If visiting the Guadalajara area, travel just outside city limits to the town of Tlaquepaque. This area has a long history with the arts, which continues today. Once a small village of potters, the town was discovered by wealthy visitors and soon was a popular choice for constructing 19th Century, Mexican mansions. Controlling development, the village strived to maintain its small town charm and community feeling.
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As with most Mexican towns, a church is always the centerpiece and Tlaquepaque’s grand cathedral is no different. Today the cathedral, which once was within walking distance to the town’s luxury residences still remains; however the once occupied residences serve a different purpose. Rather than have these elaborately constructed buildings turn into rubble, they have been restored and serve as an outdoor mall.
Each mansion houses a different business. Some are restaurants, art studios and galleries, while others are handicraft workshops/studios. Specialty craft shops create merchandise designed to fit perfectly with each mansion’s grandness. While the mansions were built during the 1800’s, shops specializing in earlier and later art are plenty.
One of the most famous of these craft studios is Antigua de Mexico, which specializes in creating Baroque-style furniture and gifts, based on designs popular in the 1600’s. Reproduced and Baroque-influenced artwork is also sold at Agustin Parra. Prices here are steep and while most travelers can purchase authentic Mexican handicrafts at discount prices, artwork and furniture here can cost more than a typical mortgage. Keeping with tradition, Tlaquepaque still appeals to the wealthy but rather than residents it’s discriminating shoppers.
Even though this town exudes luxury, it still considers religion a priority. Agustin Parra built Pope John Paul II a chair when he visited Mexico in 2002. Today, that chair, along with other papal visit memorabilia is on display at Parra’s local gallery. Those wishing to visit are welcomed and after touring the museum, guests can awe at his pricey yet labor intensive masterpieces.