Nothing Mundane about Sunday in Guadalajara
by Jessica Arent
Sunday, typically the only day off for those who work in Mexico, is a day of rest and socializing. Instead of working, this was the day I got to experience some of Guadalajara.
The day began with brunch at the hotel restaurant. Guadalajara is known for “Huevos Ahogados” (drowned eggs), and everywhere you look throughout the city, there are restaurant signs boasting that each has a better recipe or version than the next.
Seeing this everywhere, and having heard all about them from my good friend and marketing director from Casa Noble Tequila, Dave Yan, I decided this was the morning I had to try them. Whenever I inquired, I was told that the flavors of the dish are subtle and simple, yet still they produce a rich and creamy result. My darling tequila enthusiasts, I am told Huevos Ahogados have mystical properties of healing “Crudo” making this breakfast dish the ultimate, if not magical, hangover cure! Honestly I just wanted to bathe in all that yummy sauce!
Hollandaise move over! It’s an easy break up. Ahogados win hands down.
Poached eggs in a light, thin salsa is the base of the dish. Served atop Mexican savory pastry, like that of a light biscuit; this dish was incredible. While I did not have a hangover, I could clearly understand how this dish could be the antidote to “crudo” (hangovers).
With brunch concluded we head out to the center of the city; Destination the world famous Ballet Folclorico.
Held at the Teatro Degollado in the Central Plaza of Gudalajara, the theater was intended to be a monument of Guadalajara’s culture.
Inaugurated on September 1866 Teatro Degollado was said to “breathe life through its innovative beauty”. Degollado Theater was the outcome of Mexico’s 1800’s theatrical movement. There was a high demand for a great theater in Guadalajara. In response to the demand, on October 1, 1855, Antonio Perez Verdia proposed the construction of “Alarcon Theater” to the current governor of the time, Santos Degollado. By December 12 of that same year, Degollado signed the official decree to build the structure, and by March, 1856, Degollado set the first cornerstone of the building. April 1856, Jacobo Galvez was appointed to lead the initial construction of the theater. Unfortunately, due to a three year war in Mexico, and the change of government within the dispute, the completion of the project was slow. On November 12, 1861, Governor Pedro Amazon decided to change the proposed name of the project from “Alarcon Theater” to “Teatro Degollado “, after the ex-governor and general at the time of his death, Santos Degollado (killed in a battle on June 16, 1861). This change of name was not acknowledged at the time of inauguration, instead it was not until December 18, 1866, when Mexican liberal troops regained control of the plaza where the theater is located, that the name was officially recognized. See Wikipedia
I have had the opportunity to see theater around the world in some of the most beautiful venues. From London to Mexico, I can honestly say this theater might have been among the most impressive architecturally.
Teatro Degollado has been under renovation in recent years with a focus to improve the interior design. Adding paintings and giving it its current red and gold hues and colors, has been the most recent of renovations and beautification to this architectural masterpiece.
Before the theater’s first inauguration, Gerardo Suarez and Carlos Villasenor decorated the theater with a mural representing Dante Alighieri’s “Fourth song in the Divine Comedy”.
On 1877, Fermin Riestra was ordered to continue with the construction of the building; a three year process on which a gilded eagle holding a Mexican flag on its talons and a chain on its beak was placed on the center of the inner arch of the building. Within the three year construction, Felipe Castro painted the murals “Time and Hours” and “The Fame” on the proscenium arch. Between 1880 and 1890, the stucco on the concert hall was completed and a golden color was added to the interior walls. By 1893, tiles were removed from the stage, due to the lack of support they provided for the structure, and were replaced by a metal arch. Between 1909 and 1910 artist Roberto Montenegro focused on the reconstruction and decoration of the interior of the building which included the addition of a crystal lamp on the theater’s vault. Fifty years later, architect Ignacio Diaz Morales was in charge of a complete restoration of the building where sculptures by Benito Castaneda replaced Venetian mosaics. In May 2001, a chamber hall with capacity of 200 people was added to the inside of the building. What is extraordinary in the renovation and additions is that the architecture and the design of the building has not been compromised nor altered to update, but instead has kept its historical charm.
