La Garita, Jalisco
La Garita de San Lázaro
|Delegacion and Town|
|Etymology: San Lázaro|
|Motto: ~*~Pueblo Alegre~*~ Joyful Town|
Location of the municipality in Jalisco
|Municipalities of Jalisco||Tamazula de Gordiano|
|• Delegado||Maria Isabel Martinez Magaña|
|Elevation||1,229 m (4,032.152 ft)|
|Time zone||Central Standard Time (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||Central Daylight Time (UTC-5)|
La Garita is a town in the Mexican state of Jalisco in the Municipality of Tamazula de Gordiano. According to INEGI 2010 national census it pegged the town's population at 1,060 people. A special census done by the INEGI government agency estimated the population to be at 1,278 in 2005. Although this number seems low, about 1,000 people from La Garita now reside in the United States with the most living in California, Illinois, Texas, Florida, and New York. The city of Joliet, IL now is the home for most of the immigrants from this town. Others have migrated to nearby cities like Tamazula de Gordiano, Ciudad Guzman, and Guadalajara.
La Garita, Jalisco formally was called the property or Hacienda of San Lázaro when it was first settled by rich businessmen. San Lázaro or Saint Lazarus being the patron of the settlement. The hacienda was founded approximately on the year 1846 (it is the date that is reference by the eldest citizens). During those times merchants that journeyed from the state of Michoacán to their destination, the state of Colima, stopped to rest in this area as well as promoted commerce in the region. Transportation during those times for merchandise was difficult and long for they only used animals to carry the loads. The merchants took this place as a refuge to rest and later continue their trip. It is one of the reasons why they dominated it "La Garita" being understood that "garita" comes from the old French "garita" that means refuge, of Germanic origin. In such circumstances people of different places settled down in this place, like them foreigners arrived, who constructed properties in the region, among them the one of La Garita that in that time, the landowners were those who had in their power the land and control of the region.
"It was in the time of president 'Lazaro Cardenas' when the federal government transformed the region into "ejidal" form or communal land, granting to the farmers the land that previously was of the landowners" for farming and settling(qtd. in Revista Sur2000). In 1940 the construction of the state highway Jiquilpan-Manzanillo 110 started, which crosses through the middle of the town of La Garita and connects with the town of Mazamitla and the city of Tamazula de Gordiano in the state of Jalisco; with which profited to take off the relative isolation. The name of the "Hacienda de San Lázaro" officially changed name to "La Garita de San Lázaro." Over the years the people dropped the patron's name and left only the name of "La Garita." In the year of 1946, to La Garita, a "Delegación" was granted to the town having its own civil registry and a police group.
|Town||Total Population||Number of Men||Number of Women||Occupied Dwellings|
La Garita rests on the bank of the Tamazula river which is formed in La Garita from the union of the Creek of La Cuesta and the Sierra del Tigre river. The town varies in elevation due to the steepness of the hills and mountains of the area around the river bank. Part or almost half of the town sits on the valley created by the river over thousands of years ago while the other sits on the hills that make up the area of South-central Jalisco.
This part of the state of Jalisco sits on the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra del Tigre, two major forest regions of Mexico. Its proximity to the high northern mountains of the state, Lake Chapala (the largest lake in Mexico), El Volcán de Colima (a major and still active volcano is south-central Mexico) and the ocean make for a unique geography.
The town of La Garita is divided into two sections by the national Mexican highway 110 creating the upper and lower neighborhoods. As the names say, the upper neighborhood is on a higher level on a hill that leads to the town of El Manchado. The lower neighborhood is actually in the valley below the highway created by the river, El Rio Tamazula. In the center of the town a plaza was built in honor of the town's residents who donated time and money for a centralized location for town gatherings and celebrations. After the creation of the town plaza, a new central neighborhood was created known as the heart of the town with most restaurants and shops located around the plaza.
Although the residents know the town as having three neighborhoods (upper, central, and lower), the town is actually divided into smaller sections of those neighborhoods called "barrios." The barrios were created by the church of the town that needed the division to allow the different barrios to host the symbol of the "feria," the virgin of the Tabernacle or "Virgen de Sagrario." All of the different neighborhoods or barrios are named after a religious Catholic symbol or saint.
