Chapala Extends a Bridge

Remember the infamous “bridge to nowhere”? Some years ago it was the favorite project of an Alaskan politician and funding for it slipped into an omnibus spending bill in Congress. Oddly enough, there was sufficient uproar about the boondoggle that the project was never executed. (Instead, a road to nowhere took its place.) Learn more here.

Chapala entered the race for the bridge to nowhere title in late 2019 and early 2020.

Here in Chapala, the local government was not called upon to finance this bridge. Instead, local press coverage reported that the restaurant which the bridge is in front of funded the effort. The suggestion was that the bridge would allow boats to offload potential customers for the restaurant.

However, the lake would not rise during the rainy season to allow such boat traffic. So the bridge just sat…………until recently.

Then a couple of weeks ago, a flurry of activity materialized, extending the bridge closer to the water.

 

Workers extended the bridge to basically double its original length and added the slats so that the bridge would be actually usable.

Then they creosoted the woodwork and added roping to create sides for the walkway.

So now we have a finished bridge, privately financed, to nowhere. Will it turn out to be a profitable project? We’ll be watching!

 

 

 

Chapala Changes to 2021!

Chapala welcomed the new year with a change! The Chapala 2020 sign which has graced fisherman’s pier for a year now clicked over to 2021. Literally. We’d been wondering here whether the change would be made and we’d pretty much concluded that it won’t. Too much difficulty.

But New Year’s Eve my neighbor and I walked along the malecon in the late afternoon only to happen upon workmen making the change, while two police watched and guarded the work. After taking a couple of pictures I practiced my Spanish on the police, with rueful apologies for my still stumbling efforts, whether there would be a party on the malecon that evening. No, they said, emphatically. How about la musica, I asked. No, again, more emphatically. And how about fuegos artificiales (fireworks), I asked. No, most emphatically. Oh well, hopefully next year.

As a reminder, here’s the 2020 version:

The flocks of pelicans here in Chapala are growing too as 2020 turns into 2021.

But the prize, so to speak, for the most patriotic bird on the lake doesn’t go to a pelican. It belongs to a heron.

Happy New Year from the fun side of the border! Hasta luego!

Snow in Guadalajara and Christmas Doggerel

Hola, friends and Christmas greetings! Feliz Navidad!

Earlier this week my neighbors and I made our way to Guadalajara to finally take in a movie and to enjoy some of the festivities there just before Christmas. Like the U.S. and Canada, Mexico has protocols in place for covid, so we were checked for face masks and had our temperatures taken before we could go into the Andares Mall, one of the upscale malls in Zapopan, a town in Guadalajara.

Christmas decorations festooned the place and a generally festive atmosphere pervaded. And, then, suddenly, it started to snow!!!

As you can see from the video, the mall here is open air. It’s essentially a mall as in the U.S., only without the roof.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying the sudden storm.

In case anyone is still wondering, no it didn’t really snow, as in naturally. Way too warm here for that to happen. But using snow-making equipment and powerful fans, it did seem like it was snowing. The flakes were real; just generated just above the mall.

On another note, we did get a very clear and sharp look at the Christmas “star” last Monday night. We walked down to the malecon and the star was immediately identifiable–it was so bright! And it seemed to dominate the sky. It was easy to imagine how awestruck the Three Magi might have been to see this natural wonder appear in the sky.

Thanks to my neighbor Lonnie for his photo of the star.

So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you.

 

 

 

 

Christmas 2020 in Coming to Chapala

Christmas is indeed coming to Chapala, albeit in a muted, be calm and carry on manner. The usual raucous parade was cancelled–alas, it was one of the highlights of the year and the entire town turned out for it. Guess that’s why it was cancelled (pretty sharp I am!).

Yet people are finding ways to express the festive sense of the season despite the covid precautions.

Last night I walked down to el centro around 8PM. It had been dark for a half-hour or so.

On my way I noticed a few homes where ambitious residents had expressed their holiday spirit.

Earlier yesterday I noted that the city was putting up Christmas decoration in the median/park that splits the main avenue leading directly to the malecon with the central church on one side and a refurbished hotel that is now city hall on the other.

Each year it’s been festooned for the holidays. Resourcefully, the city uses the same basic decorations, a nativity scene with life-sized statuary as well as lots of lights. And each year they’re in a different arrangement. Lovely. You can see Christmas 2018 pics here and Christmas 2019 pics here.

Lots of folks were out last night to see the newly-lit decorations.  Everyone was respectful and it appeared that everyone was enjoying themselves. Yeah!

This year I spotted two new additions, or at least I think they are new. First, a piñata-style star  above the main fountain in el centro.

Second, the orange globes decorating the sidewalk above city hall.

The nativity scene this year was separated into sections rather than being one large display.

Finally, one of the very tall trees in el centro appeared like this:

So take a cue from the locals here. Enjoy life despite the gloomy news. We’ve got a lot to be thankful for in spite of everything.

I wish you and yours a most happy Christmas and joyous holiday season.