The theater’s exterior still holds its artistic origins as well. Thus, the architecture of the building age has not been compromised either. Between 1953 and 1959 Montenegro painted the mosaic of Apollo and the nine muses on the pediment of the theater. The portico supporting the pediment consists of 16 Corinthian columns. I was told upon inquiry of the docent that day that when Ignacio Diaz was in charge of the renovation of the theater, he ordered the engraving of the phrase “May we never get the rumor of discord” along Montenegro’s mosaic on the main entrance. Sadly she could not explain the meaning behind it and we are all subject to the interpretation we create for ourselves.
Produced and performed by the University of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, the “stamping” of the men and women of the Ballet Folclorico echoed throughout the theater, showing us the history and diverse culture of Mexico through music and dance, in order to seduce the hearts of those who observe and experience the production into a deep love of a country.
Sitting in the grand theater, from the first note, the music in the steps, the infectious rhythm and movements, and the vibrant colors and faces of the dancers, took us on a breathtaking musical journey throughout Mexico. Highlighting her cultures and subcultures, so that the audience would have the entire country experience: intense Mexico. Passionate Mexico. Wounded Mexico. Rejoiced Mexico. Solemn Mexico. Spectacular Mexico. There was not a moment the audience was not transfixed by the performance happening before them as they took this extraordinary rollercoaster ride of visual brilliance, music inspired emotion and country pride.
The pride of Guadalajara’s Arts and Culture, The Folkloric Ballet of the University of Guadalajara, has been a standing theatrical production every Sunday for nearly a century. This production contributes to the national heritage of Mexico. A collaboration of dances that transcend their origins, transcends time, and paved roads towards the world of onlookers to understand the diversity of the country and the traditions held so close to the heart, one becomes acutely aware that there is more history to this country than we know.
It is the effort of the production company to bring forth ancestry; grandparents and parents dancing themselves. What comes across to the audience through those performing on that stage, were the proud sons and daughters of that story; the dancers formed roots in their performance, with the artistry and mastery of choreography that spoke of love stories, and romance, traditions and values.
The production opened with a drum beat and an Ancient Aztec Warrior among his tribe calling to the God’s. The Aztec Dance, “Danza Azteca” in Spanish and “Mi’totiliztli” in Nahuatl is one of the most common manifestations of the native people of Mexico during the Pre-Columbian era. Danza Azteca represents man’s eternal search for cosmic harmony and integration. Presented without instruments, and instead through the rhythmic beating of their stamping feet and chanting. The chants express the process of physically and spiritually finding oneself. The dance has been referenced as a form of prayer to the gods and goddesses and epitomizes a way of life practiced by the Aztecs.
From the root of the Mexican culture of the Aztecs, the Folclorio Ballet Company took us on a journey from region to region, presenting the audience with Guerrero next. A tropical region on the Pacific coast of Mexico, this area was home to a large portion of Asians and also served as a safe haven for black run-away slaves who had been displaced all over Latin America due to the Spanish slave trade. Their cultural influences are apparent in the dances and musical instrumentation in Guerrero. The drum rhythms played in cumbias and salsas are derived from the African integration into Mexico.
The Yucatan dances and music are known as “mestizos” due to the Spanish and African influence. Some of the dances, such as “Jarabillos”, are of indigenous origins. When Europeans colonized and settled in Mexican lands, they brought their traditional dances, attire, and music, which was eventually dispersed throughout the country and mixed with the indigenous culture. In some performances, romantic serenades are sung by men and dedicated to a woman in attempt to capture her heart.
The Spanish influence on the eastern coast of Mexico is deep due the accessibility of trading ports in the area which made it a key location for colonization in the Americas. Presenting the state of Vera Cruz in particular, the dancers performed a series of pieces. To the audience’s sheer delight, “La Bamba” is considered Veracruz’s anthem, and was a focal piece of the performance, which of course prompted audience engagement. A fun song no matter where in the world you are, the music of Vera Cruz evidenced by “La Bamba” contains Afro-Cuban percussion’s and rhythms. The dance itself, however is an expression of courtship and incorporates an intricate footwork routine where the partners tie a ribbon into a bow using only their feet.
Sinaloa is steeped in history and legend, offering a vibrantly colorful essence in regards to their folklore. This segment of the performance focused on the deep dogma of the culture and Carnival of Mazatlan. With this area’s significant influences of the Indians, Mixtec, Zapotec, Nahuatl, Triqui Tarahumara , Mayan, and Yaqui Tlapanec have had influence in the region costuming. The German and Austrian influence in earlier settlement years has lent the polka rhythm that is “Banda”. This genre of music has become very popular in the country. Makes sense to me now why when in Mazatlan, I have heard Banda, I have wanted to bust out into the Chicken Dance!
