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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Tradition, Passion, Pride

Part I

Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico
(Pronounced: Tay-KEE-la, Hah-LEES-coh, MAY-hee-coh)

The Town, The Tradition, The Taste
Currency Conversion Site 

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

North of the Mexican Border, when the topic of tequila is brought up, most people think:
Jose Cuervo Gold, Margaritas or shots.

This is the rest of the story...

 

It might be surprising to some that there exists a lively interest in a beverage such as tequila, complete with aficionados, museums, rituals for tasting, dedicated blogs and even tequila art!

An entire town located in the Mexican state of Jalisco dedicates itself to the production of this fine libation, complete with its paraphernalia and showcased history. One can easily get caught up in the exuberance.

After living in Mexico off and on for seventeen years, we were familiar with this clear or golden liquid, sipped straight from a vaso by locals. There is a reverence, a respect and a sense of pride for tequila that we simply don't find north of the border, so Billy and I wanted to learn more. Off to the town of Tequila we went to find the real story of the history and process of Mexico's national drink.

 

Who would have known? A Tequila bus!

We left Chapala, Jalisco on the 8 o'clock directo bus (45 Pesos each person) to Guadalajara, arriving about 9 a.m. When you arrive in Guad from Chapala, walk towards the exit with the turnstile. The first set of buses next to the exit is the Tequila bus line.

Tickets to Tequila cost 55 Pesos per person each way for the ninety minute to two hour trip. If you buy a round trip ticket in Guadalajara, they will charge 100 Pesos (thereby saving 10 Pesos per person), and these tickets are open ended, valid for one full year from date of purchase.

 

The Tequila Bus line schedule

Buses leave every half an hour to the famous town of Tequila. The town listed just under Tequila is Amatitan, where the Herradura distillery is located. You can see from the above schedule that Redondo (round trip) tickets can save you a skinny if you purchase ahead of time.

Most tourists take the Tequila Express which is a fashionable manner to travel to Amtitan, 39 kilometers from Guadalajara (it never actually arrives in the town of Tequila.) Tickets include a tour of the Herradura distillery, a mariachi show, snacks, lunch, and an open bar with lots of tequila to drink. To take this diesel locomotive with its rolling party, book ahead at Ticketmaster. The train leaves from Guadalajara's train station, a couple of blocks south from Parque Agave Azul.

The valley town of Tequila is 50km northwest of Guadalajara, making it an easy daytrip from the capital of Mexico's state of Jalisco. But why not take several days and enjoy the town itself? There's no rush, and the town is surprisingly pleasant and clean. Take a few tours of the local distilleries, and familiarize yourself with the history of this 'liquid gold.'

 

THIS is Tequila.

If you come by bus like we did, the last stop in town is at a street called Avenida Sixto de Gorjon. Just get off the bus and head towards the Plaza, which is about a 10 minute walk.  You'll find several hotels are all within this area. When you reach the church, the Plaza is behind it and to your left.

The indigenous people in the area known today as Tequila, were the Nahuatl. The original name the Nahuatl gave this area loosely translated as 'where the people cut stones'. The town is located near an inactive volcano (now named Volcan Tequila) and for miles around, the earth is filled with obsidian.

Obsidian is a naturally formed glass made when thick volcanic lava cools down quickly. It is much harder than the man made glass we use in windows, and is opaque. Tiny bubbles may form while it is cooling, giving it a luster and sparkle that has fascinated people for centuries.

 The Nahuatl cut this hard volcanic glass into sharp edged tools, carved it into artistic forms and it was also used for personal decoration

 

The very walkable town of Tequila with close by neighborhoods and tequila haciendas

Today, Tequila has a population of around 30,000. The city is surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of Blue Agave planted on rolling hills that are suggestive of the landscape of northern California. Appearing desolate yet serene, the area seems to possess a certain mystique.

 

Close up of the Blue Agave with gentle hills in background

Tequila is made from this succulent which is related to the lily. Contrary to the popular belief, the Blue Agave is not a cactus. Of the 136 species of agave that grow in Mexico, only this one, agave tequilana weber azul, is allowed in tequila production.

 

Designated tequila-making Mexican states

Tequila can only be labeled as such if it is made from the Blue Agave plant harvested from these specific states in Mexico: Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Guanajuato and Tamaulipas.

 

Beautiful stone arched building which houses shops, tasting rooms and bars

The Spanish took over the town in 1530, and changed the Nahuatl name to match the Spanish pronunciation and letter combination, calling it Tequila. Becoming a municipality in 1824, Tequila finally became a full-fledged city in 1974.

These days popular National Tequila Fairs are held annually in late November to December, complete with parades, rodeos, cock fights, mariachis and fireworks. During robust festivals, you might want to stay at a hotel a little farther from the Plaza!

 

Entranceway of Hotel Posada del Agave

There are several moderately priced hotels in the town from which to choose. This one is located on Gorjon, a five minute walk from where the bus dropped us off.

 

Our room

Only a short block and a half from main plaza, quiet from street noise, and at 300 Pesos per night, this was a good value. Cable TV, internet available in our room (with a desk!), a firm bed and hot water in the clean bathroom.

