Easter is Coming to Chapala

Chapala is busy prepping for the Easter season.

Starting this weekend, and for the next week, the holiday season is here in Mexico. And Chapala has spent the past week getting ready.

Sections of the malecon have been spruced up.

Rides are moving onto the malecon and being set up and ready for Easter week. Can you guess what ride this will be?

Yes indeed, a ferris wheel.

As we mentioned last week, the skate park was painted over in sparkling white and almost immediately a local artist popped up to add some color.

It’s the dry season here now. The water level in the lake is diminishing and while nature is taking its course, the malecon itself is being repaired.

The “big” news, however, is a change up with what we’ve called Cirque de Chapala.

There’s been a tall pole near the lake off the malecon where indigenous people perform a ritual called la danza de los voladores. Five men dressed in native clothing climb the pole. One sits on top, singing and drumming, while four fasten a rope line to an ankle and then all four push off and spin around and around the pole, lowering themselves to the ground.

Here’s a video of the ritual.

There are troupes like this all across Mexico. We saw one on our visit to Tequila last year.

This week while taking my daily walk on the malecon, I heard the roar of a chainsaw and found that the pole was being cut! Of course, a truck and crane were holding the pole firmly. Eventually, the pole severed. I wasn’t sure what was happening. Was one of the icons of the malecon coming to an end?

Fortunately no. For close to the old pole, a cement footing with a metal hold was awaiting the erection of a new metal pole.

To me, it looks quite a bit taller than the wooden pole. But, I don’t know.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

It’s the Small Stuff in Chapala

As I sat down to write this post, a weekly event for me (usually), I sighed, not sure what to say this week.

It’s been a typical week here. Nothing earth-shattering. No big changes. Nothing really different.

But that’s ignoring the small stuff.

The small stuff is part of the true beauty of Chapala. What I mean are the little changes that can so easily slip by unnoticed.

Here’s one of them.

For those of you of a certain age, you may remember the days when there were “rides” outside grocery stores and the few big box stores in the 50s and 60s.

Over time, they disappeared. Big loss? No. Not really.

Just time marching on.

And now we come to Chapala.

There are many more dotted around el centro. How wonderful. And seeing local children enjoy them. Mostly I remember begging my mother for the nickel or dime required for a ride back when I was just a wee thing. I didn’t get it often. That was frivolous. But every once in a while, I did get that ride. And I get to see these throwbacks every time I walk downtown.

The malecon is under repair. The benches are being repaired, slates replaced, and being repainted. Fishermen maintain their boats. The skate park was recently repainted in bright white and this morning I saw that a local artist has used that canvas for his own contribution.

We’re deep in Spring here. The weather is getting increasingly warm during the day, up into the low 80s. Very enjoyable.

Yes, it’s small. Yet, it’s wonderful.

 

Music, music, music!

Seems like the music just keeps on coming here in Chapala and Guadalajara. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve enjoyed more concerts at the train station in Chapala, taken in the rock royalty of Santana at Telmex Auditorio in Guadalajara, more opera with Live from the Met at Teatro Diana in Guadalajara, been serenaded by an all female mariachi band in Tlaquepaque and witnessed a superb concert of solo electric guitar at the train station in Chapala only last night.

Let’s start there.

Neither of us are musicians, so describing what we heard and saw in technical musical terms is just not in the cards. Yet, we’ve seen lots and lots of concerts and extraordinary guitarists, Santana, of course, most recently. Joe Bonamassa several times over the past few years. Yet, the show we witnessed and so enjoyed was in a zone all its own. Check out this video (if you care to).

We’ve never seen or heard anything quite like this. The best way I can describe it is that Francisco plays classical guitar and adds a whole lotta touch of percussion instrumentation with the guitar. Notice his hand placement. Only a few times in the entire performance did he play the guitar in the “traditional” manner of one hand on the neck creating the notes and the other plucking or stroking the strings. It was fascinating to watch and a sheer delight to hear.

You can check him out more thoroughly on YouTube. If you like him, please spread the word. We just loved his music and would enjoy seeing him gain more recognition for his accomplished playing.

Our other great pleasure this week was listening to the all-female mariachi band at La Patio in Tlequepaque. Tlequepaque is an artsy neighborhood of Guadalajara. Definitely tourista. Yet, with a lovely charm.

La Patio is muy pricey. Yet, it’s worth paying to see and hear the mariachi band. The music is glorious. The look is excellent and, in addition to the band, dancers put even more flair into the show.

And when we attended Live at the Met yesterday, we learned that King Crimson is coming to Teatro Diana in August.

We’ll be there!

 

 

 

 

 

On the Road Again in Mexico

Hola!

We did the border run once again. Up to Nuevo Laredo and back to change some of the paperwork on the car.

There are two main routes from the Chapala area to Nuevo Laredo. One, the west route, goes up through Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, Saltillo and Monterrey before ending up in Nuevo Laredo. The other, the east route, goes up through San Luis Potosi and Matehuala then onto Saltillo and Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo.

We’ve driven then both.

Google directed us via the east route this trip, as it had on the last. The only part of this route was a connector we had to take between the toll road and one of the regular main highways. Pothole city, for a long stretch too. But we stuck with the plan.

