For a Los Angeles resident, the mexican border just means a simple 2 1/2 hour drive south.  The city of Tijuana offers an easy opportunity to jump into a whole different world, and the next cities on the beach, Ensenada and Rosarito, add to it as we continue into Baja California…

But I have noticed that a large share of the Mexican population in California has roots in the area of Jalisco, about 300 miles Southeast from the Baja, in the mainland. This is a a very typical region of Mexico, and at least three of the country’s best known traditions are very strong here:

1)    Tacos

2)    Mariachi

3)    Tequila

In the past months, I had the luck of traveling to Jalisco twice.

First, I flew to Guadalajara, where I played guitar with Argentinian pop star Diego Torres during the closing ceremony of the Panamerican games which took place at the Stadium Omnilife.

 

Guadalajara's Omnilife Stadium, formerly known as Chivas, has a capacity of circa 50,000 people.

Some members of Diego Torres' band: Charlie Rey, myself, Dany Thomas, Danilo Arroyo

 

Right after we arrived at the hotel, we asked the locals to show us the REAL taco experience, so we ended up at this awesome street spot called “Los Alteños,” where everything is so simple but it tastes so delicious you can barely believe it! The other thing you can’t quite believe is how they keep track of their orders, since the place is constantly packed with people, but there’s no defined line, and no one really writes down the orders… Still, somehow everything works great in the end – it must be the power of siestas!

 

Taquearía Los Alteños

 

While we were sharing the stage with other pop acts such as The Wailers, Ricky Martin and Camila (one of the hottest bands in Mexico these days), many other musicians kept hanging in the backstage area, some of them wearing their typical Mariachi outfits (charro) with the huge white hats. With origins in Jalisco sometime in the 18th century, Mariachi music is very important for Mexican culture; the most common instrumentation is formed by a guitarrón, a vihuela, a guitar, violins, and trumpets/brass instruments.

Here, I also got familiar with a couple brands of tequila (the well known liquor made from the blue agave plant, mainly in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, about 40 miles northwest of Guadalajara).

Among the ones I favored the most, the Esperanto “edición Piramide”, extremely smooth, and the Baluarte Reposado, also excellent!

 

Tequila Esperanto "edición Piramide"

 

Shortly after my trip to Guadalajara, I went back to Jalisco, this time to Puerto Vallarta, on the Pacific coast.  As you can see from the sign, you gotta watch out for crocodiles over here!

 

Warning sign for crocodiles in the marina, Puerto Vallarta!

 

But, strangely enough, if you feel like stopping for some food at taquearía “Los Mapaches”, you might want to share some of it with their domesticated raccoons: they won’t let you pet them, but they politely wait for you to feed them, then they’ll hang out with you!

 

Steven, the Raccoon whisperer. Mapache is the Spanish word for "raccoon"

 

Another nice animal you might encounter in Puerto Vallarta is the iguana: you can spot him in the picture, chilling among the flowers…

 

Can you see the iguana?

We missed the newborn baby turtles’ first race to the ocean by just a couple of days, but we made it to beautiful Sayulita beach and saw horses as sunset was approaching.

This town is a sort of a hippy community and Lady Gaga supposedly learned how to surf here!

Horses in Sayulita Beach

2