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North America » Mexico » Jalisco » Guadalajara
April 24th 2014
Published: April 28th 2014
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Hidalgo mural in Palacio de GobiernoHidalgo mural in Palacio de GobiernoHidalgo mural in Palacio de Gobierno

By José Clemente Orozco
You know what, every other country? Fuck you, I'm in México now!

First thing I notice, coming from Australia...no, let me start again. Basically, it's a really bad idea to travel from Australia to México. It's expensive, it might take you 36 hours, you might end up dazed and confused by the 13-hour time difference. With Perth, that is. You arrive earlier than you depart, and when you go back, you lose a day and a half. So what I really notice first is my massive jetlag. But ignoring that, I realise that I'm in a country that has CULTURE. It has its own distinct music, art, architecture, cuisine, etc. I find myself wandering the streets in wide-eyed amazement at the most mundane things, such as cacti and mangy dogs. The dirty, snot-nosed Peruvian kids playing next to their mum's handicraft stalls put a smile on my face. Then I realise that they're indigenous people from México, not Perú. Mayans and Incans must have mixed quite a bit.

Most cars I see are beat-up old bombs, and the people driving them have no regard for road rules. When they reach intersections, they don't stop, but blow the horn various times and speed through. "Oh, you Mexicanos", I think, shaking my head, happy to have another stereotype confirmed and to find what I expected.

I stay in an absolute shithouse with my hosts Ana and Edgar. They're artists. Even Ana admits her mum cried out in shame that her daughter lives "en una casa de mierda" when she first saw the place. There's really nowhere to put my luggage without dirtying it. Three seconds after entering, my pants are already all slobbered over by their three big dogs, former street dogs that they took in. I really love dogs, but these are too much, even for me. Surprisingly, my Spanish comes out alrighty after about five years of not using it. Of course, my former Spanish teachers would roll their eyes at my screwing up every grammar rule in the book, but I find myself communicating rather well, so who cares? We go to the shop around the corner to get a few Coronas, 1.2l-bottles, that is. After a couple of glasses, mi español starts flowing better and better.

Edgar tells me he has a German girlfriend and that he visits her every year for about three months. He also lets me know that his Mexican chica is about to come over, and not to mention the German one. When Miriam arrives, I can't help but be reminded of waitresses in traditional cantinas, at least as I know them from various films. She wears a colourful, semi-traditional dress and is all over Edgar. Yeah, better not mention la alemana. We drink a few more glasses, then get ready to go out to meet some of Ana's friends. She tells me they're fresas, which means strawberries. I have no idea what she means until she tells me the English word for it is preppy. I assume she tries to tell me they're hipsters or snobs. Edgar and Miriam take a little too long to get ready, so I ask Ana what they're doing. "They're probably having a quick fuck." Ay, why did I even ask. Three minutes later, we're off.

We meet the strawberries in a chic bar. They're personable art dealers, more like mafiosi, as Ana tells me. I have a few more beers and try to stay awake. We move on to a pub in the Historic Centre called Scratch, or Escratch, according to my Mexican mates. It turns out to be a pretty cool place with an unobtrusive live band playing decent rock. The crowd seems to consist mostly of students. I see quite a few tattoos, with old school and chicano-style most prominently featured. The beer selection is good, lots of Mexican craft beers on the menu. I try a couple and talk about nothing in particular with whoever sits next to me. When it's time to go, one of the preppy art mafiosi foots the bill. I want to pass him my share, but he refuses, welcomes me to México, so I thank him and let it go. For some reason, Miriam and Ana won't let it go and start screaming and hurling rapid-fire arguments and insults at each other. I have no idea what's going on, but I tell them it's ok, not to worry, let's just go home. After they finally agree to disagree, we're on our way, but they keep bickering and needling each other. At home, I ask Ana what that was all about. "Well, she said that he can shout everybody, but that you have to pay, because you're from Europe, and you must have a lot of money, as you can afford to come to Mexico. I told her she's racist, and she doesn't even know your background, and if he's happy to pay for everybody, what the fuck is her problem with that. They have money, probably more than you, to them it's nothing paying a few hundred pesos." I don't know if I should be pissed off at Miriam or at myself for trying to cure jetlag with a hangover.


***


In the morning, I put on my bravest traveller mug and head to the Centro Histórico, stopping by a Mum and Pop place for breakfast. I order chilaquiles, fried tortilla strips topped with white cheese and drowned in salsa verde. For good measure, I add some jalapeños and red pepper sauce. Mexican Son music is on the radio as I enjoy my utterly spicy desayuno, strangely content. In the centre, I visit a few churches as well as the stunning cathedral, before heading to Hospicio Cabañas, famous for its frescoes painted by famous local muralist José Clemente Orozco. The central ceiling fresco Hombre de Fuego is a visually impressive allegory bursting with symbolism. I strain my neck admiring it for a while, before heading to one of the many patios to take a siesta. Hey, do as the locals do, right?

I meet Olaff (man, Germanic names are popular here), one of my contacts in Guadalajara. We go to the market for a juice. He tells me he's an app developer, but also has started working as a porn actor recently. Oh-kay, I say. His screen name is Sancho Sánchez, and he shows me a (non-pornographic) picture of himself with a hot naked chick. In the photo, he has a large moustache and a big sombrero on his head. He says he speaks heavily accented Mexican English while doing the deed, as the flicks are for the Merkin market. We take a bus to the Barrancas, a set of canyons on the outskirts of Guadalajara. The sight of the deep, winding canyons is breathtaking. Even more so is the way we're taking to head down. There are old funicular tracks on an incredibly steep incline. Olaff says it's quicker to go that way. In fact, it's so steep that we have to hold on to the rails while, well, actually climbing down. Risking my life with a porn actor on my second day in México, ¡qué locura! It takes us more than an hour to get down, only to find a policeman directing us back up. We decide to take the adjacent winding path instead of the 45° ascent. Two hours later, we come across a tiny stall with an indigenous family selling drinks and sweets. We take a rest, down large bottles of water and eat some amaranth-peanut bars, before completing the hike.

I must say, rarely have I ever had such a good start with any country. Stay tuned for more mischief and locuras.


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28th April 2014

The joys of Mexico
Mexico is one of our favorite countries. Eager to hear more of your impressions.
28th April 2014

It is quite pleasant here
I'm barely scratching the surface this time. México is enormous and will warrant future, more detailed exploration. Cheers for reading and commenting! Jens
28th April 2014

love this!
Sounds like its gonna be an exciting trip!
28th April 2014

Gracias, Señor Hoe-say-veech!
I hope it will be as exciting as your Canadian trip, which I'm a little envious of, by the way. :)
28th April 2014
Camino hacia abajo

Fab photos and adventures!
Great start to a wild holiday! Love Guadalajara, your incredible friends, this trail, the murals, the chilaquiles and the adventures. Keep downing those beers--your Spanish will soon be perfect. More adventures, please....
29th April 2014
Camino hacia abajo

Cheers!
Thanks, Tara! The beers are flowing readily here, and every day feels like an adventure. How did I avoid Mexico for that long?
30th April 2014

Great opening line! Pásalo bien en México
30th April 2014

Gracias! :)

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