Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Da da da da da da da da Tequila!

This is #2 in a series on our trip to mainland Mexico. Click HERE for part 1.

The next morning we picked up an amigo of Padre's who lives in Guadalajara and who has written a couple of books about the area. Ruben was the perfect tour guide as we explored areas outside the city center.

First we went to Zapopan, which is an ancient city on its own but has been absorbed into greater Guadalajara. Zapopan is considered to be the place where corn was first domesticated. This picture of the arch which is the entrance to the city shows the history of Zapopan, with ears of corn on the bottom, then the franciscan monks coming and the population converting to christianity, and up at the top are the two towers of the basilica.

This is the basilica (e.g. important church) of Our Lady of Zapopan, which is part of a franciscan abbey. The monks live in the big white building surrounding the church.

I love the bells on the church, especially the big wooden thingies (technical term) that they hang from.

The guys were hungry so we went to a giant mercado next to the basilica and they all had desayuno (breakfast). That's Ruben on the left, with a patient of his sitting next to him, and Padre in the red shirt. Ruben is a psychologist and he brought his patient along because he's helping him overcome his agoraphobia (fear of open spaces and crowds). The patient hadn't left his house in years until Ruben started working with him, and on this day he did just fine in lots of big spaces with crowds.

Next we went to the town of Tequila, the center of the region where all the blue agaves are grown which are turned into tequila. The photos above are of the wall of the local church, which is quite rustic compared to the dressed stone that the churches in the big city were built with. But I LOOVE the texture of the rubble wall, don't you?

The name "tequila" is governed by an internationally recognized appellation, just like wine regions, and alcoholic beverages made from blue agaves in other parts of the world, even in Mexico, have to be called something other than "tequila".

We went on a 2 hour tour of the town which included a stop at a distillery to see how the drink is made. The things in the photo above that look like giant pineapples are the hearts of the blue agave plants. All parts of the agave are used for something - the hearts for tequila or agave nectar, the leaves for fabric, the thorns for punches, and the membrane covering the leaves for baking parchment.

To make tequila, the agave hearts are first roasted in giant ovens, then ground up and put into metal fermenting vats like the ones you see at wineries (only fatter).

After that, the liquid is distilled, then put into large barrels to age (just like with wine).

It was late afternoon when the tour ended, and we had to drop off Ruben and his patient in Guadalajara and then travel another 3.5 hours to Leon, where Padre grew up and his family still lives. We got there at 9:30 that night and after meeting the family (mom, sisters, brothers-in-law, and LOTS of nephews), we were off to sleep!

Here's the apartment that Padre had built on top of the family home for when he comes back to see his family. This is where we stayed while we were in Leon - very nice!

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