The Chapala Malecon Re-opens

Yeah! Time to do my happy dance!

Last Thursday, the malecon re-opened.

For months now, I’ve only really seen the lake for fleeting moments driving in and out of Chapala. Not long after the virus crisis began, the city closed the malecon and closed the city to all but residential and essential services traffic.

Now, Mexico is slowly re-opening.

It’s been tough on many Mexicans. This is still largely a land of independent shop owners and crafts and trades persons. A lot of families are dependent on their small shops to put food in their mouths.

Last month some of the shop owners along the malecon marched in protest of their continued closure while other shops in town (off the malecon) were allowed to re-open.

At last, they’re coming back.

And we get to see the beautiful lakeside again.

The timing also corresponds with the beginning of rainy season. Here in Chapala that generally means storms at night and clear sunny days. Still, on occasion, we do have a few overcast days and last Thursday was one of them.

Nevertheless, I took advantage of the opening to walk the malecon for the first time since late February.

As you can see, not many people were yet aware of the change. I only heard about it from my neighbor. I suspect that the city quietly made the decision and thus had a “soft” opening.

Not surprisingly, the lake has significantly decreased in volume. The shoreline has receded extensively. Six months ago, the pier in the photo above was almost under water. Now, dry land.

Over the course of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the malecon was busier and busier. Musicians were returning as were vendors and shop owners. The shop area is still separated from the main part of the malecon by a plastic fence you can see in some of the photos below, in part, I assume, to divert foot traffic to areas where city personnel can monitor the volume of visitors and see to social distancing and masking.


Oh what a joy it is to be back near the lake!






Chapala’s Renovated Mercado

In the midst of the coronavirus reaction, life goes on. Yes, that’s a cliche…but it happens to be true. By life goes on here, I specifically mean that projects and business continues, even a different and more leisurely pace.

One of the projects that’s been going on for months now in Chapala is the renovation of the town mercado (or marketplace). While the term mercado is used to refer to any market, especially outdoor markets that are often present weekly, each town in Mexico seems to have a town mercado. These mercados are housed in public buildings where space is rented to individual or family enterprises who provide all types of food.

There are butchers and vendors of beef, chicken, pork, lamb and fish. There are fruit and vegetable vendors. There are prepared food stands. There are flowers and tortillas and cheeses. All sorts of consumables.

Chapala’s mercardo was a dreary, worn-out looking building in very serious need of a facelift. I don’t know when it’s last update was but I would seriously guess sometime in the sixties. No joke. It was dark and dingy and it was a testament to the vendors that they survived and thrived in spite of the much less than inviting environment.

Several months ago, maybe even a year ago, funds were secured through the state of Jalisco and with contribution by the city to seriously renovate the mercado.

The building was closed and the vendors all moved outside to the little park area in front of the building on the main drag of the city.

For months it seemed as if nothing was really happening. And then a couple of weeks ago, voila, the renovated building was dedicated and opened.

What a change! Much more inviting and bright.Very glad to have a “new” mercado here in Chapala.

Chapala in Transition

Over the last few weeks, this sign has been popping up more and more often here at lakeside.

It’s actually a popular phrase being repurposed for COVID times. Literally translated, it means “no one thunders here”. It’s a catchphrase, used like “no child left behind” in the U.S.

Currently, it’s a designation or declaration to shop local, to support local businesses and shops or tiendas as they are known in Spanish.

Chapala and lakeside are in the process of re-opening, albeit slowly. Businesses and restaurants are back online so to speak. Larger venues, such as malls, movies, concerts and sports events, are still in the future (or at least I dearly hope they are).

The sign is a reminder to shop locally, to support the literally mom-and-pop (and often the kids and pets) that are the owner-operators.

There truly is a feeling of we take care of each other here. It’s a beautiful thing.

For readers outside of Mexico, you might be hearing horror stories about Mexico on the mass media. I’ve gotten a few concerned calls from friends asking if I’m okay and recounting the horrors of which they hear.

So, let me tell you want is reality here.

First, there are not piles of dead bodies in the streets. The healthcare system is working just fine thanks.

Second, the police are still on duty and behaving.

Third,  Mexico is certainly not a “failed state” as some have described it. At least not here.

