Every month of the year in Guadalajara Mexico includes a fun and festive celebration of local culture.
As Mexico’s second biggest city and one of the most culturally significant places in the country, Guadalajara hosts dozens of festivals and celebrations that draw hundreds of thousands of participants, special guests and tourists from all over the world each year.
Here’s what the city has in store for the rest of 2014:
May: Festival Cultural de Mayo
Guadalajara’s May Cultural Festival is a multi-disciplinary artistic event featuring opera, ballet, contemporary dance, electronic dance music and fine art exhibitions, among many other activities. Now in its 17th year, the festival has drawn over 2.2 million visitors throughout its history. There are 66 activities planned in 20 different venues across the city from May 8 to 31. The state of California is this year’s guest of honor and Gregory Porter, the winner of Best Jazz Vocal Album at the 2014 Grammy Awards, will be among the guest performers. Tickets for the different events range from 100 to 350 pesos ($8 to $27U.S.) and are available from Ticketmaster.com.mx.
June: Fiestas de Tlaquepaque
A delightful district popular with foreign tourists for its craft markets and cobbled streets, San Pedro de Tlaquepaque hosts an annual fair from June 14 to 30 in honor of San Pedro, the municipality’s patron saint. Centered around the Valentin Gomez Farias recreational center, the Fiestas include parades, beauty pageants, rodeos, cockfights, sporting events, fairground rides, live music and plenty of food and drink. One spectacular but somewhat dangerous local tradition that visitors may want to observe from a distance takes place on June 29, the day of San Pedro, when scores of fireworks are fired from wooden structures known as El Castillo and El Toro (the castle and the bull).
July: Intermoda Fashion Fest
Mexico’s premier fashion industry event, Intermoda is a biannual affair held at the Expo Guadalajara convention center every January and July. It has been running for 30 years and is considered one of the most important showcases of design trends in Latin America. Over 23,000 buyers attend the conferences and catwalks, where 950 designers from across Mexico and beyond exhibit their latest designs. Although this is essentially an industry event, visitors can watch beautiful models sporting next season’s trends and take advantage of trade stalls offering discounted accessories. The next edition takes place from July 15 to 18.
August: International Mariachi Festival
Guadalajara is the birthplace of mariachi music and charreria (Mexican rodeo), and these most emblematic forms of Mexican culture are both celebrated in this annual festival. Every year mariachi groups from all over Latin America, North America, Europe and even Asia make the pilgrimage to Guadalajara to perform nightly concerts and participate in the mariachi parade along Avenida 16 de Septiembre. This year’s event runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 8.
September: Independence Day
Mexico’s most patriotic day, El Dia de Independencia, marks the War of Independence from Spain, which began on Sept. 16, 1810. The festivities begin on Sept 15, with celebrations scheduled in almost every bar, restaurant or public space in Guadalajara. The biggest party of all is held at the Plaza Liberacion in the historic city center, where at midnight the Jalisco State Governor shouts “Viva Mexico!” in a reenactment of independence hero Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s stirring call to arms known as the “Grito de Dolores.” The annual celebrations also include parades and firework displays.
October: Fiestas de Octubre
Throughout the entire month of October, Guadalajara hosts the Fiestas de Octubre, a festival with a wide array of inexpensive attractions for visitors of all tastes and ages. Most of the events are held at the Auditorio Benito Juarez, where attendees can enjoy street entertainment and fairground rides, sample local cuisine, marvel at art exhibitions, browse markets with over 700 vendors, and sing and dance to live music. Adults pay 30 pesos to enter ($2.30 U.S.) while kids’ tickets are half price. Tickets includes entry to live concerts by famous bands from Mexico and abroad.
November: El Dia de los Muertos
Mexico’s best known festival, the Day of the Dead dates back to pre-Columbian religious rituals from over 500 years ago. Every year on Nov. 2, millions of Mexicans gather to honor and remember deceased friends and family. (Children are remembered on Nov. 1 – All Saints Day.) The nation’s cemeteries are packed as relatives leave offerings at their graves, including photos of the deceased, their favorite dishes and even packets of cigarettes and bottles of tequila. It is also traditional to decorate graves with cempazuchitl, orange marigold flowers whose sweet, enticing scent is supposed to draw out the spirits of the dead. The best cemeteries to visit in Guadalajara are the Panteon de Mezquitan and the spooky Panteon de Belen,where visitors can take a night-time tour and learn about the resident vampire.
December: International Book Fair
Guadalajara’s Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL) is the world’s second biggest book fair after the Berlin International Literature Festival. Held at the Expo Guadalajara, this year’s nine-day event runs from Nov. 29 through Dec. 7. The FIL draws hundreds of thousands of visitors, as well as prominent authors and intellectuals who come from across Latin America and beyond to attend prize-giving ceremonies, give talks, participate in debates and sign major publishing deals. The FIL also serves as platform for other countries to showcase their music, culture and cuisine in Guadalajara, as every year the guest of honor sends an envoy of cultural ambassadors to set out their stalls and give special performances throughout the event. This year’s special guest is Argentina.
Duncan Tucker is a freelance journalist from the UK. He speaks fluent Spanish and has lived in Guadalajara, Mexico for over three years. A former staff writer at the Guadalajara Reporter, Duncan is now associate editor of Nearshore Americas and also writes regularly for Al Jazeera and the Huffington Post. Much of his work can be found on his blog The Tequila Files. Follow Duncan on Twitter @DuncanTucker.