Guillermo del Toro, 52, who has two Oscar nominations for “The Shape of Water” (best director and best screenplay; he won a Golden Globe Award for best director for the film), is well known for his science fiction and horror movies. (His other films include “Pacific Rim” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.”)
But del Toro’s talents go beyond film. He is also co-author of a trilogy of vampire novels and is the creator of “Trollhunters,” the computer-animated series on Netflix.
One of his latest projects, the drawings for the box of a limited-edition tequila from Patrón called Patrón x Guillermo del Toro, is an homage to his upbringing in Guadalajara, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. There, he would often see the fields of agave teeming with jimadores, the farmers who harvest blue weber agave plants used to make tequila. “It was fascinating to watch them work because their craft of picking and trimming the plants is so intricate,” he said.
It’s the jimadores who inspired del Toro’s drawings, he said.
And while del Toro lives in Toronto and Los Angeles, he returns to Guadalajara every six weeks to visit his family and still sees the jimadores working in the fields.
Following are edited excerpts from an interview with del Toro.
Q: Jalisco is where tequila is produced, but what does the state offer for tourists?
A: First of all, whether you drink tequila or not, I do think it’s worth visiting some tequila houses in the town of Tequila and in the highlands region. By going to a house, you can learn about how the agave is extracted to produce the drink.
But going beyond tequila, I love Magdalena, a small town famous for its opal mining. You can visit the mines and see how the workers find the stones. Then there’s Puerto Vallarta, which has beautiful beaches, and my hometown of Guadalajara, where my favorite sights are the murals by José Clemente Orozco. He is one of the greatest Mexican mural artists, and his art is everywhere is the city. In the Hospico Cabañas, for example, there’s a work called “Man of Fire” painted on a dome.
Q: What are some other destinations in Mexico that tourists tend to miss?
A: Mérida, in the state of Yucatán, is a beautiful colonial city where the people used to dress in all white from head to toe. The culture is very rich, especially the music. It’s a limerick style called son where the phrases repeat again and again.
Then you have Oaxaca, which is an incredibly mystical city with a lot of shamans. The cuisine is refined but spicy, and you find a lot of mole. And Campeche City is a vibrant port city with fantastic seafood which is also very nice to walk around in.
Each of these places are in the same country but are so different culturally and cuisine-wise that they might as well be different countries.
Q: Compared with the cities you just named, Cancún and Cabo San Lucas are much more popular with tourists. Do they give travelers an authentic sense of Mexico at all?
A: I’ve only been to Cancún once and didn’t really like it so I can’t offer any perspective there, but as for Cabo, you need to get away from the touristy parts. For me, the hidden gem there is a beach called Barriles, near the city of La Paz. All the locals go there, and the swimming is fantastic. The beach also has food stands where you get the best lobster and fish.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for souvenirs that travelers to Mexico should buy?
A: I’m partial to candies called borrachitos. They’re sugary and soft and come in different flavors. I also suggest buying alebrijes. They are these bright fantasy creatures handmade by local artists, and you can find them at craft markets all over the country. They’re distinctly Mexican.