Travel to Guadalajara during Semana Santa can be a harrowing experience so we decided to make this Guadalajara week at Cuponismo, and we discuss things having to do with Mexico’s second most populous city. We break down a recent road trip that Cuponismo writer Justin Henderson made over the holidays.
Santa Semana – Going Against the Flow
Santa Semana is a MAJOR holiday in Mexico, two weeks of closed schools and a couple of long weekends for most workers. Those of us who live at the beach await its imminent arrival with a combination of fear and fascination. Fear because our little town of Sayulita is besieged with several thousand college students and Mexican families on vacation. They flood down from the big city, Guadalajara, on buses and in overloaded cars with heaps of gear strapped on top, fill every room and campground, erect tent cities on the beach, and generally take over the town. It’s Spring Break, Mexican style—Copacabana Beach meets Daytona Beach!
And it is fascinating to see it happen, and to be a part of it. Once. This was the second go-round for my family, and so instead of sticking around watching the beach get overrun with bongo-beating, singing, dancing Mexican hipster college students in tribal regalia and tattooed splendor, we fled—to Guadalajara and the nearby artsy-craftsy village of San Pedro Tlaquepaque, known simply as Tlaquepaque and thus possessed of one of my favorite place-names in all the world.
To get there from Sayulita you race up Hwy 200 through Las Varas and then climb a mountain (pray that you don’t end up behind a slow truck on this long and winding road without passing lanes) and down to the outskirts of Compostela. As we rose into those jungled hills, we watched an endless stream of cars and buses headed in the opposite direction—an army of vacationistas en route to Sayulita, San Pancho, Lo de Marcos, Rincon de Guayabitos, Chacala, and the other beach towns of Nayarit. Then we got onto the toll road, or cuota, Guadalajara-bound. Desert highlands, distant mountains, hot, dry wind. In one stretch, the glittery black lava fields of Volcan Ceboruco lined the highway, the volcano itself looming overhead as we passed through scenic, mostly empty country en route to the next big town, Tequila–not only a delicious alcoholic beverage but a place,
original home to the cactus from which that smooth, tasty and potent potion derives. Fields of blue-green agave were visible everywhere in Tequila country. We’ll get up there and sample the town’s wonderful variety of cactus-based libations very soon, and that’s a promise.
Meanwhile, fifty bucks or so worth of tolls moves you up the road—well worth it, as the ride is mostly fast and smooth until you hit the endless outskirts of Guadalajara. Carefully consult your street map before you plunge in, and if you’re headed to Zapopan, Tlaquepaque, Tonala, or any of the other towns on the periphery—all worth visiting while in the area–take the ring roads and avoid the city, as the traffic can be killer. We hit it at spring break when everybody was gone, traffic relatively light, and cruised into Tlaquepaque without breaking a sweat, but normally it can be a slow-crawl urban traffic nightmare. Do your homework, time your arrival, ease your traffic pain. Hitting Guadalajara without a plan is a little like arriving in, say, LA without knowing which freeway to take. Not a pleasant road to hoe, and a little information can go a long way.