Police Encounters of the Chapala Kind

One observation tourists usually make very soon upon arriving in Mexico is the level of police presence.

We’re talking pretty heavily armed too. Heavy protective gear, automatic weapons (or semis–we don’t know the difference).

On each of the three trips to Laredo we’ve made in our time here, we’ve gone through checkpoints staffed both by police and by the Mexican military.

And we’re used to seeing police here in Chapala. Just like in the states, the boys in blue (and women too!).

There are three levels of police that we’ve observed: local, state and federal. Pretty much, they drive around in vehicles like this:

This is a state police vehicle (Jalisco being the state). Typically, two officers will be in the cab and three or four officers will ride in the back truck bed.

We’ve been pulled over twice now in the almost year and a half that we’ve been living in Mexico. Both times locally.  Both times, well, odd. Here’s our experiences.

Earlier this year we went to see Santana up in Guadalajara. The show started at nine p.m. and by the time we were headed home after the show it was around midnight.

We were driving down the main route (Rt. 23) toward Chapala, passing through the sprawl that populates the route.

I saw one of the local Chapala police trucks up ahead, just cruising along. It was going fairly slow, so I signaled by way into the passing lane and went by. Given the traffic we ended up passing each other a couple of times until finally we were ahead of the police vehicle when on come the lights.

Oh no. Not good. So I pull over off the road and wait. I didn’t even know what the police would ask me for. So I waited. Bonita and our neighbor (in the back seat) sat quietly. None of us were sure what the stop was for.

An officer appeared at my window. I opened it and the officer immediately said “buenas noches” (good evening) and I returned the salutation. He continued with “como estas” (how are you?) to which I replied “muy bien” (very well) and again I returned the salutation.

He didn’t ask for any papers. He took a good look inside the car, paying particular attention to the back seat.

His partner then appeared who seemed to speak some English and we chatted at bit.

They said “adios” (goodbye) and sent us on our way.

No papers; no warning; no violation.

The second encounter happened in Guadalajara. Bonnie and I were returning from the opera. We were driving down one of the main drags in Guad headed toward Rt. 23, when a cop on a motorcycle appeared beside us and motioned for me to pull over.

Oh no, not again, I thought.

We were on a very busy street with no shoulder. Fortunately, it did have a frontage road and I was finally able to pull over. The cop got in front of us and led the way to a safe stopping point.

He appeared at my window.

All business.

He asked for papers, without specifying which papers.

So Bonnie pawed through the glove box looking for the paperwork we’d received in Laredo. The permit for the car and the insurance.

We couldn’t find it. We both started freaking out just a little. Visions from bad movies of Mexican prisons danced in our heads.

But then, the cop was back at the window. He’d run our plates through his system and we came back clean (all of which was communicated by sign language a la charades) and he sent us on our way.

(Turns out the paperwork we were looking for was under the passenger seat of the car.)

So, those are our two police encounters. Just goes to show that such encounters don’t have to end in a horror story.

We’re feeling protected here in Chapala.



Mother’s Day in Chapala

Mother’s Day here in Mexico is celebrated on May 10 regardless of on which day of the week it falls.

And it is HUGE.

Remember way back when when Easter was a really big deal in the U.S. (and presumably in Canada too)?

I do. The ladies would get all gussied up, put on not just their Sunday best, but clothes for those extra-special occasions. And, an Easter bonnet. I loved it. All those hats bobbing around. A Jackson Pollack painting of color.

Well, that close to what you find here in Chapala on Mother’s Day.

And flowers. Flowers everywhere.

And celebrations.

Once upon a time I worked for AT&T in Long Distance (back when long distance was a big deal). Mother’s Day was the heaviest calling day of the year.

Well, Mother’s Day here in Mexico brings the whole family together. Live and in-person.

It didn’t seem that the restaurants were overly crowded.

Maybe everybody went here. Happy Mother’s Day with fun and games for the entire family.


Feelin’ the Heat in Chapala

It’s the height of the warm season here. (Pretty lovely we think.) The temperature can venture up into the high 80s (F) in the afternoon before cooling back down into the low 70s at night.

We love this time of year. The snowbirds have flown back to their other nesting grounds, so travel in and around Ajijic is liveable. That said, we stay pretty close to home. We just love Chapala.