And recall too that Chapala and lakeside are basically suburbs of Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico.

I look out my floor to ceiling windows at bright sunshine, puffy white clouds, a slight breeze, nice and warm, birds chirping and luscious green vegetation.

Part of the joy of living here is that I can easily avoid the mainstream media in the U.S. and its carousel of horrors. Yes, Mexico has news too, but I don’t yet speak enough Spanish to watch the news on television. And I stay away from all the news websites. My twitter feed gives me a nice cogent summary of anything I need to know.

Last, I’m say that I’ve heard from my primary care physician several times during the lockdown, inquiring about how I’m doing and staying in touch.

Just saying.

This is Mexico!


Easing Into The New Normal in Chapala?

Good news!

Or so it seems. We’re told that this area of Mexico, the state of Jalisco and the city of Guadalajara are to cautiously begin re-opening tomorrow, Monday, May 18.

It’s been an odd time.

Some places have been closed completely. Some restaurants have been and are take-out only; others offer limited sit-down service (meaning that despite looking closed, one can get seated and serviced, although the usual specials are not in preparation).

We’re taking a wait-and-see attitude, hoping that all continues well.

No malls, theatres, concert venues, sports arenas and churches are yet allowed to open.

My neighbor and I did venture to Costco last Friday. It was glum; not the hustle and bustle that Costco is (in)famous for. The lines for check-out, being cautiously policed by employees, were long and tiresome.

We did drop by an upscale mall nearly to visit Starbucks (need my cold brew!). There, several restaurants were booming.

So it’s unclear what is actually happening. We will see.

In the meantime, here’s a couple of amusements I ran across this week. One is quite a odd story and the other a humorous discussion of what life in Mexico can teach gringos. Very salient and it comes with an English translation! Enjoy.


Doggerel During Lockdown in Chapala

Hola, mis amigos! (Hello, my friends.)

Truthfully, I haven’t been out much. Being in the vulnerable category (over 65) and not liking (at all!) to wear a mask, I’ve only ventured out to do a little shopping. A neighbor and I did manage to get out to lunch a couple of times this week too to at a couple of restaurants that still have seated service. What a treat!

Funny, given the large number of gringos here at lakeside, merchants and restaurateurs sometimes off helpful suggestions and messages that get lost in translation. This sign was on the tables at one of the restaurants this week. I’m still wondering what it is really trying to say.

Yet, life goes on.

Even though I haven’t seen a lot of hummingbird activity in the backyard, the feeder was drained. I moved to to the table on my little porch to refill it and low and behold, a few hummingbirds flew right up to it. What a treat. As you might imagine, the two cats who live with me now went on Def-Con 5!

The lockdown here has met with what I would call limited success. Although we’re supposed to wear masks at all times outside and are supposed to limit our excursions to only matters of necessity, the streets are still fairly busy and the use of masks is, well, half-hearted.

Today on a stop at one of the local gringo grocery stores, this newly painted sign caught my attention.

It took me a moment or two to figure out what it said, which is “Libertad!”, Spanish for freedom. While it’s a sentiment we could all support (well, unless you’re the governor of Michigan, LOL!), I suspect this expression of freedom was both a positive affirmation of Mexicans and a protest of the halting of the economy and society here.

Finally, while we on the subject of signs, back before Christmas, when the mall was open, the movies were running and the restaurants humming, I encountered this sign in the window of a shoe store. Hope you get a chuckle out of it. Why it’s in English I have no idea.

Be well until we meet again here.


Chapala Faces Coronavirus

We’re in lockdown.

Self-imposed, true. The government has strongly urged seniors and the infirm stay home. Find younger persons to do the shopping. Stay inside.

I’ve been out a few times, each to do some shopping. To the local Walmart, to Pancho’s Deli Market (a local gringo favorite), and even to Guadalajara to Costco and City Market (the high-end supermarket in the city) and Superama (a higher-end Walmart of Mexico grocery store).

Two weeks ago, I was isolating here with one exception. I went for a daily walk, down to the malecon to see the pelicans. That week, the malecon was closed off by the city.

In any case, the town has been pretty deserted.



