Tuesday, April 1, 2014


A bus brought us back to another Guadalajara suburb, Tonala, where the Fortaleza bottles are blown into their shape by hand and by mouth. Globs of molten red glass are pulled from a heat belching furnace and are rolled into a cylinder shape before being placed in a mold and then blown into their final form through a long metal tube with a mouth on one end. Were one to inhale instead of exhale, they would end up in the hospital. We each got a chance to blow our own bottles into shape.

The man overseeing the operation holds the record for largest glass bottle blown by a single individual, a feat he repeats a couple times a year including, luckily, the day of our visit. He has to get on a step ladder to blow the giant wobbling mass of red hot glass into its mold. The final product could certainly hold a heck of a lot of tequila.

Day time in Guadalajara central treated us to a bustling cityscape of classical colonial beauty. In the governor's palace I laid my eyes on my first renowned Mexican mural, a massive piece by Jose Clemente Orozco featuring a massive depiction of Mexican hero Miguel Hidalgo gazing alarmingly over a scene of religious and political leaders causing chaos and violence. The infinitely more famous Diego Rivera was a poster boy for socialism. Orozco seemed to regard all politicians as crooks regardless of their alignment. In a set of his murals in a building constructed to house orphans, his final strokes were made to cover up his already painted portrait of the governor that commissioned that set of works. The same building features an image of Cortez being crooned by an angel while he sets to slaying natives with a sword. His armor looks improbably mechanical and even robotic, a twist that makes the armor look foreign, mysterious, and dreadful in a way that I'm sure the natives must have felt.

There was also time to romp around an enormous market full of piles of odd looking animal parts and pirated DVDs. It looked and even smelled like many of the markets I had seen in Southeast Asia. I wonder if perhaps there's some kind of popular cleaning agent at work that's banned in the states.

The final party of the Fortaleza sponsored trip took place on the rooftop bar of our downtown hotel. Guillermo poured us our last shots of tequila for the trip and on top of all the prior generosity, gifted each of us a bottle of his blanco.

Things were surprisingly well behaved that night... that is until everyone got to the after party at a gay strip club down the block. For a couple of hours a bunch of straight gringos took the place over and started a real ruckus on the dance stage. I may or may not be awesome at strip pole dancing. I refuse to comment on whether a thing like that might have even happened. Later in the night the stage was reclaimed by lip-syncing trannies. It was a Fat Tuesday party and masks were distributed to all the guests (mine had a pink color that wouldn't rub out of the skin on my face for half a week). Guillermo found one of the trannies uncomfortably convincing. Things happened that made the gay scene in New York look rather tame.

The next day was full of goodbyes. Most people had to go right home. My adventure was just beginning. I don't think I ever enjoyed such a wealth of hospitality from people I had never met before as was shared by Guillermo Sauza, his son, and his employees. I had a fantasy of what a few rowdy nights in hot and dusty Mexico should be like, and the time I spent with them, among locals and expats, other guests like myself, and copious amounts of tequila certainly fulfilled that fantasy. Fortaleza is setting up a guest house for industry visitors to stay at the distillery to harvest, crush, and distill agave – to actually learn how it's done with their hands – and I don't think my arm has to be twisted too hard to get me back to Tequila. ¡Viva Fortaleza!

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