ISTANBUL : After every conquest, the victors determine a symbol for the culture of the locals, like the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul. Though far away on a totally different mainland, Guadalajara is no different, serving as a beacon of culture, history, mariachi bands, joy and freedom
Every conquest in history has been followed by an attempt to establish legitimacy by enacting cultural reforms or at least establishing cultural symbols.
The great Ottoman Emperor Mehmet II used to transform the biggest church in each city he conquered into a mosque. The Hagia Sophia Mosque is the most famous example of this. Symbols have strong meanings, even stronger than the greatest armies of the world. After all, cities are not conquered by the power of swords but the power of faith shared by every soldier.
A symbol tells many stories. In the Hagia Sophia’s case, it says: “Your great city of Constantinople is now a city of Islam.” In the 1920s, the small Anatolian town of Ankara represented a similar symbol. Istanbul was occupied by the British Empire right after World War I. The last emperor of the Ottoman Empire was robbed of his powers over the country. The people of Istanbul were living under the dominion of English commanders. So, the leaders of the newly born Turkish Republic chose Ankara, for many logistical and military reasons, to be the symbol of the new republic in the heart of Anatolia.
Istanbul, one of the greatest cities in human history, was under attack, foretelling the final days of the “sick man of Europe,” as the Allied countries of World War I called the Ottoman Empire back in the 1920s. In contrast, Ankara was built to be the center of a young and promising democratic republic. Even after the Turkish war of independence and the liberation of Istanbul, Turks continued investing in Ankara to support their vision. Istanbul, the jewel of the world, remained the cultural and trade center of the country, but Ankara was the symbol of the democratic Turkish Republic.
Guadalajara is a similar symbol for both the Spanish conquistadors and successive Mexican governments. Mexico City has always been one of the greatest human settlements and trade centers throughout history. It was one of the few cities in the world to have a population over one million when Hernan Cortes arrived. Mexico City was already a metropolis, home to people from all around Mesoamerica and already filled with cultural symbols of the Aztec Empire and many other Indigenous tribes and kingdoms.
Nevertheless, the Spanish administration tried to create new cultural symbols by building their parliament buildings and lots of other historical heritage sites right over Aztec cities, demolishing some and calling the territory the viceroyalty of “New Spain.”
New Galicia and Guadalajara
The Spanish invaders, 20 years after the conquest of Mexico City, founded a new center northwest of Mexico City. Two great wars transpired between the invaders and the Indigenous Caxcan, Portecuex and Zacatecas. Eventually, the lands of what is now called Jalisco state were conquered and the city of Guadalajara was founded in 1542.
Guadalajara was a new center in terms of culture, business, art and more. Unlike Mexico City, which is represented by the architectural artifacts of Aztecs, the landmark of Guadalajara is the Roman goddess of wisdom, poetry and medicine, called “La Minerva.” The Spanish ministry populated the city with thousands of European immigrants, especially during the 17th and 18th centuries. Another difference between cities is the demographics. Although more than 50% of the inhabitants of Mexico have indigenous ancestry, this number decreases to 25% in Jalisco state. Aside from numbers, you would see more white people in Jalisco than in any other state in Mexico. The city was formed as a largely European cultural and industrial center.
Tequila and mariachi bands
Jalisco is also the home of tequila, not only the drink but also the town that gave its name to the drink: Tequila, Mexico. The drink is a perfect example of mixing cultures. The Aztecs were already producing a light alcoholic beverage known as pulque from agave plants 2,000 years ago but they did not know the distillation process to make spirits. The Spanish people learn to distill the nectar from agave, a local cactus-like plant resembling a giant pineapple, to obtain tequila.
In 2003, Mexico passed a bill that forbids naming alcoholic beverages tequila unless they are produced in the states of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit or Tamaulipas. This bill led to the end of tequila bottling facilities in California, Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky, which American beverage companies tried hard to prevent from happening by claiming Mexico was attempting to create more domestic bottling jobs rather than maintain quality.
Tequila is not just a beverage or a cultural value for Mexico, there are thousands of people who make their living with it, whether in facilities, farms or any other processes of the tequila industry. Mexico makes more than $2.5 billion each year from tequila exports to 40 countries.
The Indigenous people of the state now called Jalisco used to use rattles, drums, flutes and horns to make music, especially for religious rituals. As a significant part of cultural assimilation, the Spanish people introduced the guitar, violin and brass instruments to be used in masses, which eventually lead to the formation of mariachi bands, an important cultural feature of modern Mexico.
Different faces of Mexico
Mexico City, an ancient center of culture and trade, is full of historical Aztec sites, with pyramids nearby and very respectable anthropology museums containing artifacts from the precolonial history of Mesoamerica.
Guadalajara, on the other hand, a home to modern arts and famous writers of the 18th,19th and 20th centuries, is seen as a European capital in Mexico. Thanks to all the investments started in the 18th century, Guadalajara is now considered the third largest economy in Mexico, and one of the top 10 among Latin American cities. According to the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) Magazine, Guadalajara has the second strongest economical potential after Chicago among all North American cities. Its also considered the Silicon Valley of Mexico according to people from tech industries.
Guadalajara is a very successful example of decentralization of capital and trade, besides creating a new cultural trademark. After more than three centuries of investment, it has a functioning industrial infrastructure, high production of cultural values and offers a good quality of life compared to the country’s standards. According to the local people, who see Mexico City as more of an industrial center full of stress and haste, Guadalajara is the city of development, culture, joy and freedom.
The post Power of Symbols: An exotic Europe in heart of Mexico, Guadalajara appeared first on The Frontier Post.