Jalisco is the very heart of Mexico, the spirit you imagine when you think of this country. Hell, it is the birthplace of Mariachi, tequila, the sombrero, and Ranchera music! (Listen to the great Vicente Fernandez, the gifted Ranchera artist sing his heart out in Volver, Volver . Ranchera music is similar to country and western music, often held in low esteem by Mexicans themselves, and full of lovin’, hurtin’ and longin’. I love it.)
Encompassing more than 30,000 square miles, this state in western Mexico represents the best of Mexican culture. It is home to historic colonial cities, miles of sandy beaches that stretch along the Pacific, and a long history of national pride.
Guadalajara is the state capital, a city of elegant culture, well preserved architecture and superior artisans. Close by is Tlaquepaque, a place known for it excellent crafts and handmade artisanal products, where you can pick up a hammered silver tray, an intricate beaded necklace, or a carved Mexican sideboard. Many visitors hop aboard the Tequila Express to tour the numerous distilleries that take the juice of the blue agave and turn it into one of the world’s most famous libations.
Barre de Navidad is one of those gorgeous cities that grew from a small fishing village, around a lovely bay. It still retains that authentic feel, though many may remember it best as the location for the movie “Ten”, famous for Bo Derek’s white bikini and beaded braids. It sits in an area called the Costalegre, known for its protected beaches, five star resorts and natural beauty.
Puerto Vallarta is an artist colony, a beach paradise and a party destination during Spring Break. Its gorgeous beaches, lining the blue water of Banderas Bay, are usually busy with sunbathers, or those enjoying a lovely lunch, with a cold cervesa and their feet in the sand. Or maybe they are just kicking back in a deck chair, watching the sunset.
PV is also the city of romance. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love here while filming Night of the Iguana, and Liz maintained a home here for many years. There’s a cool statue of director John Huston in a small square near the river. While there are excellent American style hotels and resorts on the edge of the city, the centre of PV, its real heart, is the old town, still retaining its cobbled streets, its crowded outdoor cafes and plentiful galleries. The Malecon snakes along the edge of the Bay, offering the chance for a slow promenade past sculptures, cafes and markets, but always with a view of the sea.
In nearby Riviera Nayarit, there are sophisticated hotels and upscale restaurants, while in Sayulita the hippie crowd hangs out, enjoying the surfing.
And secluded Lake Chapala offers a quieter cultured visit, further inland, where large numbers of expats who came to visit and fell in love with the area’s charm, make up one of the largest communities of Americans living outside the US.
It’s all here, in Jalisco – the many flavours and colours of Mexico – and like many visitors, you may never want to leave.