Mexico’s Independence Day 2020

September 16th is Mexico’s July 4th. Independence Day.

Beyond the nomenclature, the meaning and the story of the day is very different in Mexico than in the U.S.

I’d enjoyed two prior Independence Day celebrations here in Chapala. Both were very festive, with a party atmosphere and lots of noise. Fireworks, which are quite legal here, would start in the morning and run deep into the evening and every the next morning. It’s the one time of year I’m a little thankful that I’m hard of hearing. While some expats complain vociferously about the noise, I peacefully sleep though almost all of it.

However, given the pandemic, Independence Day was quite quiet here, literally.

But I did get a wake-up call about it.

My Spanish teacher introduced me to a long-standing tradition here in Mexico. That is, the Grito speech, by the President of Mexico.

On the night of September 15, the President appears on the balcony of the Presidential Palace at the Zocalo in Mexico City (the huge square) and replicates the speech of Miguel Hildalgo y Costilla, a priest who rallied Mexicans to throw off Spanish rule. You can read about the tradition here.

Grito in Spanish means shout. As my teacher explained, the speech was given in 1810 and the priest had to shout to be heard by a large crowd.

The 16th is now a holiday and the locals were out in numbers to celebrate.

The malecon was abuzz.

Kites were flying.

Kids were playing.

A beautiful day shown for us all.

Happy times in Chapala.

Entrepreneurs In Chapala

One of the most appealing aspects of living in Mexico is the ease of opening businesses. During my life in the U.S., I opened several businesses and although not particularly difficult, it did take a lot of paperwork and filing and reporting.

Here, you open your business. Yes, you do have to make sure you are charging the VAT (which must be quoted as part of the price of any product or service). And there are a few other rules and regulations, depending on the type of business in which you’re engaged. But for the most part, shop owners and entrepreneurs here uniformly tell me how easy it is to get going.

Interestingly enough, it often means a lot of businesses open and are soon gone. Under-capitalized, under-marketed, simply not appealing? Often, I’m not quite sure but in the almost three years I’ve been here I’ve seen a lot of them come and go.

So I was very pleased to observe and be part of the success of a restaurant in Ajijic called Vegan Town.

The co-owners are a young couple, Tulu (pronounced Sulu, as in the Star Trek character) and Eddie. Tulu is the daughter of Laura, who manages a vegan restaurant, Ol-Lin, in San Antonio (a neighborhood in Chapala). Sulu studied nutrition in university. I met Tulu while she worked at Ol-Lin.

She and Eddie branched out and opened a small restaurant on the west side of Ajijic. A tiny place with two tables. They survived during the current crisis doing deliveries. And recently they’ve relocated to a larger location and expanded their hours to include breakfast.

Note from their signage above that they’re open six days a week, for twelve hours a day. And it’s just the two of them, with a little help in the kitchen.

The new location is a home. They live in part of it and have the restaurant in most of it. The (thankfully) large kitchen is like a big home kitchen in the U.S. or Canada.

Tulu makes amazing food, and clearly it’s made with love. You don’t do a business like this with all the hours and all the work and not love it.

It’s wonderful to see a young couple launching into a new venture, serving their customers and generally making a little part of the world a better place.

Not to mention having outstanding food! Check out these pizzas and these delighted customers (my neighbors!).