Here is a list of the different barrios created by the church:
- Barrio de San Judas Tadeo
- Barrio de la Virgen de Guadalupe
- Barrio de Santa Maria Goretti
- Barrio del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús
- Barrio de Juan Pablo II
- Barrio de San Rodrigo Aguilar
- Barrio de la Sagrada Familia
- Barrio de San Antonio
- Barrio de la Virgen del Sagrario
- Barrio de San Jose
The climate of La Garita, Jalisco is normally warm throughout the year. When summer begins is usually when the wet rainy season begins in the region, meaning that rainy days are more frequent than sunny days. The environment and its people have grown accustomed to a dry year with a very wet early summer. The rains are very beneficial to the sugarcane crops which make up most of the crops of the region. Most of the rains are caused by the influx of moisture from the Pacific Ocean in the form of low pressures, tropical storms, or at times hurricanes.
During the remainder of the year, a sunny, warm and very pleasant tropical climate makes up for the rest of summer and autumn. During the winter and spring is when the dry season begins, when rainy days are very limited. This phenomenon causes the La Garita to attract visitors because of the pleasant sunny weather for most of the year. Being surrounded by high hills, the sea a few hours drive away, in the midsts of the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra del Tigre, a river, a stream, and a couple of hours away from Mexico's largest fresh water lake Lake Chapala, it creates an enjoyable weather environment for the community and visitors. This unique climate makes the town one of the best places to vacation in Mexico.
Transportation for the town has always been a problem for the residents and visitors. There is no central hub for all travel, but since the major national highway 110 was constructed, which crosses through the center of the town, bus transportation between the state's major cities travel through the town of La Garita and stop here. The center of town has an area by the national highway where most taxis and buses stop. National buses also make a stop in town, but more towards the northeastern end part of the town near the town of La Verdura and closer to the eastern stream than the center of town on the side of the road. There is no train station or central transportation hub, but most visitors travel by means of their own car, bus, or taxi from nearby cities such as Tamazula and Mazamitla which do have a central hub for buses.
The nearby city of Tamazula de Gordiano recently finished construction (March 2012 H. Ayuntamiento 2010-2012) of a new central transportation hub for local, regional, and national buses at its main entryway, the Jose Maria Martinez Boulevard, which also finished its expansion to 3 and four lanes.
The nearest airports are Miguel Hidalgo International Airport (GDL) in Guadalajara, Jalisco (almost three hours away) and national airport of Colima in the City of Colima in the Mexican state of the same name, Colima, about two and a half hours away. Both of these airports offer bus service to the cities of Tamazula and Mazamitla, which may make a stop in the town of La Garita, if needed. The Miguel Hidalgo International Airport in Guadalajara is the airport of choice for the town's residents and visitors offering daily international flights to most major cities where most of the residents have family.
La Garita counts with a rich and varied economy similar to other tourism regions of Mexico. Most of the income generated by its citizens comes from the fields they own in the delegation of which it is one of the biggest sugarcane producers in the municipality. Sugarcane of varied types is grown and harvested to be taken to "Ingenio Tamazula, S.A. de C.V." in the nearby city of Tamazula de Gordiano where it is converted into sugar. The waste products of the sugar process produce molasses and pure cane alcohol, which are also sold in the region. Even though sugarcane is the main income for the town, La Garita counts with a diverse and rich culture, entertainment, businesses, small shops, restaurants, pharmacies, and even a waterpark, which give a special/different touch to the town from the rest of the region.
The farmland is also used for corn, cattle, and swine. The hills surrounding the town create the perfect climate and irrigation for growing corn, alfalfa, and pasture. Farmers in the area that make a living from animals have: cows, pigs, chickens, goats, and sheep just to name a few. Although having livestock is not the most popular way to earn a living in La Garita, some prefer it instead of agriculture.