The week prior to Easter is traditionally a major religious celebration and lots of Guadalajarans would visit Chapala and lakeside.  However, the city is actively discouraging visitors until after the crisis.

Out for a walk last Saturday, I was stopped twice by Chapala police who politely and firmly suggested that I return home. I did, and I have now limited my walking around three sides of the complex.

I have noticed several of the plants along our compound walls. The aloe vera plants are blooming, shooting up a beautiful blossom.

And above the wall, another plant is bursting forth as well. I don’t know what it is, but it’s magnificent.

Likewise when my neighbor and I went to Guadalajara last Friday we saw two police roadblocks on the southbound side. Then we arrived at one on the northbound side too. It was a drunk driving stop. At eleven o’clock in the morning. Mexico is very serious about drunk driving.

On the way back, around five o’clock, the drunk driving stop was gone but we stopped at both of the others.

At the first, we were asked where we were going and what we were doing. At least we think that’s what we were asked. We both then had our temperatures taken and we were waved on.

At the second, the Chapala police were asking what we were planning to do in Chapala. We told them we were residents and we passed through. However, several cars in front of us and behind us were turned away.

And so, I’m being very quiet here. Still, the sun is shining. Temperatures in the low 80s. Light breezes. We are comfortable as we await the world after coronavirus.

Bye, Bye, Bonnie

Back in February, Bonnie transitioned out of this life. With the crush of events that has overtaken all of us in the month and a half (and counting), this seems like ages ago now. But I still miss her every day.

I don’l know what happens to us when we pass. That’s a subject that’s way beyond the scope of this blog. And it’s a very controversial subject. As my parents used to say to me, never discuss politics or religion.

Suffice to say that I still feel Bonnie’s presence in my life. Whether that’s memory or fantasy or reality, I”ll leave it to each of you to decide or choose.
All I have is my experiential reality and that what it’s telling me. I still feel her.
I’ve been listening to a lot of music while on self-imposted house arrest here in Mexico (isolation orders have not been issued here; only requests or strong suggestions).
Each time I do I am flooded with memories of all the shows and concerts Bonnie and I took in together over the last ten years.
Yes, we met a little more than ten years ago now.
A happy accident of online dating. I can’t dredge up what site it was where we connected but that’s how we met.
Bonnie winked at me or something like that. I responded and the rest, as they say, is history.
We were both veterans of marriage and while neither of us really had any desire to enter into a contract with the state by getting married, we both wanted the joy and comfort of companionship and love with someone our own age. (We were literally a month and a week apart in age–1953 was a very good year.)
We loved being together. And a lot of that togetherness was at concerts and shows. Goodness I’d have a hard time remembering them all and yet now as I set listening to my playlists on Spotify, up come songs from bands or acts we enjoyed and many that we saw.
Maybe you remember the ice bucket challenge? I was all that excited by the challenge, but the theme song blew me away the first time I heard it: Come With Me Now by Kongos. Well, they played in Madison (WI) that Fall and off we went to see them. It was a relatively small show, in a theatre holding maybe 500 and not even full. Yet Kongos played their hearts out. We loved it; the crowd loved it. To boot, we were the oldest people there by probably 30 years, LOL!
Indeed that happened to us frequently and nobody cared, let alone us.
Bonnie and I traveled and we worked and played and lived. And, in the end, for both of us (and we discussed this) that’s what it’s all about. To enjoy life, to be of service to our fellow human beings, and to be as much Love as we could muster.
To the end, Bonnie was steadfast. Often I’d know she was in pain of which she rarely or even complained. She just wanted to soak in every minute of life. With me, with her family, with her friends.
And she did.
Now here in my favorite picture of Bonnie. I’ve posted it before. It’s full of the joy and Love and hope that Bonnie embodied.
I miss you; I love you; I expect to join you sooner than later.
Happy travels, Bob

Chapala in Pre-COVID19

[I’m slowly emerging back into the social and cultural stream of life after Bonnie’s passing. I’ll write my own memorial to her soon for these pages. In the meantime the world is being turned upside down with the coronavirus and the turmoil it has engendered. Moreover, when I returned from saying my goodbyes to Bonnie as she was passing, my main desktop computer called it quits and it has been rebuilt slowly here in Mexico. I just got it back yesterday. So here is my first post. One of Bonnie’s daughters encouraged me to continue writing here. And so I am doing so.]

