Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Tequila Express

Guadalajara is famous in Mexico as the birthplace of mariachi music and tequila. The heart of tequila production lies to the northwest of the city and is reachable by a special tourist train called the Tequila Express. It is the only passenger train that runs from the city's station, and it only runs on Saturday.
The pokey train takes you through vast expanses of cultivated agave cactus, a kind of spiky plant that thrives in the volcanic soil and provides the juice that is distilled into tequila. After about two hours, and a couple of shots of a special reserve tequila, you arrive at Atitlan, hometown of the famous Herradura distillery. Although it is obviously an industrial plant, it has the look and feel at the same time of a public garden and a museum. The architecture is Spanish colonial and the grounds are meticulously and beautifully kept.
Lalo, an employee of the University of Guadalajara and one of my hosts on this trip, introduced me to the burro and his handler.

Authentic tequila is a denomination of controlled origin referring to the beverage produced in a half-dozen towns near Guadalajara, much as the name burgundy can only be applied to the wine of that region.

After a tour of the plant you pass into a vast hall where you are served an enormous lunch with every variety of local delicacy and are entertained by a mariachi band (violins, guitars, trumpets), dancers, singers and a demonstration of charreria, Mexican cowboy rope tricks. Then it's back onto the train and more music from musicians and singers strolling through the cars. A nine-hour day.

No comments:

Post a Comment