The rest of the citizens earn their income from the tourism generated from people that visit the town during its religious festivities, the nearby recently built river dam "El Carrizo," and the popular spa/sauna/waterpark of natural thermal waters "Las Jaras." Those citizens that don't work, and some that do, survive from the money that they receive from family members that now reside in the United States. Most of the town's migrate workers and residents now of the United States reside in the Chicago region and southern California region.
The town is divided by the national highway Mexico 110 that runs from the city of Jiquilpan to the coastal port of Manzanillo. The corridor that parallels the highway that runs from the city of Tamazula de Gordiano to the mountain-city of Mazamitla make up the tourist region of the "Sierra del Tigre" or sierra of the tiger which focuses on eco-tourism, a form of tourism promoting nature. The town of La Garita just happens to be located in the middle of the corridor between both cities, and it is the start of the road that leads to the new river dam "El Carrizo" that has been converted into a tourist attraction for diving, boating, fishing, and more.
Tourists that stop in the town enjoy learning about the culture and rich history of the town that started by the construction of the former "Hacienda de San Lázaro" of which there are still remains in great condition. The town's most attractive attraction is that of its religious festivities during the month of November to the virgin Sagrario and in December to the saint Lazarus, as well as the famous Mexican "posadas" that celebrate the journey that Christ's mother and father took in search for an inn or place to rest for the child to be born.
By far the town's most important tourist attraction and job generator is the spa/sauna/waterpark of natural thermal waters that spring naturally called "Las Jaras." The waterpark has tobogans, a pool, splash stations for kids, hot tubs, water slides, two saunas with different heat levels, mud baths, massages, facials, restaurants, hotel/cabins, and more. The waters that spring here are naturally heated by underground lava tubes that come from the volcano "Colima" that is only a couple of hours away.
Arts and Culture
The town of La Garita is known as a "Pueblo Alegre" or happy town because its people tend to be very joyous and celebratory. That makes this town full of entertainment options for being a small town. Citizens and visitors will enjoy the town's square at night when everyone comes and walks around, talking, meeting other people, having dinner in its restaurants, going to the night clubs or discos, and dance parties that are common in the town.
During the day people walk to the river, go to the newly renovated gym, play sports in the recently built community park, go horseback riding or ride ATVs, fishing, or take a dip in the waterpark's pool. Since the town is only 30 minutes east of the city of Tamazula de Gordiano and 30 minutes southwest of the city of Mazamitla, there are many opportunities to visit the cities for shopping and of course there are numerous parks for those that love extreme sports only minutes away.
The town of La Garita is widely popular and known for its unique Mexican cuisine. There is no other place in the state that you can enjoy and savor the many rich flavors of the following foods:
- Birria de Chivo - marinated goat stew
- Sopitos - similar to a taco, a small corn tortilla fried in oil or lard, with mince meat, sauce, and cabbage
- Tostadas de Lomo - a large (dinner plate size) fried tortilla topped with mayonnaise or refried beans with fried pork loin, cabbage or lettuce, tomatoes, onions, grated cheese, and sauce
- Tacos de Cabeza - tacos made with steak from the head of the cow, cilantro, onions, and hot tomatillo sauce
- Tacos de Adobada (made with a special adobo also made in the town) - tacos made with marinated pork tenderloin, with cilantro, onions, and hot tomatillo sauce
- Enchiladas - tacos rolled in a corn tortilla topped with a spicy/sweet sauce, cabbage, and grated cheese
- Tortas de Lomo - A sandwich-type food made with a crispy dinner roll, with fried pork loin, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, mayonnaise, and hot jalapeño peppers if preferred.
- Tamales (Rojos, Verdes, Rajas, Queso) - Tamales are like corn cakes filled with either pork or beef in red or green hot sauce, cheese, or sliced peppers (the peppers vary by region).
- Carnitas - Fried pork that comes in many forms from stomach, intestines, maw, rinds or cracklings, and many other parts.
Those are some of its more popular foods, but when it comes to drinks:
- Freshed squeezed juices every morning (Carrots, beets, oranges, apples, celery).
- Chocolate milk with "rompope" (alcoholic eggnog), quail eggs, protein powder, cinnamon, and many more.