Of course the grand finale of this colorful, musical journey could be none other than the immediate region and a focus on the great state of Jalisco. You know THE most recognized and symbolic Mexican folkloric dance comes from the state of Jalisco? This dance embodies the spirit and culture of Mexico…
Come on; I know you know it?!
The typical outfit for men consists of the “charro suit” and a wide sombrero with silver trim. Much of this tradition is based on the chivalry of the charro’ and the connection to ranch life in Jalisco.
Got that dance yet?
Okay! Okay! We closed with the most recognized and symbolic Mexican folkloric from the state of Jalisco. The Mexican Hat Dance. Duh!!!
Not only was I surprised to learn and understand that each region or state has its own source of pride, culture and traditions, but moreover the costumes that represent each of these states seemed just as diverse. With the costume of each rendering, we saw embroidered skirts and blouses from simple design to the most detailed and colorful designs imaginable. Skirts of various textiles, colors, with great expanse and color when pulled up and opened out like fans by the dancers. It was my observation that one consistent theme translated to the audience through each performance. Mexico is and continues to be the most romantic, love focused country in the world in my estimation. The theme of romance and relationships and young love traveled with us on the musical journey and no sight was more beautiful in this spectators eyes.
Mexico is Love.
By the time we emerged from the theater, the afternoon was, for the most part, gone. We were already into the early evening hours. Looking around though, you would not know it. The plaza was a sea of people, families and children. A community gathering in the traditional way, the center plaza to talk, gossip, catch up on the week or simply sit quietly on a bench and smoke a cigar, it was as if we, the tourists and obvious outsiders were not even there. Children ran everywhere, babies cried, mothers laughed, grandparents scolded, boys showed off their machismo and pretended to be indifferent to girls who tossed their long dark tresses and bat dark heavily lashed eyes in flirtation. A storybook picture on a lush green plaza beneath a crisp white gazebo in the land of romance.
A few meters beyond the plaza central is a historic neighborhood filled with the original haciendas and mansions of Guadalajara. Because the city is deep into a green eco-friendly movement these streets were blocked off. Regularly scheduled for every Sunday, the effort to promote the importance of environment and personal health is the driving force behind this picturesque scene. The street was alight with lovers walking hand in hand, kids skating on skateboards and rollerblades, families on bikes and people of all shapes and sizes walking dogs and promenading up and down these city streets. The Haciendas rose up from behind lush green gardens aromatic with brilliantly colored Hibiscus, and Birds- of-Paradise emerging from gigantic ferns and lush foliage. The European influenced architecture of these impressive mansions made each a statement. It seemed as I looked up and down the avenue each home and garden was more impressive than the next, each possessing its own character and beauty.
What Do You Pair With Grasshoppers?
Exhausted, my companions called it a day and seeing the opportunity to get together with an old friend for dinner, I made arrangements to meet my friend at “La Tequila” for a taste of Guadalajara and some tequila pairings. I was told this was walking distance from my hotel and would prove to be an epicurean experience of a lifetime.
A two story restaurant and bar in a residential neighborhood, featuring the best flavors of Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco and a long, long, long list of tequilas to choose from to pair with your meal or appetizer. Get this, the menu offers suggestions for tequila pairings with each menu item, including Grasshopper Tacos. Not bad, huh? It is a Tequila Enthusiasts dream…except those pesky grasshoppers.
You see these little darlings had been the theme of the week since arriving it seemed. A delicacy of the region like that of the Ahogados, everyone keeps a jar in some marinade, dried state, or specially flavored grasshoppers. It really isn’t pretty. Little legs. Wings. Bodies…. A recipe for a horror flick in my mind, I had so far managed to graciously beg off the little buggars throughout the week. I was not about to change that now……
La Tequila specializes in the dishes of the state of Jalisco and is nothing short of extraordinary. I savored rich aromatic flavors in fresh ahi, and duck confit.
