In the next four years, Mexico is set to become the only Latin American country in the top five most-traveled global destinations, according to a new report from Timetric. To capitalize on this renewed interest in the birthplace of tacos, cervezas and Mariachi, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has vowed to invest close to 14 billion dollars in Mexico’s tourism industry, building convention centers, remodeling parks and beaches and upgrading the airports and other infrastructure.
Unfortunately, when U.S. travelers think of Mexico, they often envision tragic Spring Break party hubs, touristy honeymoon escapes and round-the-clock travel advisories. But Mexico is not all about tacky strip resorts along the coast, and some of the country’s most vibrant gems lay undiscovered further inland, hidden in plain sight.
Take for example, the second largest city in the country: Guadalajara. Gritty yet romantic, Guadalajara is an urban metropolis of six million people built upon a culturally rich colonial background.
I traveled to Guadalajara in early April and found quaint rather than chaos. The city is somewhat of a culture maven paradise, where tree-lined streets pave the way for hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars that encapsulate the city’s trademark contributions to architecture, design, youth culture and contemporary art. After my visit, it made sense why a Guggenheim satellite museum was once proposed to be built outside Guadalajara.
“Art adds a lot of beauty to a hotel, but it also has an emotional impact on our guests,” said Jeff Cochran, owner of the recently opened La Fe Hotel & Arts, a boutique hotel where poetry by Jorge Esquinca graces the stark white walls and sculptures from famed potter Rodo Padilla once decorated the lobby.
Cochran, formerly a Denver-based accountant, is one of the many American expats who has been lured by the city’s charm. He sought to open a different type of hotel in the city, one that offered a little bit of inspiration not only to visiting travelers but to the city’s locals alike. La Fe now serves as a gallery, with recurring art and intimate exhibit openings.
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