Right now Chapala is in the midst of realizing the threat of the coronavirus. There are less people out and about. People are being a little more concerned, yet the reaction here has been much more subdued than with our northern neighbors. We suspect that reaction is still in front of us here in Mexico.

As I’ve noted before, change seems to happen slowly here, but it definitely does happen. When I was up North, a matter only of a few days, some artist or artists decorated some of the trees along the malecon.

You may have noticed in pictures on prior blog posts that the trees here in town are painted what at the base up to about six feet in height. The trees are painted with calcium hidroxide to protect them from pests and especially from leafcutter ants, who can devastate a growth of trees in a matter of hours. Visit here to learn more.

Well, some artists used the white as a canvas and decorated the trees again. Quite lovely:

Also, a subject I never tire of: pelicans. I go every day to see them while they are here. Alas, their migration North is due to begin soon (although I hope the border patrol will let them pass). I’ll miss their beauty and graceful presence on the lakeshore and ponder their return next November.

Finally, I’ll sign off today with a little video I shot on a trip to Guadalajara shortly after my return from the States. I love the joy and excitement of the kids, playing with these simple and colorful toys. Forever Young, as Bob Dylan said.

Bonnie Tobey, R.I.P.

Hola, readers and followers,

I’ve (and we) have been absent for a least a couple of weeks. Please pardon me. If you read the rest of this post you will know why. The post was written by Bonnie’s daughters. I will write a memorial here sometime soon.

Bonnie Lynn Tobey, born November 17, 1953, returned home with a grateful heart on February 17, 2020 after a life filled with countless blessings, the greatest being her beloved and loving family.  Bonnie was a Home-Health and Hospice nurse for 43 years, certified Hatha Yoga instructor, proud and excellent parent with Jim Johnson to their three daughters Laila Bernhardt, Hannah Johnson, and Paula Johnson Bowers, daughter of Marjorie and Stephen Tobey, doting older sister to Stephen Tobey Jr., Richard Tobey, and Julie Ratcliffe, partner to Robert Rutter, delighted Oma to eight grandchildren, and loving friend to more people than can be named here.

Bonnie’s life was characterized by service to others – though she claimed to be very selfish because she “enjoyed helping people so much”. “I do it all for me,” she was heard to say on more than one occasion, and Bonnie’s dedication to following her own heart and boldly marching to the beat of her own drum was an inspiration to all who knew her.

In her retirement from nursing, she enjoyed travelling, spending time with family, voraciously reading, and lively Words With Friends rivalries. Her final weeks were spent at her daughter’s home, surrounded by family.  She was peaceful and gave the instructions: “Don’t cry for me too much. I have lived the most wonderful life.”

A celebration of Bonnie’s life will be hosted by her family on Washington Island, Wisconsin on August 15th, 2020.

Bonnie’s memory lives on in all who knew her: her friends, family, children and grandchildren.  Any time you do something daring for the greater good and for love, you honor her rebellious spirit. Any time you answer the call of a person in need and lend a listening ear, you live from her own generous heart.

We are all so blessed to have known her. 💖🕉💖

A Taste of Chapala History

Lakeside has a very long history, dating back to prehispanic times. Alas, much of this history is not well-researched (in this area) and, to make understanding it even more difficult for us gringo amateur historians, it’s all in Spanish. I’m learning, yet have a very long way to go.

Chapala has an archive maintained and staffed by the city. So more recent history, and by that I mean from the early twentieth century through the present, is documented in a universal language: photographs.

Recently I ventured into city hall. It’s housed in one of the original buildings of the Spanish occupation, the grand hotel.

Here, a number of luminaries have stayed over the years.

D.H. Lawrence lived in Chapala for a short portion of his life, working on a novel. You can read about that here.

If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you’ll have observed lots of photos of the malecon and the lake.

Today the water level of the lake is well below even the lowest level of the malecon.

It’s an important source of water for Guadalajara.

Not so long ago, however, the lake was prone to flooding.

In city hall, I found a small exhibit of photos depicting this history, reaching back into the 1960s and prior.

Enjoy, and as I learn more, you’ll be the first to know.