At some point not long into our table service I asked our server for a copy of the menu, explaining I was writing this series and I wanted to share the restaurant with my readers. It was not long after a very young man approached our table and introduced himself with great pride as the General Manager of the establishment. I say very young because as it turns out, Adam was not more than a year older than my own daughter of 22. I was taken aback by his composure, confidence and self-assurance. Intrigued, I drew him deep into conversation to learn more about this young man. There was a caveat to the acquisition of his story; I HAD to try the grasshoppers. So curiosity prevailed and summoning my courage, and fighting down my gag reflex, I did my best to shut out the idea that I was voluntarily sliding big fat juicy summer bugs into my mouth, I ate grasshopper tacos. Yep. You read that right.
G R A S S H O P P E R in this girl’s mouth.
As it turns out, if you close your eyes and you don’t think about it, they are pretty good. A bit on the crunchy side with a bit of a “smooshy” inside feel, the little juicy red (marinated in a red sauce) prehistoric looking protein buggers weren’t too bad. I will be honest, I won’t be eating them a second time and I sure did not order a second helping of them, but I had the experience and notably picked legs out from between my teeth for some time thereafter. And all the while there stood Adam, a huge grin on his face and an insistent “Es Bueno, no?” exhuberantly escaping his lips. I mustered a smile and with all the enthusiasm in the world I could possibly muster I agreed emphatically and returned a “now I know what I have been missing”.
So Adam’s story in a nutshell?
Overqualified & Underpaid in Mexico
24 years old, raised in both Paris and Guadalajara, Adam was selected to attend the Cordon Bleu Culinary School of Paris, France. Studying savories and pastries, Adam has a degree in these from this notorious school. Further is a degree in Restaurant Management both front of house and back of house from the University in Guadalajara. Adam went on to tell us that his experiences in food have seen him personally selected to work alongside some of the most impressive world renown chef’s in the world, and it is Adam’s dream to take these skills and bring them to the United States.
Adam told me that he felt there was a market for the delicacies of ancestors and the indigenous people of Mexico and in an effort to completely emerge and learn the cuisine, he took six months and moved to Oaxaca.
No cell phone. No running water. No electricity.
Open fire cooking. Earthenware and stone pots are still used. The land is harvested for spices and flavor infusions and all the food for the mountain Indians is grown within the community. They are removed from society, technology and access and the only way in or out?
A burro. That’s a furry taxi, low center of gravity, usually identified in grey or black with a long front end nose and super backend hydraulics for tailgaters. Slower paced than the taxi’s we are familiar with, the Burro is still a means of transportation into the back country of Mexico. It is how Adam got to Oaxaca where, for six solid months, he disconnected from Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Viber, Twitter and Pintrest. It is where he disconnected from his family and shut off the phone. Where landlines don’t exist and Verizon still can’t hear you now. This remarkable driven kid, aspired to be unique and great and immerse into a subchapter of his own culture to bring better flavor and new innovative authentic flavors to the market.
Adam earns less than $10.00 USD a day in his position at La Tequila. He is among the better paid for Guadalajara. To put this in perspective the same position, with the credentials of this young aspiring food artist, in the United States starts at a salary of $50,000.00. The math? $160 a day on a six day work week USD to his $10.00 a day on his six day work week.
This young man was extraordinary. His demeanor and service standard exemplary and obviously an expression of his education. I wanted to bring him home and find him a job! If you happen to be reading this, and you are in the market for talent that is rare, Adam dreams of coming into the United States or Canada where his skills and intuitive talents will be recognized and appreciated and welcomes any and all interest! I am totally vouching for this incredible talent! (Contact me if interested)
The evening ended in the hotel bar with a snifter of aromatic seven year aged Anejo. The perfect nightcap to an amazing day.
Every day is an adventure in this world……every day.
About Jessica Arent
Jessica Arent has spent her career steeped in the Hispanic culture. Passionate about the Latin culture and experiencing roles that have taken her from television to digital marketing throughout the United States and Mexico, Jessica’s passion for Mexico runs in her blood. An accomplished writer, Mexico is where her heart lives and is the focus of her work and writing. Specializing in marketing Hispanic based products and services, Jessica will tell you there are few people in the world or places she has traveled, from Asia to Europe and in between, who compare to the Mexican culture. Building websites such as ALL ABOUT MEXICO and fostering the marketing endeavors of a number of tequila products, to name a few, Jessica sets out to inspire the world around her, one person, one relationship at a time, to know and understand the culture she calls home. Jessica is a partner at Intermountain Media, LLC, the Communications and Media Director of Terra Energy Resources Corp, and shares other travel and tequila adventures on her blog, Jessica’s Mexico.