Carnaval in Chapala 2019

It’s Carnaval time in Chapala and the town is geared up.

There are decorations popping up.

And proclamations.

And, of course, there was a parade.

Friday evening the square started to fill in around 7PM. That was the published time of the parade. In Chapala, as in Mexico, as in much of the rest of the world, the obsession with adherence to time is much more spongy than in the U.S.

It starts when it starts.

In the meanwhile, have a seat on a bench and chit-chat with the gathering folks and engage in that popular sport of people watching.

Carnaval is an especially ripe time to do so. Folks in costume. Performers. Artists. Lovers. It’s all here.

Carnaval here is not like the celebration we’ve seen from Rio (at least we don’t think so; we’ve never been to Rio though). Here, it seems more laid back; less flamboyant, more homey, more family.

And the parade seemed to emphasize those aspects. Of course, there was some glitz (what would a parade be without any?).

Everybody, it seems, turns out for the parade. Check out our neighbors. Grandma, parents, toddlers and even infants. Everyone seeming to have a good time.

So, on with the parade. Enjoy.

Walking back home, we caught a rare glimpse of the Chapala sign at the malecon relatively quiet.

Home sweet home.










ChiliFest in Chapala

It’s getting warmer here in Chapala. The malecon is swarming with families and vendors. Folks are swimming in the lake. Everyone, it seems, is getting ready for Carnaval, the raucous festival that precedes Lent.

Indeed, while the locals anticipate Lent, the gringos have a festival of their own here at Lakeside called the Mexican National Chili Cookoff. Now celebrating its 41st year of supporting local charities focused on children, seniors and healthcare.

Chilifest in my name for it; otherwise it’s a mouthful.

The cookoff is held at Tobolandia, a water theme park that holds a prime piece of local real estate at the corner where Walmart anchors one side; the local mall another, Domino’s and some other retailers yet a third and Tobolandia.

Truthfully I was never sure until this weekend that Tobolandia was actually a functioning park. It’s set kind of back off the highway and clearly a water themed park,  yet despite passing it dozens if not hundreds of times it never seemed to be a happening place.

Well, it was this weekend. For it is the site of the Chili Cookoff. And, interestingly enough, the park itself was open and a few locals were taking advantage of the sunny warmth to enjoy the water delights there.


Chilifest it turns out in set toward the back of the park in a lovely wooded area with an open space for a stage and food court.

However, that’s the puzzle of Chilifest.

During the year I had heard from my neighbors about the Cookoff, that it boasted vendors and artisans, many with unique and beautiful works on display and for sale.

Yet, I didn’t hear anything about chili.

Of course, when I hear chili cookoff, I anticipate tables and grills and guys and gals in festive aprons grilling meats and stirring vats of bubbling chilis with competing ingredients and varying degrees of spicy heat.

Not here. I hunted and hunted for some sign of chili. I found a food court, kinda like you’d expect at any fair in the U.S. Then, asking around I was directed to a tent where indeed the chili cookoff was in full swing.

While, as you can see from the photos above, there was a long line of folks waiting to taste the chilis in the contest, to my best discernment, there seemed to be three contestants.

The main purpose of chilifest is indeed the display of arts and crafts from the cream of the crop of local and not-so-local artisans and craftspeople. All kinds of jewelry, clothes, leatherworks, painting, handcrafted knives (some total beauties there) and all kinds of goodies. Truly spectacular. Truly beautiful.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Scouts of Mexico. Glad to know that the Scouts are thriving here. All the best to you from an Eagle Scout of many years.





Where Malls Are Alive and Well

Long-time readers of this blog know that we visit Guadalajara fairly frequently. Mostly to attend concert events, the orchestra, the opera, and good old fashioned (and new fashioned) rock and roll. And to do more serious shopping.

Guadalajara is a big city, the second largest in Mexico, with over 10 million residents. So pretty much whatever you need you can find there. Not that we need much. As geezers, we’re busy winding down rather than acquiring up. We can here with a carload and a roof rack of possessions and left behind only a small locker in Wisconsin.

Yet, sometimes it’s fun to exercise the shopping bug. And surprise of surprises, in the opposite of the U.S., malls are thriving here in Mexico, well, at least in Guadalajara.

In between taking in an opera and an evening with 80s goth rocker Peter Murphy, we visited a mall near one of the two Costcos in town. Pretty upscale, solidly upper middle class you might say.

And it was rockin’ and rolling’ on a Saturday night!

We spotted a few familiar stores, yet mostly new ones (to us). Lots of clothing shops and lots of lingerie stores. No Victoria’s Secret, brands that appear to be Mexico’s own.

And we had a few strange encounters, such as this Japan store. Yes, Japan.

The place was packed. A line twenty people deep waiting at the cash registers. There didn’t seem to be any special sale going on, nor was everybody buying the same item. Apparently shoppers at this mall really just love Japanese items. Here’s some of the selection:

Movies? Yes, certainly there are movies here. Even IMax.

And I saved the best for last. Yes, there is a food court here. And yes, there is a MacDonald’s in the food court. However, check out the sign here:

Next to the ice cream cone: leche 100% de vaca. Translation: 100% cow’s milk.

Now ya know!!!




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Calm Before the Storm: Chapala in January

February is a month of celebration in Chapala. Indeed, in all of Mexico. What Americans know as Mardi Gras is a ten day festival here, and there are other holidays and celebrations as well. Tomorrow, February 4, is Constitution Day here. (It’s always the first Monday of February.) On that day back in 1917, Mexico initiated its present constitution. Truly, a cause for celebration.

However, January has its own charms, quiet and relatively inconspicuous as they may be.

On the malecon, the pelicans can be observed gracing the waters of the lake. Some days there seem to be hundreds of them; other days, many fewer. Where do they do? What do they do? We don’t know. But we, like almost everyone in Chapala love and respect their presence. Some of the locals take it upon themselves to feed the pelicans with the remains of the catches of local fishermen.

Down the malecon a little ways, local artists have tripped out the skateboard arena with bright new paintings.

It’s cool evenings and warm days, ranging typically between 55 degrees (F) during sleeping hours and 70 or so during the day. Just lovely.

And this year we were graced with another concert by the Orquestra Tipica, a group of musicians we saw last year at the train station turned art museum and classrooms.

This concert happened at the Presidential Building in the heart of Chapala. A well-preserved building with a two to three hundred seat theatre with a stage.

This auditorium has a foyer for informal gatherings, graced with a number of music and art themed paintings.

The orchestra delighted the audience with renditions of Mexican favorites, many of which we recognized from cartoons and films we’d seen over the years. The orchestra is a mixed and motley group of locals and expats, youth and aged, with a particularly flamboyant and vivacious leader, a delightful and engaging gentleman.

We hope to see and hear them again soon. Enjoy these videos if you will.