So they sent me Jonatan, a local tourism police offer, who was even equipped with a gun! Jonatan was very friendly and spoke a bit of English, and together with my Spanish we ended up communicating fairly well. He first took me to the most important church of Tlaquepaque, called “La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad”.
The Cathedral of Tlaquepaque
This imposing church is located on the west side of the zocalo, Tlaquepaque’s main square which is officially called “Jardín Hidalgo”. We entered through the wooden portals on the north side and admired the lavish architectural details. Construction began in the seventeenth century and in the late 1800s a large dome with sixteen windows was added. This was the church for the rich people of town. The façade is characterized by several architectural styles including Baroque and Neoclassical.
The magnificent dome of the Cathedral in Tlaquepaque
Across the street from this imposing cathedral is the Parish Church of San Pedro, the church that was built for the poor residents of Tlaquepaque. At the entrance to the churchyard is a statue of Pope John Paul II who watches over this Neoclassical Romanesque building. My guide Jonatan had a real surprise for me: he was planning to take me up into the spire and on to the roof of San Pedro.
The main square of Tlaquepaque with the Church of San Pedro on the right
He obtained the key from the parish clerk and soon we were ascending the narrow circular stairs of the church steeple of San Pedro. The pigeons had left many noticeable marks of their presence in this narrow passageway. Finally we had reached the top of the tower and I could breathe freely again. We were looking right at the church bells and enjoyed a 360 degree view of Tlaquepaque and Guadalajara.
Jonatan in the clock tower of the Church of San Pedro
Jonatan pointed out all the different landmarks of Guadalajara to me, the Hotel Tapatío, the Jalisco Stadium, the Cultural Centre El Refugio in Tlaquepaque and many other buildings. From the church tower we walked over onto the church’s roof from where we had a fabulous view of the Municipal Market of Tlaquepaque and the main square. Sometimes I am really fortunate to get to see places that the average tourist does not get to see, and the rooftop of the San Pedro Parish Church was one of these examples.
Me on the roof of San Pedro
Back down on the Jardín Hidalgo we admired the statue to Miguel Hidalgo, the “Father of Mexican Independence”, and a memorial to all the important artists of Tlaquepaque who have passed away. The bandstand (quiosco) in the centre of the square regularly features musical and stage performances. Jonatan loves to come here with his family and enjoy the cultural offerings in Tlaquepaque.
My guide on the main square of Tlaquepaque with the Cathedral in the background
From here we started our walk along the Calle Independencia, Tlaquepaque’s cobble-stoned pedestrian main street which is flanked by many restaurants and art shops. We walked into one of the larger shops called Galería Rodo Padilla which features a wide range of local arts, but is most well-known for its rotund sculptures of human beings. Rodo Padilla is a famous local artist who has taken ceramics courses in Japan, Argentina and Faenza, Italy.
Some of Rodo Padilla’s famous artwork
Our next stop was at “El Parián”, a square building with a large interior courtyard that holds 18 restaurants. Tourists love this place because from the afternoon onwards, mariachi bands walk around the outdoor tables and serenade the patrons. A few steps north are the municipal offices of Tlaquepaque which are housed in a colonial building. Also equipped with a fabulous interior courtyard, the staircase and the upper level walls are adorned by striking murals. This location is a bit tucked away but a must for any art lover who comes to Tlaquepaque.
Detail of mural on the walls of Tlaquepaque’s City Hall
Then we snaked our way through the narrow streets of Tlaquepaque to see an artist in action: we visited the workshop of Paco Padilla (Rodo Padilla’s brother), who is a famous local ceramics artist and “cantautor” (singer / songwriter). We watched one of his employees produce several pieces on a potter’s wheel, all of which will be fired and painted with colours that have been specifically custom-formulated for this workshop.
Pottery production inside Paco Padilla’s ceramics workshop
Paco explained that the clay is from Monterrey and that the finished pieces are shipped all over the world. His employee produces about 100 cups a day and three or four large pots, all of which are fired at 1200 degrees Celsius. At Jonatan’s request, Paco, a famous local singer, pulled out his guitar and sang two of his own songs for me, both tributes to his homeland and his native Tlaquepaque.
Paco Padilla, the famous singer-songwriter, with me in his ceramics workshop
Our last visit on the local tour was to the workshop of Señor Carlos Perez Castellanos who produces gorgeous hand-blown glassware. The glass is intensely coloured and comes in shades of red, blue, yellow, green and many more; in total he offers 17 colours. He explained that cobalt oxide produces the blue hues, while copper oxide results in red, ferrous oxide produces the green colour. Red is the most expensive and most difficult to produce.
Exquisite blown glass from Tlaquepaque