La Fuente, an iconic bar in Guadalajara's historic city center, is a great place to revive yourself after a day of work or play.
Step inside and it feels like you’ve walked onto a mid-20th century movie set from the golden age of Mexican cinema. Old men are knocking back tequila at the bar, while others are crowded around small wooden tables, sipping Corona and munching on spicy snacks to the sound of an accomplished live pianist.
A typically Mexican bar founded in 1921, La Fuente is one of the oldest and most traditional cantinas in Guadalajara. Situated at Pino Suarez 78 in the heart of the historic city center, La Fuente is a stone’s throw from Guadalajara’s biggest square, the Plaza de Liberacion, making it the perfect place to stop for a refreshing cold drink after a day of sightseeing, shopping or work.
While cantinas were once an exclusively male domain, they are now commonly frequented by the fairer sex. La Fuente has established itself as one of Guadalajara’s most tourist-friendly cantinas,without diluting its authentic Mexican ambience or diminishing its reputation as a popular local’s bar.
The cantina has drawn an illustrious clientele over the years, including notable sports stars, musicians, actors, writers, journalists and politicians. (Conveniently for the latter, La Fuente is located right next door to the Jalisco State Congress building.) It has also become a favorite watering hole for local attorneys, who coined the phrase, “A lawyer who hasn’t been to La Fuente is not a good lawyer.”
The most obvious symbol of La Fuente’s rich history is the iconic bicycle mounted on the faded sepia walls above the bar. Legend has it that many years ago a local patron had a few too many drinks and found himself unable to pay the tab. As a sign of good faith, he left his bike behind and promised to pay upon returning for it the next day. For some reason he never came back, and the bike has remained there ever since, awaiting his return.
La Fuente’s current owner, Rogelio Corona, claims the bike actually belonged to an inebriated railroad worker who came into the cantina in 1957. When the staff refused to serve him because of his drunken state, the man replied “Fine, I’ll just use the bathroom and then I’ll leave.” But he forgot to take his bike with him and it apparently remained in the bathroom for over two decades, until Corona bought the establishment in 1983 and mounted it on the wall beneath an arched stone column.
Today La Fuente remains a place where friends of all ages can gather around a bottle of tequila and spend hours telling jokes, gossiping and engaging in heated discussion over soccer and politics. Clients can also request songs, and as the night goes on the live musicians often have the whole place singing and dancing.
This being a Mexican cantina, the menu is almost entirely comprised of a wide selection of tequila and a more narrow range of classic Mexican beers. Tequila can be enjoyed straight or as a long drink or cocktail, and the waiters will periodically appear with complimentary bar snacks.
While class divisions are obvious in many of Guadalajara’s snobbish nightclubs, La Fuente remains a bastion of egalitarian nightlife where rich and poor can both afford to drink. A bottle of beer costs under $2 USD, while a long drink will set you back anything from $1.50 to $7 USD. Whatever your budget, it is money well spent.
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.