Surrounded by Guadalajara’s iconic, yellow-tile spires, La Rotonda de Los Jaliscienses Ilustres e Ilustras, and the Palacio Municipal, an underground warren of locales (shops) to which nobody pays much attention, is spread out beneath a bustling but bleak plaza and its fountain. Welcome to Plaza Guadalajara.
If you’ve never heard of it or noticed it, hidden beneath descending staircases that are scattered around the square, you are not alone. The merchants who rent the spaces, which line a surprisingly large grid of fluorescent-lit, three-meter-wide passageways, have been complaining for the many years since Guadalajara City Hall supposedly upgraded the shopping area, that all has been for naught, and they are consigned to oblivion in their subterranean recesses.
There is hope that may change now. City Hall has reportedly kicked out a number of shops, announced openings for over 150 new ones (to fill the glaring scores of empty, shuttered spaces) and, the biggest news, announced that when the new and much delayed Tren Ligero (subway) Line 3 opens, the struggling Plaza Guadalajara should be in for a huge influx of customers, as people pass between Lines 2 and 3 at the Cathedral stop.
But the small-scale merchants – nail stylists, backpack and clothing sellers, religious-article retailers, jewelry and watch repairers, gold exchangers and one lone taco restaurant – are not very sanguine, judging from their published comments.
One of the 30 store owners told me he has been a jewelry repairer there – literally an underground merchant – for decades, long before City Hall upgraded the space some years ago. Still, he seemed hopeful, even proud, as he accompanied me to see the now-covered portal from which will eventually emanate crowds hurrying fro, subway lines.
Remembering that a friend recently complained that Centro Magno is tawdry compared to Plaza Galerias, I have my doubts that local people are going to take to the underground shops any more than they have to the very similar and not especially thriving stores that line the streets above.
In truth, one of the nice features of Plaza Guadalajara is that it has a lot of clean bathrooms scattered through its passageways, charging three pesos, and they are well advertised in the above-ground area, which teems with people. And a possible benefit to the merchants is that below, both they and customers are protected from the rain.
So good luck, Plaza Guadalajara, and may the gods of the underground, whoever they may be, or the one in the cathedral across the street, smile upon you.