Home to over four million inhabitants, Guadalajara is best known as the birthplace of tequila, mariachi music and charreria (Mexican rodeo). But the city has also produced an array of music, film and sports stars that are recognized the world over. Here are ten of the most famous “Tapatios,” as people from Guadalajara are known:
Guillermo del Toro
A world famous Hollywood director, Guillermo del Toro was the man behind Spanish-language fantasy/horror flicks The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, as well as more mainstream American action movies like Blade II, Hellboy and last year’s epic blockbuster Pacific Rim. Del Toro, who turns 50 next month, also worked as the producer of The Orphanage, Julia’s Eyes, Biutiful, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, and Mama and helped script Peter Jackson’s big-screen adaptation of The Hobbit, which he was once in line to direct. In recognition of his success, del Toro was even invited to direct the traditional “couch gag” in the opening sequence of an episode of The Simpsons last year. The extended sequence, which featured dozens of monsters and villains from del Toro’s favorite horror movies, was hugely popular among fans.
Gael Garcia Bernal
A handsome and highly talented actor and director, Gael Garcia Bernal made his breakthrough in the hugely popular Mexican films Amores Perros and Y Tu Mamá También. He received further acclaim for his portrayal of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara in the popular Spanish-language road movie The Motorcycle Diaries and has since starred in Hollywood films such as Babel, Letters to Juliet and Will Ferrell comedy Casa de Mi Padre. Having taken part in peaceful demonstrations during the Zapatista uprising of 1994, Garcia Bernal has always been a committed social activist and he helped to create not only the Ambulante organization and film festival, which works to bring documentary films to places where they are rarely shown, but also the Amnesty International Short Documentary Series Los Invisibles.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is one of Mexico’s most beloved soccer players. Having made a relatively low-key start to his career at local side Chivas de Guadalajara, Hernandez raised eyebrows when he signed for Manchester United, then the biggest club in England, in 2010. Undaunted by taking such a huge step, he made an immediate impact, winning the English Premier League and starring in the Champions League final in his debut season.
Despite not playing as regularly in the last two years, Hernandez took another giant stride forward last week by joining Real Madrid, one of the richest and most successful clubs in the world. Hernandez has starred in two World Cups for the Mexican national team and with 36 goals in 66 appearances he is already the nation’s third highest goal scorer of all time. Having only recently turned 26 years old, he needs just 11 more goals to break the record. Few would bet against him.
Although still only 24 years old, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has come a long way from learning to fight at his family ranch in Juanacatlan on the outskirts of Guadalajara. The red-haired boxer earned $19.5 million last year, making him the 66th best paid sportsperson in the world, according to Forbes. Alvarez boasts an impressive record of 44 wins (31 knockouts), one loss and one draw, with his only defeat coming against the world’s greatest boxer, Floyd Mayweather, in a highly anticipated bout at Las Vegas’ MGM Arena which broke box-office records last September.
No one exemplifies Guadalajara’s rich musical heritage better than Vicente Fernandez. Nicknamed “the King of Ranchera,” a traditional guitar-based form of Mexican music, Fernandez released almost 60 studio albums, plus dozens of live albums and compilations from 1965 to 2013. In total, “Chente,” as he is affectionately known, has sold over 50 million records worldwide. Most Mexicans grew up with his music and almost everyone knows the lyrics to at least some of his songs. The 74-year old singer finally retired last year, but fortunately for fans his son Alejandro Fernandez, another successful singer, continues to carry the flame.
Arguably the biggest Latin rock band in the world, Maná are a four-piece from Guadalajara who combine calypso, reggae and ska influences to create catchy pop/rock tunes. Since first finding fame with their seminal 1992 album ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Niños? Maná have won four Grammy Awards and seven Latin Grammys and sold some 35 million albums worldwide. They are hugely popular in the United States and even performed at President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign rallies and his re-inauguration ball.
From April 2007 until her retirement in May 2010, Lorena Ochoa was the world’s top-ranked female golfer. The only Mexican – male or female – to ever be number one in the world, she is considered the greatest golfer her country has ever produced. Ochoa grew up at her family home beside Guadalajara’s swanky Country Club and certainly took advantage of her surroundings by honing her craft on the golf course form a young age. Although now retired, she continues to host the annual Lorena Ochoa Invitational tournament, part of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour. The competition, which debuted in 2008, draws the world’s best female golfers to Guadalajara to compete for $1 million in prize money every November.
Sergio Perez (pictured above)
One of two drivers currently representing Mexico in Formula One, 24-year-old Sergio “Checo” Perez has been largely responsible for a surge in the sport’s popularity in recent years. Perez made his Formula One debut for team Sauber in 2011 and the following year he became the first Mexican to claim a place on the podium in 41 years when he finished second in the Malaysian Grand Prix. Perez went on to join for the 2013 season McLaren and then moved again to Force India in 2014. As of next season, he will be able to race in front of a home crowd for the first time, as Mexico City recently signed a lucrative deal to host five seasons of Formula One from 2015.
The daughter of a local dentist, Ximena Navarrete studied nutrition before shooting to fame in 2010 when she won the Miss Universe beauty pageant. After touring the world for the year, the stunning 26-year-old has since established herself as a successful model and actress. She is a spokesperson for L’Oreal Paris and Old Navy and starred in the popular 2013 soap opera La Tempestad. Navarrete is also an active proponent for humanitarian causes and in 2011 she campaignedto raise awareness for Children International, a U.S.-based humanitarian organization helping over 12,000 poor children in her native Guadalajara.
Born in Guadalajara on February 8, 1930, Gabriel Flores was a prominent Mexican painter and muralist who died on December 14, 1993. He was involved in the arts since early childhood and at the age of 18 he entered the School of Fine Arts at the University of Guadalajara, where he and other local painters formed the Neo-realist art group.Much of his work focused on historical themes of poverty, social injustice and discrimination and from 1956 he was commissioned to paint murals in public and private buildings across Guadalajara and other Mexican cities. Flores is best remembered for his his magnum opus Los Niños Héroes, a v1967 mural he painted in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Castle depicting the suicide of six child soldiers during the Mexican-American War.
photo of Sergio Perez taken by author