And we’ve waved goodbye to the other snowbirds, the pelicans. There’s a couple of them hanging in here still. We don’t know whether they didn’t get the memo or are simply like us, saying the weather is great here all year, why go anywhere else?

This year, we’re seeing quite a few forest fires both around the Lake and around Guadalajara.


It’s dry, folks. No rain since we can’t remember when.

This year the rainy season will be quite welcome. And we’ll need quite a bit of it to snuff out all the little fires burning in the hills.

The fires are pretty much contained and are not threatening any communities, at least not yet. Helicopters have been hard at work dipping huge buckets into the lake and then dumping them on the burning forests.

We had quite an ordinary week this week.

We did venture up to Guadalajara for the final opera of the Met broadcast season last Saturday.

On the way home, we decided to stop at a restaurant we’d passed a number of time that always seems to be rockin’ and rollin’. We didn’t know anything about it. We had an inkling that it served goat, as the little signage there had a goat head and the word birriera, an establishment that services birria.

So here’s where we get to settle an friendly but seemingly long-standing argument among expats. Some insist that birria consists of goat meat; other insist it’s lamb.

What it is, in fact, either or both or even beef or chicken. birria is a stew.

And it’s GOOD!

Having parked, we were guided to a table under a massive tent. The “restaurant” consists of several buildings and several covered areas (tents). A huge number of people were here, dining and having a good time.

One very encouraging fact was that it took a little while for our server to find another server who spoke some English. Apparently gringos are not customary here. Translation: great local Mexican food ahead!

Still the communications were stilted. We asked for a menu. And one was produced. But it had very little on it (other than three pages of drink selections). The food here is basic. You could order different sized servings of grilled meat, bone-in or bone-out, frijoles (beans), again of different sizes and a couple of other items. That’s it.

I asked if they had any vegetales. No, senor, came the reply.

So we ordered and before too long out came a massive platter of “clean” meat (bone-out), another massive platter of frijoles, a huge mocajete, a dish of raw onions, a broth served in a soup bowl as well as crispy whole tortillas and well as soft tortillas.

It was a feast.

LOL! You can see from the photo that we were hungry. No beautiful spread of untouched cuisine. We ate, and share the leftovers with you! There were plenty.

We’ll be back here again for sure.



Cinco de Mayo in Mexico

This was the week of Cinco de Mayo. In the U.S., it seems to be an excuse to go out for what passes as Mexican food and to drink cerveza and margaritas. For years we did this too. There was some vague sense that Cinco de Mayo was (and is) an important holiday of our southern neighbors. Never sure exactly what and after a few margaritas, who cares anyway???

So we expected a pretty big celebration here in Mexico.

Surprise, surprise. Nothing; nada. Oh, I’m sure there was somewhere. Cinco de Mayo was a battle fought here of some significance which you can check out here. 

But the celebration of Cinco de Mayo in most of Mexico seems to be that pretty much every Mexican town and city of any size has a Cinco de Mayo street.

So, what did we do here on Cinco de Mayo?

A neighbor and I went out to eat and visit a bi-annual arts show in Guadalajara. What else? [Bonnie is off in the States for medical treatment.]

The arts show was similar to the show we described here from last October. This was a pretty upscale show and was packed to the gills. Not with gringos, interestingly enough, but seemingly with the prosperous of Guadalajara.

The show was held at Expo Guadalajara, a beautiful conference center in the Zapapon area of Guadalajara. There’s a stunning two-story mural done in tile at one of the entrances. And, of course, Frida is there. (Frida is an iconic figure you will see all over Mexico.)

One interesting fact about this show that was not part of last year’s: the presence of a number of Cuban artisans. The world is opening up!

After the show we traveled down in Guadalajara centro to get some supplies at an Asian market. While there, we asked about nearly Asian restaurants. An employee directed us down the street a couple of blocks to a Korean restaurant.

We found this totally appropriate on Cinco de Mayo. We’d dine on Asian in Mexico while the U.S. was dining on Mexican back in the homeland.

Our meal was cooked right in front of us on a table constructed out of a barrel and a table top. The barrel held a charcoal grill which was filled and lit and our food grilled. Fresh and delightful!

So that was Cinco do Mayo here in Chapala.