Jessica’s Journey Begins
By Jessica Arent
Bienvenidos A Guadalajara!
With my itinerary (AKA Dress Code) in hand, and my presentations reviewed for the hundredth time, I arrived in Guadalajara on a very wet and rainy afternoon. Cloud cover obstructed my view on the landing pattern into the airport. Fluent in Spanish, I breezed through customs & immigration, baggage pick up, and found my way out to “Arrivals”.
Greeters en masse. There stood what seemed to be a sea of faces with anticipation, joy, and relief, painted across them as they awaited their parties to emerge from the Baggage Claim.
Men stood there, with every imaginable flower, from Calla Lily’s to Long Stemmed Ecuadoran roses, some single, some in ornate bouquets and arrangements. Women stood with freshly made up faces, and tresses of carefully coiffed hair, and their Sunday best…smiles abundant.
Greeting me was Gabriella, the company’s Marketing Director. A long, tall, elegant drink of water, with flowing dark hair to her waist and a lithe frame, I immediately felt “well-travelled-if-not-overdone” and though usually consider myself a stylish woman, I felt frumpy and wilted next to her. Dressed impeccably, she stood there with a sign “Jessica Arent” and a smile to greet me and welcome me to Guadalajara.
The ride to the office seemed to take no time at all, as we hit it off immediately. Telling me a bit about herself, Gabriella, shared with me her family background in the Fashion Industry, her rise in the company under the guidance of her father, her breakout into the Chinese Market, and Introduction into legendary product market launches in both Mexico and China through the family business. She shared that she was the oldest of ten, and the one upon whom the responsibility was laid when it came to family. She also shared with me how she came to be involved in the team developing this new tequila brand and product we were to spend the next week collaborating on.
As she chattered on, Guadalajara rose up around me, with beautiful architecture, and smart cars everywhere! Guadalajara is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Jalisco, one of only a handful of states from which Tequila can be made and called “tequila” (but you knew that, right?), and the seat of the municipality of Guadalajara. The city is located in the central region of Jalisco in the western-pacific area of Mexico. Guadalajara is the cultural center of Mexico, known for culture, and arts, Fashion and trends, it is often called “the Paris of Mexico” and is considered the home of mariachi music, of which there are reminders throughout the city.
Lush and green, I noticed lawn and foliage everywhere. Bougainvillea adorned doorway arches and balconies and palm trees lined the streets. Color and vibrancy was abundant, like an energy the city seemed to possess. We passed aromatic taco stands, with patrons lined up on makeshift counter stools pulled up to food carts. As we traveled through the city, the sky clouded and the heavens opened and the smell of the plants opening to take in the fresh rain permeated the air.
Unlike Mexico City, Guadalajara is on an eco-friendly green movement. Instead of gas guzzling trucks and SUV’s like so many other Mexican destinations, I saw bicycles, Vespa’s, smart cars, people walking, skateboards and rollerblades, and everywhere signs to adopt parcels of parks and land to keep them green.
Not knowing much about Guadalajara, beyond the reputation for rich soils and minerals for agriculture, I learned that Guadalajara has a humid subtropical climate that is quite close to a rainforest climate, featuring dry, warm winters and hot, wet summers. Guadalajara’s climate is influenced by its high altitude and the general seasonality of precipitation patterns in western North America. Although the temperature is warm year-round, and known for the “eternal spring”, Guadalajara has very strong seasonal variation in precipitation. The northward movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone brings a great deal of rain in the summer months, whereas for the rest of the year, the climate is rather arid. The extra moisture in the wet months moderates the temperatures, resulting in cooler days and nights during this period. My timing? Wet season. It was perfect. With my hair already responding to the 98 degree heat and the rich humidity and taking on a life and mind of its own, kinking madly, I was grateful for the rain cascading down around us.
Driving through this huge city, I came to understand that Guadalajara is built around 5 primary fountains. Had you ever wondered about the traditional Mexican Villages, towns and Pueblo’s that seem to be built around a central plaza and a fountain? Those fountains were not for architecture, but had a purpose; just as these 5 fountains of Guadalajara. Fountains were once wells. It was here you came to fill buckets for home water, baths, and cooking. Accordingly, the five central fountains served each community’s water needs. Today the Fountains rise up from beautifully landscaped medians that showcase majestic bronze sculptures telling compelling stories of the city’s rich history.
Unlike many colonial cities that maintain their original town plan, in the 1950s Guadalajara underwent a major project that changed the face of the city. Older buildings were razed to allow for wide avenues with new constructions, underground parking lots, and shopping centers. Fortunately, the most beautiful older buildings were left intact.
