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Guadalajara, or La Perla del Occidente (the Pearl of the West), with its year-round temperate climate, is a favorite destination for tourists and expatriates living in Mexico. Considered the “most Mexican” city, it offers all things typical: great mariachi ensembles year round and an international mariachi festival in September. Other attractions include charreadas (rodeos) that combine great horsemanship and cattle handling skills with splendid costumes and still more mariachi music; and tequila, with attractive day trips to the original town, Tequila, or rowdy excursions to a tequila distillery on the Tequila Express.
Mexican craftware is at its best here too, with easy excursions to the nearby villages of Tonalá and Tlaquepaque to stock up on quality goods and souvenirs. Religious pilgrimages and colonial splendor are also part of the picture in the miraculous Virgin of Zapopan, whose basilica is a comfortable taxi ride from the center.
Guadalajara downtown has big city attractions such as history, museums, architecture, art—especially the grand Instituto Cabañas—markets, and regional cuisine without most of the problems, apart from traffic, which is frankly a drag. Its inhabitants, known as tapatíos, of over four million make it the second most populated city in the country, with the Universidad de Guadalajara being the second largest university in Mexico and the tenth largest in the world. High-tech plants in the suburbs have led to its nickname as the Silicon Valley of Mexico and its soccer (fútbol) teams, Chivas and Atlas command a great local and national following.
The English language weekly newspaper, The Guadalajara Reporter, provides a good orientation for visitors.
Despite its size, Guadalajara does not have the notoriety for crime that mars Mexico City. However, pickpockets are fairly common and tourists are advised to be alert, carry only the cash they need for the day, and have their credit cards and other valuables hidden. An excess of traffic, speed bumps, and insufficient places for parking are problems in the city, and visiting drivers should be careful not to park illegally because they will get towed.
Police support is generally good for foreigners who are victims of crime. North American citizens in need of assistance due to crime or medical emergencies are encouraged to call the U.S. U.S. Embassy in Guadalajara. U.S citizens who are detained or harassed by police should also seek assistance at the Consulate. The American Citizen Services Unit and the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Consulate maintain very good relations with local police officials and can assist upon request.
Guadalajara smog is typically at its worst from November to early February and tourists with respiratory ailments might prefer to avoid these months when planning their visits. For IMECA (Metropolitan Air Quality Index) updated hourly reports, visit the Guadalajara Secretary of the Environment’s online report (0-100: satisfactory, 101-200: not satisfactory, 201-300: bad, 301-500: very bad).
The hottest and driest months are March and April, during which you will need a sun hat, sunblock, and plenty of water when sightseeing. Although it is advisable to take taxis from a sitio (legitimate taxi stand) rather than hailing them on the street, especially at night, Guadalajara does not suffer from the ugly taxi cab crime that has caused so much concern in Mexico City.