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Guadalajara - a special tour of a lovely city

One hundred and ninety nine years ago, the Mexicans threw out the Spanish in the war of independence. Ninety nine years ago, the Mexican Civil war deposed a dictator in favour of democracy. And so next year there's going to be the most enormous of celebrations; parts of that involve computer generated videos (one for each week of the year - Battalon 52 project [YouTube Video Link]) and video games for the Wii. And it's the writing of the video games, the background work in C++ and Lua, that has brought me to Mexico.

At the end on Thursday, we all posed for a group shot - it's posted in a previous blog - here is the view that I had:

Photographing the teamand that evening I returned, exhausted to my hotel - yet with a feeling of a lot achieved and a job very well worth doing, and well done. I slept long and deep. Friday ... and rather than return direct to the UK, I helped with a couple of coding issues that had arisen in the morning, and then was taken on a tour in the afternoon. There's nothing quite like having a local guide when you're seeing a new place, and it's really refreshing to have a fellow geek, rather than a professional tour leader, to show you the place - for with a personal guide on a similar wavelength, you also get to see other places, and to learn something of the true life and times of Mexico, and of a person in Mexico. But I'm writing here about the tour from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. including lunch - my goodness, how much can be done in half a day!


Highway Scene, MexicoFirst and foremost, Guadalajara is a big city ... and a technological one. The sign on my way in from the airport said "Welcome to Mexico's Silicon Valley", so I rather suspect that future trips to Mexico would also be to the Guadalajara. And It's wired - "Internet" all over the place downtown, heavy traffic, bustling streets. So pictures like this one here really say no more that "look - typical big place" ... could be in the USA, except there are a lot of buses around; just two Metro lines (not sampled) and the new "Macrobus" which is a bone of contention!


La Minerva: The icon of the cityWith so much history, and an old City, there are memorials and statues all around. There was a limit to what I could take in (and I may ask Daniel a big favour to help me label!) ... but this is Minerva, and this is a roundabout, slightly out from the centre, where Mexicans gather on special occasions / at special times. Everyone is hoping that next year's celebrations will be positive, and nothing which matches the tumult of 200 and 100 years ago.


El expiatorio, a beautiful neo-gothic churchDaniel had told me he was going to show me the main cathedral in Guadalajara during our walking tour (and he had carefully checked that I was game for a walk) and this magnificent building looked very much like the Cathedral - in fact, I mistook it for that. But, no, this is just a church in a deeply religious Catholic country. I was (personally) glad to learn that the strictures of religion are now somewhat looser - for example, single parents are no longer frowned upon in the way they used to be. But still it would be unusual in Melksham to see people going into a church to pray during the day as was happening here.


White CowThe ancient mixes with the modern ... across from the church was a scene that reminds me of Milton Keynes on its side; there were cows like this all over the city at one time, as part of an advertising campaign, and this one has been retained.


Hole in the pavementCables being laid into sub-street trunking, and manholes are just left open. I wonder what the health and safety people would have to say about this in the UK - and indeed there were a lot of other times during my visit where the care and expense of avoiding accidents was less thorough than in the UK. "You need to keep your wits about you". I took care to find the emergency exit where I was working, but noted that the back door led me to, basically, a prison cell with a padlock attached to the rear of the building which would have had me cornered in a fire. I noted that we just mopped up the inch of water and carried on when the training room flooded, and that the too-short projector cable was a trip hazard (three of us got good exercise overstepping it all three days).


A "calandria", a traditional taxi only found on GuadalajaraThese are just tourist attractions! But there are yellow cabs, buses and trolley buses too all over the place. Sad, though, to see some of the electric trolley buses being replace by diesel vehicles, and those with robust sounding, meaty engines which had me wondering about their CO2 profiles.



At Exconvento del Carmen, Guadalajara, MexicoIn a typical Spanish Courtyard that's now a museum, you see the ultimate of well polished and maintained floors. There's no shortage of staff here to clean, to mop, to serve, and there's a tremendous mixture of the ancient and the modern, the well looked after and the decrepit - a gap which perhaps you'll see that much more in a poorer country rather than a rich one.


I've only got you halfway down town on this tour, and I'm only a quarter of the way through selecting pictures ... but I think I have given you a taster. Let me tell some more of the story in pictures:

Pedestrianisation encourages businessesAround the FountainShoe Cleaner standsTouristsModern buildings and poolWater comes out from everywherePidgeons are in every city of the world. This is GuadalajaraThe icon of the cityCooling OffReptilian StatueCathedral and FountainMexican Shop

If you would like to see all of those pictures larger, and also many more that I took (and some better ones, excluded just because they are in a different format) please look here.

Traditional Mexican dancersFriday evening, and I was taken out as a 'Thank you' and farewell dinner, to a Mexican Restaurant - "over the top Mexican" was how they described it ... but it was lovely to have the Salsa prepared at table, to see the Mariachis serenading couples at other tables, and in the courtyard to see the traditional dancing from neighbouring states.


Los arcos, this used to be the gate to the cityAnd so, after the sudden darkness that falls each evening because we are so close to the equator, back to my hotel. To fond farewells, to wishing the folks a successful show at SigGraph in New Orleans next week. Abril will have already flown out as I write this. And I must away and pack too; my driver arrives in two hours to take me to the airport, and two flights, a drive, and in a day's time I'm be back in Melksham. And with fond memories of Mexico ... it hadn't been in my list of "top ten countries to visit", but now that I have been here, I know it should have been!





3rd August - Guillermo ('Memo') writes: By the way, I read your blog, it's Mariachi. The pronunciation is said to be a deformation from the English word "Marriage". A long time ago, they were common in any party until the economics kicked in. A Mariachi should be at least an 8-man band! Mariachis dress up in a very similar way to a Charro. That's a recent change. Emilio Azcarraga, the Mexican TV tycoon, view a need for a more flashy style if they wanted to appear in any movie. Sorry for the trivia :) I thought you might enjoy knowing this stuff. Charros hate Mariachis, so one of the things we MUST avoid is having our hero act or be thought as a Mariachi!

I love the trivia! I have corrected the spelling (which originally was incorrect and had (sp?) against it!) and added that further information which may be of interest to others who stumble upon this page!

4th August - I have labelled the images here

For extra pictures taken during the course - see [here]
(written 2009-08-01, updated 2010-06-28)

 
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