Of course you can always spend more, especially if you want water fountains in a garden setting, a mini bar and period style furniture.

 

Museo National del Tequila

Located on Corona #34, this museum presents the history of the making of tequila. Providing good photographic exhibits, a large collection of bottles from the many distinct styles of the local distilleries, there are explanations of the mechanics and history of tequila, as well as good displays of the local culture.

There is a tequila tasting in the gift shop at the end of your self-guided tour. Certainly worth the 15 Peso admission fee, and we recommend that you visit!

 

Shops and bars, shops and bars

Many of the townspeople are employed by the tequila industry. There are gift shops, tasting rooms, shops selling products of the local distilleries, tour guides on the street, hotels, restaurants, and all the people working in these shops and local businesses.

This doesn't count the repairmen, the suppliers of food to the restaurants, the truckers who bring in these supplies, or those who directly work at the tequila factories themselves like the jimadores, barrel makers, designer bottle makers, secretaries, chemists and more.

The town was quite friendly - seemingly not jaded by tourism at all - and was noticeably clean. We saw several banks in town with ATMís, a couple of dentists and a hospital located next to the Jose Cuervo Complex

 

No trash in the streets, well maintained buildings

In 2003, the Mexican government named the town of Tequila a Pueblo Magico. In 2006, it became a World Heritage Site.

 

An old fashioned style storefront sign

The town has a sense of the ancient native peoples, combined with Spanish Conquistadores and modern world convenience. Every local we met, from grandma to grandchild, storekeepers, waitresses, taco stand operators and people passing on the sidewalk all had a cheery buenos dias for us, were singing a tune or had a welcoming smile. They were willing to engage in conversation or take part in good humor.

We weren't sure what to make of it, but the pleasantry was truly refreshing.

We jokingly said to each other that it must be the beverage of tequila that was making everyone cordial. However, it very well might have been the high rate of employment and lack of poverty. Or the fact that people had obvious pride in their city and the job they did within it.

 

A pleasant Plaza

The Main Plaza is a 'free WiFi zone and surrounding it are more shops, benches on which to sit either in the shade or sun as you prefer, some museums, hotels and restaurants. The church is to the right in this photo.

Obsidian, which is a volcanic glass, is everywhere here. You can find it for sale in the town stores and distillery gift shops, as carving displays in hotels, even chunks of it laid in the sidewalks as decorative patterning.

My personal experience of obsidian has been only as fine jewelry. So it was amazing to me to see it frequently in tiles on the faces of homes, and as loose chunks in the road.

 

The Tequila Hotel

This place doesn't look like much and rooms went for 350 to 500 Pesos per night. However, they were the only hotel we found that was fully booked.

 

Tequila street sign

Sauza is one of the oldest tequila making families in history. Out of respect for all the contributions they have made to this industry, a street has been named for them.

 

Fondas inside the Mercado

Daily Mexican restaurant fare at reasonable prices can be found inside the Mercado at any of the numerous fondas located here. Open at 7 a.m., you may order breakfast, lunch, dinner, soups, sandwiches, smoothies, and pastries.

The Mercado is situated behind the church.

While not a romantic setting, service is friendly, the place is tidy, food is tasty and the prices are right.

 

A sample menu from one of the fondas

A full meal runs from 35 to 55 Pesos, about $3 to $4.50 USD. Sandwiches and light meals begin at 20 Pesos.

 

A corner restaurant, another choice

For other surroundings, you might try Cholula, which is an upscale restaurant offering local fare as well as dishes made with tequila. Of course the prices are two to four times as much as in the local fondas. But there are more exotic offerings and it is in an environment that you might find more familiar.

 

Fresh produce

Our short stay in Tequila didn't allow for extensive search of large supermercados, but fresh fruits and vegetables are available right in town in neat surroundings.

 

Fish!

Fish and other seafood were covered in ice, laid out in attractive displays.

 

A local watering hole

Upscale bars and tasting rooms abound for the tourist in this World Heritage site, but this cantina is for more local flavor. Chances are, the prices reflect the native pocketbook as well. We're positive that you can get the same beers and some very fine tequilas at Pocho.

 

Tasty tacos

As you may know, Billy and I are always on the lookout for the 'perfect' taco. In all our years of travel, it's been hard to give that title away. These, however, came close.

We considered the ones in Oaxaca to be pretty darn good too!

At 6 Pesos each and packed with flavor, this made for a simple meal. If local food stands appeal to you, go behind the cathedral any evening to locate the family run taco stalls.

 

Art on Fire

Mexicans love their murals and this store on the corner of Hildago and Navarro shows the techniques of making pottery including designer tequila bottles.

 

Bartender Billy

There are 911 different domestic brands of tequila, plus 158 labels used for export only. That's a lot of tequila!

In case you think all tequila tastes the same, or if you have never seen the process of barrel making or the jimadores harvesting the tequila pina in the fields, stay tuned for Part II, The Tradition and History of Tequila Production.

For more stories about places of interest in Mexico, click here

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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