I was astounded by this incredible city. At the heart of Guadalajara is the cathedral. With its twin pointed towers and central dome, Gabriella shared that it is the most recognizable landmark on the Guadalajara skyline. The Cathedral is surrounded on all four sides by “plazas, an integral part of all community planning in Mexico, as culturally these are the central meeting places for all socializing in Mexican communities. “Plaza Guadalajara” faces the cathedral. Its central fountain depicts two lions with their paws resting on the trunk of a tree, the city’s coat of arms. To the south is the “Plaza de Armas” with its art nouveau bandstand and matching lampposts. The adjacent “Government Palace” has a lovely baroque facade and a spectacular mural painted by Jose Clemente Orozco in the interior main staircase. To the north of the Cathedral is the “Rotondo de los Jaliscienses Ilustres”. This green space has a central circular monument with seventeen ribbed columns; the statues surrounding it represent Jalisco’s illustrious sons (and one daughter), people from Jalisco who have made notable contributions in arts, science and politics.
Behind the Cathedral is the large “Plaza de la Liberacion”, deriving the name to commemorate Miguel Hidalgo’s abolishment of slavery. A statue of Miguel Hidalgo holding a broken chain commemorates this historical event. The “Teatro Degollado” is at the far east end of the plaza. Guadalajara’s Ballet Folclorico performs here in this beautiful neoclassical building dating to 1856, and Gabriella told me to prepare myself, as this was Sunday’s activity and I was in for the cultural spectacle of a lifetime.
Coming around the back of the theater, I saw a fountain depicting the Guadalajara city founders. The “Plaza Tapatio” begins here and stretches over half a mile to the “Hospicio Cabanas”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Everywhere I looked were picturesque arcades and promenades, bubbling fountains, charming restored colonial buildings, modern sculptures, and happy people greeting one another with hugs, kisses, or great big smiles. Baby’s clung to mothers, and children ran around in circles chasing one another.
I tilted my head back against the headrest and breathed deeply, while I listened to Gabriella continue on the points of interest as we wound our way to the offices and the rain began to subside.
All too soon we came upon a tall modern office building, and pulled in to park the car and head on upstairs.
We paused at the door for a moment, as the sounds of gregarious conversation floated out to us. She turned to me and asked “Are you ready to meet everyone?” as an endearing smile spread across her face. Opening the door the room came to a dead halt in all conversation as we walked in, and a roomful of momentary strangers all turned toward me to welcome me. I say “momentary” because Mexican culture speaks to empathy, and engagement and the art of drawing you in, no matter how shy you thought you might be.
One by one, these gentlemen stepped up to me with an outstretched hand, a smile and a kiss on the cheek in greeting. The impressive 27 year old CEO, the distinguished gentleman who clearly had a fascinating story that spread across his face and came through his smile, that was the COO, and the enigmatic and enthusiastic Tequila Maestro. I realized in short order I was among the elite of the Tequila world in Guadalajara. More distinguished and certainly refined than anyone I had met to date in the industry, the first impression of this team of “Tequileros” was nothing short of impressive. Graciousness and Gentility is what came through from this cast of characters in my Epic Tequila Adventure.
Not long after arriving, I was introduced to the “juice”. There are no words to adequately describe this product line, other than “Epic”. Introduced by Jaime Villalobos Sauza, of the famed SAUZA TEQUILA FAMILY and proud 5th generation tequila aficionado, the nondescript “milk bottles” were opened one at a time and poured into tasting flutes. We collectively put our glasses to our noses with each sample, rolled our glasses to inspect “legs” and “crowns” and the Brilliance of the liquid in the glass, and one by one we tilted the glasses to our lips and drew in the liquid. Swilling for five seconds, inhaling deeply and swallowing, with a deep exhale, the notes and complexities of the distillations rose up, one after the other, promising a smooth, soft sipping experience and delivering a luxurious libation experience.
Dinner was soon offered by our personal chef, Josue Bañuelos (Now rated “THE WORLDS GREATEST CHEF” by this writer-I ate really well all week and lost weight!). As we sat down at the table, I took it all in. High above the cobblestone streets of Guadalajara, the pocket doors pulled all the way back so the soft breeze added to the “Al Fresco” mood. The delicately seared Sea Bass with a caper minieure sauce, fresh grilled asparagus with agave honey, and cilantro carrots plated on immaculate Villeroy and Boch White Bone China, the beautiful, carefully selected Reidel glasses, for the Chillean Chardennau chilled to perfection, all finished with a refreshing homemade Fresh Lemon Ice with red and black raspberries and mint; I began to understand the methodology behind the image of the brand. The first impression spoke volumes and the ideas began to formulate in my mind, like the flavors exploding in my mouth, so too were my pistons exploding with ideas!
Before I knew it, the evening had passed and I found myself on my way to my hotel to check in and settle in the for the night. I regretted emerging from the car, not yet done with the day, eager to see and learn and taste so much more, and dragged myself up to my room.
Unpacked and comfortably settled in to my room, I took a deep contented breath. I called the front desk and in Spanish asked for the wake-up call. I pulled the drapes on the traffic of Guadalajara, and submerged into the dark folds of the room, the breeze blowing the curtains in the window and sleep coming over me. I closed my eyes, eager for the next day to begin.
Read the continuation of Jessica’s Journey coming soon!
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.