In a word, well two words, Talquepaque is a tourist trap. A place to make money off of visitors to Guadalajara. However, when a tourist trap is as lovely as Talquepaque I am willing to be forgiving. It began life and still retains the character of a small historic Mexican town. As has happened with other major cities, as the urban area grew the town was annexed by the city of Guadalajara.
My half hour long, and remarkably inexpensive, cab ride began at my hotel in Guadalajara's Centro Historico. Just a short distance from the 17th century churches across the street from my hotel the scene changes to one of auto shops, abandoned buildings and rolling garage doors buried under layers and layers of graffiti. Closer to my destination the streets narrowed. The buildings which lined them are painted bright colors and although modest in size there seems to be a sense of neighborhood pride in those living there, perhaps because of their proximity to the battered no man's land that lies between them and the center of the city.
My cab driver, in an odd coincidence the same one that had driven me back from the zoo the day before, drops me off at the edge of the district. A building along a pedestrian walkway with an arched arcade is filled with restaurants and shops. At that fairly early hour, 10 a.m., the stalls hawking wares one finds in such places throughout Mexico, are just beginning to come to life. I crossed the main plaza with it's ubiquitous bandstand, every town seems to have one, and visited the two nearby churches. Construction began on both in the 17th century but neither was completed until the 19th century. The San Pedro Apostal Church, the smaller of the two, resembled several of the others I had seen on this trip. The other, The Sanctuary of the Virgin Mary, was a different story. It features a stunningly beautiful interior of carved wood and stone and is filled with natural light which streams in from the windows around it's dome.
I wandered the narrow streets, many restricted to pedestrians only, lined by beautiful historic buildings. The lush courtyards of mansions were visible behind iron gates. The goods in the stores ranged from souvenir kitsch to massive chandeliers and heavy wooden furniture. Colorful textiles were stacked in high piles. Cheap bead and plastic jewelry was juxtaposed against more pricey silver pieces. Sculptures dotted the tiny lanes. Some examples in this public art display were realistic and representative, some more abstract. I stopped in one shop to purchase a Christmas ornament, a small terra cotta pinata. Showing the young men helping me a photo on my phone of our heavily laden Christmas tree he grinned and said "one more!"
A cool breeze broke the warmth of the afternoon sun as I began to make my way back to the main square to hail a taxi to return me to my hotel with the fair number of bags I had collected during my shopping expedition. I stopped in my tracks and almost shrieked like a girl when I realized that 5 men were preparing to perform the Danza de los Valadores. I had seen this performed once before in Mexico City. An American couple nearby were speaking with each other wondering what was going on as the men climbed the tall pole one by one. I told them it was worth waiting for. 4 of the men launch themselves off of a wheel at the top of the pole operated with his feet by the fifth man. Ropes tied to both their feet and the wheel hold them upside down as the wheel spins and they are lowered slowly to the ground going around and around as the ropes wrapped around the wheel unwind. There is a video on YouTube that will give you some idea of the spectacle but nothing can compare with seeing it performed in person.
Did I behave like a tourist? Yes, unashamedly! Sometimes you just have to.