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Andrew Collins

Guadalajara Might be Latin America's Most Underrated Gay Urban Getaway

By October 18, 2009

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Crafts shops, art galleries, and restaurants in fashionable Tlaquepaque; photo by Andrew CollinsI'm just wrapping up a two-week adventure in Mexico, having spent the last six days in three beautiful cities - all with highly distinct charms - San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City, and Puebla. (I can also say my hotels in these three places - Casa de Sierra Nevada in San Miguel, Hotel Condesa in Mexico City, and La Purificadora in Puebla - have all been exceptional). I'll be writing plenty more about these cities in the coming months, as I will the friendly, culturally rich, and affordable city of Guadalajara, the second-largest metropolis in Mexico, which somewhat to my surprise, has a remarkably vibrant gay scene.

I'd long heard about the elegant buildings and churches that make up the city's historic center, the stylish shops and cafes of the fashionable suburb of Tlaquepaque, and the easy proximity to the beloved town of Tequila, home to the Sauza, Jose Cuervo, and numerous other fine distilleries. Indeed, there's much to see and do in Guadalajara and the surrounding region. But I hadn't known that the city has nearly two-dozen gay bars as well as gay-friendly colonial B&Bs and plenty of welcoming restaurants and cafes, the majority of them within easy walking distance of the central Plaza Tapatia.

I'll soon be creating a comprehensive guide and gallery to gay-friendly Guadalajara, as well as more detailed reviews of different places to stay, eat, and socialize. For now, here are just a few quick highlights I'd suggest any GLBT visitors to the city rank among their top priorities:

    Viewing the brilliant (and mammoth) ceiling murals by Jose Clemente Orozco inside Instituto Cultural Cabanas, a former orphanage at one end of the City Center's main plaza that's been converted into a spectacular cultural arts center.

    Eating tacos al pastor (delicious shepherd's-style lamb, pork, or goat tacos prepared at numerous street carts and small cafes around the city) or one of the frozen ice desserts (flavored with vanilla and walnut) sold by street vendors in Tlaquepaque.

    Partying into the wee hours at one of Guadalajara's vibrant, friendly, and wildly energetic gay nightclubs - Black Cherry is the swankiest, Circus Club also has a great high-decibel sound system and a very hot crowd, Angel's is popular after-hours on Saturdays, and Club YeYe is a relaxed but hip gay cocktail bar - these are mostly in the City Center or nearby Zona Rosa

    Staying at one of the city's old-world elegant B&Bs, such as the posh and gay-friendly Villa Ganz in Zona Rosa, or more affordable but still highly charming gay-owned (mixed gay/straight clientele) options near the City Center, such as La Perla and Old Guadalajara B&B.

    Dining at some of the city's more sophisticated, high-end restaurants, which are still relatively affordable compared with other large North American cities. Two of my best meals were enjoyed at Hacienda Real San Pedro along the main Independencia pedestrian way in Tlaquepaque (stellar contemporary Mexican cuisine - there's no website, but the address is Independencia 163, and you can phone them at 33/3659-3631) and Cocina 88, a hip spot near Guadalajara's City Center that specializes in contemporary Mexican seafood and steaks and also has its own on-site wine shop.

    Taking cooking classes or simply enjoying a student-prepared meal at the highly regarded Escuela Culinaria Internacional, one of several excellent culinary schools in Guadalajara.
July 25, 2010 at 8:08 pm
(1) Renoir Iturbide says:

I must say i’m impressed that you ignored the presence of Guadalajara in the world gay scene that is just a s important as San Francisco, but clearly we’re talking about latinamerica level where Guadalajara is a must visit not only for the posh scene, luxury dining and shopping, elegant architecture, sophisticated, preety and well cultured people but also be cause as a big city (over 5 million people) the gay scene is one of the richest in the continent, being a well known circuit gay city along with Mexico City, Rio, Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, Barcelona, New York and Tel Aviv. Historically this city remains as of the most tolerant on the Americas and keeps fighting all days for human and gay rights, it’s also important to know that Puerto Vallarta (well known gay destination in the same state of Jalisco) became a gay destination be cause of its proximity with Guadalajara.

August 28, 2010 at 1:29 am
(2) Matt Smith says:

Monica’s (bar) has the best drag show in town! Black Cherry and Angel’s are only good if you want to be around pretentious people with too much attitude. Even if they like us, as tourists with enough money to travel, they treat a ton of our brothers/sisters like s–t. There are other bars out there, where the vibe’s a lot friendlier. Monica’s, California’s, El Botanero… I esp recommend El Botanero for the drag show at 9 or so on Sunday night, and then as the night’s winding down at 12 or 1, there’s a minibus over to Monica’s, where they serve hot food for free. Monica’s Sunday nite drag show is at 2am. The backup dancers make me drool.

February 8, 2012 at 2:50 am
(3) Angel says:

Ok, not to poop on the Guadalajara Gay Tolerance Party, but my friends were just kicked out of two bars (Barezzito and Código) for holding hands in public. I’ve been living here for 2 years and I can say that people’s attitude towards gay people are not as tolerant as everyone wants to make it look like. Comparing “Guadalajara” to San Francisco is definitely not Ok. Guadalajara has many years of progress and open-mindedness to achieve before being comparable to San Francisco. Other cities like Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro, or even Caracas are WAY more gay friendly than Guadalajara. Guadalajara just has nice gay clubs, but the city and the people itself are not that tolerant as they are in other cities in Latin America

April 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm
(4) Dominik says:

Comparing GDL to gay San Francisco is a joke. At least in S.F. you get the vibe when in a gay area. That is not so in GDL. Half of the clubs mentioned were closed. I definitely don’t see anyone of the same sex holding hands in public.
I spent couple weeks in Puerto Vallarta. It is more opened their than it is in GDL.
The listing should be updated with latest info.

December 26, 2013 at 2:34 am
(5) lolo says:

Hi, I’m from Guadalajara, What I can say about the city, is that the ones who coment above are right. Guadalajara its a two face city and you should know before coming that it´s weeeard. It´s the most openminded city in México, if we are talking about gay night life, but also is closed minded, you can say “during the day”..barezzito and código, are bars that don’t belong to gay friendly owners as million others. Guadalajara history come from very catholic past, and still is very “catholic” people the mayority. So you have to know how to move during gay life, but once you do, it’s as fun as San Franscisco …jaja maybe not, I´ve never went there, but bad stuff is not the only thing you would come across.

January 28, 2014 at 7:27 pm
(6) Esteban Alvarado says:

Sorry to say I’m from Mexico and visit Guadalajara every time I go back still a lovely city’s city that you enjoy just be careful with your with the areas were you are at. If you want to hold hand I’ ll recommend puerto Vallarta or Mexico City. But also think that for the last few year San Francisco has been changing a lot with a lot straight people moving into Castro area has become a little less tolerant. Been living in San Francisco for the lady 15 years and have seen it changed so much that some time I wonder if it is the same city.

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