A Chapala Thanksgiving 2020

I’m often asked whether Mexico celebrates Thanksgiving. Oddly enough, it does, at least in areas with lots of expats and gringos.

Here at lakeside, many restaurants provide the traditional American feast of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie.

And retailers indicate that Mexicans also celebrate. I received several emails from a Mexican upscale grocery chain called La Comer, all in Spanish, announcing ingredients and dishes available for El Dia de Accion de Gracias (note that the accents in Spanish are missing here).

Thanksgiving was quiet here. Covid seems to have slowed everything down.

However, some verities are eternal such as the pelicans along the lake in the winter. They are returning!

It’s the little changes that I note on my daily walks on the malecon. Over the last couple of weeks, workers have been making improvements and changes to the skateboard/bike park near fisherman’s pier.

For a while, they literally broke up several of the walls there, by hand.

Then, they filled in the surface with large stones and mortar.

After reinforcing the walls in this manner, they finished the surfaces as if nothing had been done.

Finally, they built stairs in one section of the park. Not sure why and I haven’t seen any of the youngsters playing on them to know what purpose they serve. Maybe just aesthetic.

The city and its citizens seem to take a real pride in the upkeep and presentation of the malecon and its components. It’s a joy to behold!

 

 

Day of the Dead in Chapala–Lockdown 2020 Edition

This year Day of the Dead was a subdued celebration. The governor of Jalisco, the state in which Chapala is located, had ordered a limited lockdown once again because of covid. During the week, businesses could be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. On weekends, only grocery stores could open with the same limited hours. Restaurants could deliver but accept no dine-in customers. Everyone was (and is) encouraged to stay home.

Lakeside in general has been pretty quiet. Little traffic; little activity. So when Day of the Dead arrived on November 2, a Monday this year, the cemeteries were closed and no public celebrations or memorials were allowed.

Normally, Day of the Dead is a colorful holiday with a somber undertone of remembering those who have passed. Its symbol is Catrina. Developed by a Mexican artist back at the turn of the prior century, Catrina have come to decorate and dominate the holiday. Part of the tradition of laughing in the face of death. A hint of defiance of the inevitable. I’ll live life anyway, I hear her say.

There were Catrinas in el centro.

This was as much of a public celebration as there was. Compare this to past years in my post here.

Even though the altars were not displayed in public in el centro, individuals and households still made their own declaration. Across the street from us, our neighbors honored one of their own.

And just down the street, my barber honored another.

In from of the newly-refurbished mercado in Chapala, the cabana too was decorated for the holiday.

Mexico is keeping calm and moving on. Day of the Dead will be back again next year, hopefully with a very public celebration in the spirit of facing life with equanimity. Here’s to it!

Dancing in Chapala

Yesterday my neighbor and I went to Guadalajara on a grocery run. We arrived back rather late in the day and I ended up taking my walk on the malecon at twilight. Typically I walk in the late morning.

The energy of the malecon is distinctly different in the evening than the day. There’s a really festive atmosphere. Groups of musicians play for couples or families who dance or simply enjoy. It’s more crowded, as the locals take advantage of the leisure of the evening to enjoy the beauty of lakeside.

Last night, I encountered a troupe of dancers performing at the entrance to fisherman’s pier.  Simply delightful.

Was this practice for the upcoming Day of the Dead, one of the most important and widely celebrated holidays in Mexico? Or was this an early manifestation of that celebration? Or something else?

There was a typical Day of the Dead display of a person who has gone before and is being remembered and honored. I learned that he was a relative of some of the celebrants.

Periodically, rides appear on the malecon and evening is a great time to enjoy the color and noise.

This reminded me of a Halloween video from the long ago past.

We’ll see how Day of the Dead is celebrated in the age of covid.

Boys and Their Toys in Chapala

Slowly, slowly, life is stumbling toward a new normal here at lakeside.

We’ve got a drive-in theatre basically next door. Periodically a local concert is staged, with social distancing for seating. We still have to wear masks in stores and places of business. Still, folks are out and about more and more.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I love the malecon and that I walk it basically every day. Doing so lets me observe small changes that I probably wouldn’t notice if I was observing over a wider time interval.

This week is seeing some changes to the skate/bike course that’s a favorite of the local kids.

Workers have been out with their sledgehammers chipping away at some of the course structure. It’s not at all clear what’s being done or why it’s being done. The biggest changes I’ve observed over the almost three years I’ve lived here now is that the park is periodically painted over in white and then the local artists have a new canvas for local street art. I’ll keep my eyes on the changes as they progress.

Another change is a unique “ride” that recently appeared on the malecon.

Four small Cat Mini Excavators appeared lined up in front of a trough of nice clean gravel which you can operate for forty pesos (about $2 U.S.dollars)

How could I resist????

Likewise, how could my neighbor?

It was my birthday and it was finally time to let out my inner boy!

And yes, I even had a cigar for the big event.

Time to let loose just a little.

 

 

 

 

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!).