecture — all surrounded by beautiful fields of blue agave to produce the world’s purest tequila. Guadalajara also has one of the strongest and most influential young cultural communities in Latin America.
Spaniards introduced cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and all other animal‐based foods, including dairy products and lard, as well as wheat, olive oil, rice, spices, and several European varieties of fruit, nuts and vegetables, to the area in the mid‐1500s. The settlers who came to the region from different parts of Spain, including Austrians, Basques, Galicians and Andalucians, quickly adopted chilies and tomatoes, which they used in barbacoa and stews called pucheros. Their voyages to Jalisco’s coast yielded culinary combinations such as fish and seafood seasoned with saffron and other European spices. Eventually, they accepted the Mesoamerican dietary staple, corn, using it to make enchiladas, quesadillas, gorditas, and even tamales – the pre‐Hispanic version of which was transformed from a somewhat dry, grainy (though healthy) food into a light, lard‐infused dough filled with pork and chilies.
Today, there are some key ingredients that are ever‐present in Guadalajaran cuisine. The classic corn tortilla appears on every table to accompany absolutely every meal regardless whether if it is sweet or salty. Chili is a must in all dishes, from a simple tomato sauce with chili to the more elaborate chipotles and guajillo peppers crushed in stone molcajetes (mortar and pestle). Beans are a primary legume, another element of Guadalajara culture that is synonymous with the inhabitants of Mexico – and used in all the regional dishes. Fruit is often used to make desserts, liqueurs, jams, and preserves such as guayabates (quince rolls) and peach jam.
Local street food includes tacos with various fillings and flavor profiles and breads and tortas (sandwiches) filled with meat or vegetables. Refreshing drinks made with fruit create a beautiful rainbow of color; red from hibiscus flower, pale rose from watermelon or strawberries, yellow from mangos, and deep orange from tamarind. Traditional sweets include apples wrapped in caramel, candied fruits and coconut alfajores cookies.
Guadalajara’s signature dish is the torta ahogada, a “drowned sandwich” that is a sandwich stuffed with fried pork before being drenched in a spicy tomato chili sauce and served with avocado, onions, and radishes. The dense roll used in this dish can only be found in Guadalajara due to the type of wheat used to make the bread and the city’s altitude. The torta ahogada can be found throughout the city at various food stands and restaurants.
Getting to Guadalajara
The metropolitan area of Guadalajara is accessible via the Miguel Hildalgo International Airport (GDL), located 24 miles from the city center of Guadalajara, with direct flights available from major cities across the United States and Canada, such as San Francisco, Miami, LA, Chicago and New York.
Traveling Within Guadalajara
Guadalajara has well-built, modern highways connecting the city to its surrounding metropolitan area and beyond. Taxis, public transportation via buses and car rentals are all available and easily accessible to visitors.
For local bus service, Antgua Central Camionera is one mile south of Guadalajara Cathedral. For long-distance bus rides (non-commuter) Nueva Central Camionera is 6 miles southest of Guadaljara city center, past Tlaquepaque.
The Guadalajara light rail system serves the municipalities of Guadalajara, Zapopan and Tlaquepaque. The system currently has two lines: Line 1 runs from north to south and Line 2 runs from downtown to the east, with 10 stations. Line 3 is currently under construction.