- Atole - made with flour, brown sugar (comes in sugar cones), milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.
- Tequila - of course it is the most popular Mexican alcoholic drink and it is very popular in La Garita.
- La Parroquia de La Garita is a municipal landmark since its construction and named one of the most unique churches in the state of Jalisco with its new modern Clock Tower.
- The Formal Hacienda of San Lázaro - Current home of the Gutierrez family is a landmark and one of the few remains of the Hacienda that founded the town of La Garita.
There are currently three public schools in La Garita ranging from Kindergarten to grade 9. All three schools are on the upper half of the town, built there in order to be safe from the frequent floods by the neighboring stream and river that used to flood the lower half of the town often in years past.
For Kindergarten a small Jardin de Niños is available for children starting at age 5 with some of the best Kindergarten teachers from the region.
As far as elementary education, an older school which educated the majority of the town citizens named Revolución was recently torn down to be replaced by a well needed three story building with modern amenities and computer labs. Unfortunately, the construction process of the building was not inspected properly resulting with the front entrance on the building towards the back, and vice versa. The elementary school hosts grades 1st through 6th (in Mexico elementary does not end on 5th grade as it is in the U.S., but 6th grade).
A Jr. High is also available in town, although farther from the heart of the town, it hosts grades 7th-9th. In Mexico this is known as the secundaria or secondary education school.
La Garita currently has a clinic by the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS), a social security clinic funded by the workers of the region, especially the farmers of the sugarcane fields in the area. This is not an open clinic, only those people who qualify for the social security either by their work or a family member who works and pays for their social security is able to get medical aid, medicines, and care.
Public health care is available just a couple of miles away at the Centro de Salud at the neighbor town of La Verdura. At the nearby city of Tamazula de Gordiano, about 20 minutes away, more advanced medical care is available with another IMSS clinic, Gotitas de Vida rehabilitation center, and the Centro de Salud Popular (a public government clinic).
Religion is a big part of the culture and habits of the citizens of La Garita. There is only one church in the town, La Parroquia de La Garita. The town celebrates all saints and the virgin of Guadalupe as most of Mexico, but every town has a special celebration or fair, "la feria," to the town's Patron, San Lázaro. Up to recently, the celebration for the patron was revived as it was forgotten with time and the popularity of the virgin to the municipality of Tamazula, la Virgen del Sagrario.
Each of the fairs have a specific amount of days for the celebration with different things done in honor of the patron or virgin on each day plus entertainment. The popularity of each brings tourists and visitors to the town increasing the entertainment value from concerts with the best bands, mariachi bands, and pop stars that Mexico has to offer. The celebration of the "Virgen del Sagrario" is done from the 20th of November to the 30th of November each year. For the town's patron, "San Lázaro," it begins on the l7th to the 22nd of December each year.
About 89% of the citizens of La Garita consider themselves Catholics, while there are 11% which either don't associate with a specific religion or are Christian. The number of Christians is growing each year and currently sits at about 5% that is composed of Baptist, Pentecostal, and Jehovah's witness.
Soccer is the main sport in the town with its popular team La Garita on the Municipal League, fast becoming a great contender on the league with a Juveniles and Intermedias versus teams.
The rodeo and bull riding is also a popular sport in the town although it is mostly seen during the religious festivities such as the Feria de la Virgen de Sagrario.
Recently, basketball became a popular sport in the town with the newly constructed basketball field in a new community park that also includes a new soccer field with audience stands or bleachers, a concert stage and more, right by the river.
Notable Natives and/or Residents
- Raul Gutierrez - Owns what's left of the old Hacienda de San Lázaro
- Abel Contreras - Regidor (H. Ayuntamiento de Tamazula de Gordiano)
- Jorge Magaña - Founder of the town's most popular websites, Actor, Film director/producer.
- Official site of La Garita, Jalisco - LaGaritaJalisco.com
- Tourism information for La Garita, Jalisco
- Website for the Spa/Water Park with natural thermal waters - Las Jaras
- La Garita Facebook Fan Page
- La Garita Twitter Page