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Jalisco: The State Where Most Mexican Culture Originates

by Angelique Platas

Dec 9, 2019

Kobby Dagan | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / Mexico

A Mexican restaurant in any American state often includes all the iconic décor symbolizing the country’s culture, from sombreros and mariachi music to tequila-soaked margaritas and pictures of charros bull riding on the walls. What you may not know, though, is that nearly everything you see originated in Jalisco, Mexico.


Agave fields. Photo: Angelique Platas

Located on the West Coast, with the Pacific Ocean to one side, the state of Nayarit to the north and Colima and Michoacán to the south and east, Jalisco is nestled within a wide variety of landscapes and cultural opportunities.


The plains and deserted regions surrounding Guadalajara offer a reprieve from the hot, sandy beaches many tourists associate with Mexico — but don’t worry, Jalisco has those too. With such a varied terrain comes a diverse climate, paving the way for a history of rugged rural roots and growing industry, promising booming populations and expanding urban landscapes.


See Tequila, the first and most obvious associated with Mexican culture. Tequila is a world-famous name, not everyone knows it is even a town. Famously the home of the agave spirit, Tequila is covered with blue agave fields. Sharp succulents resembling the top of a pineapple, blue agave is the main ingredient in tequila, and the sign of a true Mexican-made spirit — like Champagne only bares the name if it’s made in Champagne, France, only true tequila comes from designated Mexican states. Most of the world’s true tequila comes from Jalisco, Mexico, but spirits made in Tamaulipas, Nayarit, Michoacán and Guanajuato also earned the name.

Distillery in Sayula, Jalisco. Photo: Angelique Platas

While you can find great tequila deserving of the name anywhere in Jalisco, in a city bar in Guadalajara or on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, tourists and locals alike enjoy a train tour through Tequila. Visit the historic locale, touring its many distilleries and haciendas, and even enjoy a history lesson with a stop at the Museo Nacional del Tequila and the Museo Los Abuelos.


The same Mexican state that introduced the world to tequila also brought bull-riding charros. A charro is a traditional horseman, but with far more flair — picture a Mexican rodeo. What we call cowboys, Mexicans know as charros, which, again, originated in Jalisco and still exists today. Charros dress to impress with impossibly large sombreros; impeccably decorated, tailored suits; and boots, atop equally polished horses.


They may be dressed like gentleman, but charros quite literally put their lives on the line in the ring, like gladiators.


Charros in the Ring. Photo: Angelique Platas

Riding their own horses while corralling wild horses (while typically trying to jump bareback from one to the other while riding at an impressive speed around the ring), lassoing and riding bulls, and entertaining the masses with dangerous stunts and traditional games typically begins at a young age. At Lienzo Charro Jalisco, for example, some charros are as young as 7, and some world champions as young at 14.

Photo: Angelique Platas

A day at the rodeo in Guadalajara is a family day. Kids dress in their best boots, shirts, belts and  cowboy hats, and parents do the same, as everyone heads to on-site church before finding their seat in the stands. See an especially impressive trick or performance? Toss your boot, hat or some token of respect into the ring and the honored charro will collect the mementos and toss them back.


Born in Jalisco and still well-loved by locals, the macho-culture charros exude and fans envy found its way into another Jalisco-originated tradition: mariachi.


Mariachi is Mexican traditional music with Spanish influences. Originating in Jalisco and still plentiful in every city, mariachi bands typically consist of two trumpets, a Spanish guitar, vihuela (high-toned guitar), a guitarrón (a bass-toned acoustic guitar) and any number of singers with additional instruments — all dressed as charros. With the large sombreros, ornate suits and impeccable shoes, Mariachi bands pay homage to the hometown horseman heroes while adding their own musical twist.

Street art in Jalisco. Photo: Angelique Platas


Travelers can find any number of mariachi bands gracing city restaurants and bars at any given time, anywhere in Jalisco. One festival in Puerto Vallarta even celebrates them with hundreds playing at a time in the streets.


Between the tequila in your margarita, mariachi music in the background or charro-clad décor, Jalisco essentially brought the standard of Mexican culture as we know it in the rest of the world to life.


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