After breakfast that first morning I set out on foot to explore Guadalajara's Centro Historico. My hotel was located on the edge of it directly across the street from a 17th century chapel and cathedral dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. They and a set of arches off the side of the cathedral are all that remains of a Franciscan order convent that once sat on the site. The Aranzaza chapel is lovely and colorful. Carved wooden wains coating runs along it's walls. Outside is the Jardin de San Francisco de Asis. It is intended to be a oasis amid the noise and frenetic pace of the city, a task made difficult by the cars, buses and streams of people in this busy area.
I walked down streets of 19th century facades abutting typical Latin American poured concrete buildings. I discovered early on that stoplights are only a suggestion. If you can cross the street you go, red light not withstanding. The grace of the art nouveau bandstand in the Plaza la Constitacion was somewhat diluted by the construction of an expansion of the city's light rail system taking place next to it. The Cathedral of Guadalajara, dedicated in 1618, is considered, because of it's architecture, to be one of Guadalajara's greatest treasures. The interior, though beautiful, was, as was true of all of the many churches I stepped into that day, strangely less inspiring than the small chapel across from the hotel.On the outside the cathedral's dome features a black Greek key design on a yellow background. The same yellow tile adorns the steeples of the venerable religious shrine.
The historic area of the city is a place of expansive plazas amid centuries old churches, government and public buildings. Looking through open doorways one sees colonnaded courtyards. Many people cross themselves as they encounter the churches, which seem to grace every block. I begin to wonder how there are enough people to fill them. The history of the area is juxtaposed against the masses of cars, buses and never ending torrents of people.
As the afternoon approached arcaded sidewalks provided cool shade from the tropic like heat. I thought back to the previous week of Chicago winter when I stood in bedroom, suitcase open, naively thinking I had over packed tee shirts as I felt the sweat trickle down my back.
I wandered back streets where the main industry seemed to be print shops behind graffiti scarred rolling garage doors on the first floor in fading historic storefronts. I used a t.v. antenna on top of a modern structure as a landmark until the dome and spire of the cathedral across from my hotel once again came into view bringing me back to my room after a stroll through 400 years of Mexican history.