Luckily, Google got us there without having to use that connector. Oh joy!

It’s a pleasant route. Some of it toll; some of it free. Not particularly scenic but beautiful in its own high desert way.

Somewhere after Matehuala, we noticed a traffic stoppage on the southbound lanes of the divided four lane we where then on (not one of the toll roads). We simply breathed a sigh of relief that we were not caught in the stoppage and cruised on.

But the line up on the other side just went on and on. And on and on. We kept thinking it would clear up, but it didn’t. So I started measuring the back up some time after we’d passed the construction that appeared to precipitate it.

Fifteen miles later it came to an end.

And we’re talking out in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t see any services or gas stations at any point in that stretch.

We made a note to make sure Google routed up via the west route for our return.

Having concluded our business in Nuevo Laredo, we made our way back to Saltillo where we spent the night at a City Express hotel, a Mexican brand that we’ve come to rely on for decent clean rooms and good service. And, to boot, the free breakfast here included chorizo and eggs and refried beans and plenty of fruit as well as the usual suspects.

After breakfast, we rolled for Chapala via the west route to be sure.

Be warned though. On the west route there’s a twenty or so kilometer stretch that connects one toll road with another that is absolutely the worst road we’ve been on in Mexico. Super slow going. Dodging and swaying to avoid potholes that are axle busters for sure.

Just saying.

It’s kind of a grueling trip. But we needed to get it done, so we did. And despite this being our third trip to Nuevo Laredo, we still find that having a car here is worth the effort.

A View of Migration from the Other Side of the “Wall”

This one’s a tough one for me to write. That because it’s going to seem like it borders on the political.  And I’m totally an agnostic when it comes to politics. I don’t want to hear about it; I don’t care about it; I find it very annoying.

The story I’m about to tell is more of what I would call a human story. I just feel that it needs to be told.

Saturday I walked over to the mercado and the sidewalk market here in Chapala to get some of my favorite salsa.  I asked the vendor at the booth beside me the price of some of her items. She had trouble understanding  my less-than-stellar Spanish and I was having trouble understanding her.

A young man standing nearby stepped in to help. Obviously Mexican and with very good English skills. After I’d completed the transaction, he and I started talking.

Turns out that he’s from the States. Some twenty-five years ago he emigrated illegally to hopefully find a better life. And he did. After a series of stops and locations, he ended up in one of the “square” states where he built a life. Found steady work as a skilled laborer; married an American; had three children.

And he recently decided that the time had come for him to become a legal immigrant. So he began the process. And part of that process is that he had to return to his country of origin in order for the process to go forward.

That was almost two years ago, and he is still waiting for any answer.

So here’s a man who came clean. A family man. A contributor to the American economy. And he’s exiled from his life and his family.

Could he have been simply telling me a story? Sure. I don’t think so. No apparent reason comes to mind for him to do so. I can’t help him in any case.

Now, I’m not saying any of this for political reasons. I’m simply listening to this man and also remembering stories from other friends of mine who tried to enter the U.S. legally and how cumbersome and burdensome and long the process was and is.

It gave me pause to think about this from “the other side”.

 

A Calm Week in Chapala

Greetings from Chapala!

We’re so enjoying warm days and slightly cooler evenings and nights.

Chapala is back to “normal” after the festivities of Carnaval. Life simply goes on.

Our neighbors and I took a walk in the park across the street from us. On occasion I just need to sit down for a few minutes. So I sat on one of those children’s merry-go-rounds. This one made of good solid steel. Of course I twirled myself a little. Soon, three young Mexican girls stood watching me and they decided to give me a ride. So on they jumped and proceeded to send us all spinning around and around. Delightful!

One the lake front at the malecon, life goes on as usual.

Many plants are blooming with the advent of warmer weather.

The malecon is kept clean and tidy. It’s pretty typical to see workers pruning and caring for the plants, watering them, and doing general cleaning and repair.

And, of course, the birds are plentiful. Now, I’m not a birder. I don’t really care what the birds are named or how many different types I have seen. I’ll leave that to others who have a passion for such things.

I do, however, just love seeing various birds enjoying the malecon. A few are loners. Others, like the pelicans or the gulls, tend to flock together. It’s a beautiful dance and one that I love observing almost every day.

We so appreciate living here in Chapala.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carnaval Finale in Chapala 2019

Carnaval is winding to a dramatic and climatic ending this coming Tuesday. Yet it seems as if this weekend has been the big blow off.

Somewhere nearby a party went on until 5:30 in the morning, with very loud music. I could hear it in the bedroom and I’m pretty hard of hearing. Roused from a slumber, I stumbled into the living room and saw that I had left the sliding window open. Promptly shutting it, I was able to dull the noise to at least a sleeping level for me.

Our neighbor got to listen all night however.

Such is Carnaval.

Still, it’s great fun.

Chapala is swarming with visitors. And, of course, the locals are all out too. Its one huge party: on the square; on the malecon; and in the park across the street from us, which, this year, is Carnaval Central for Chapala.

Families are out with food and drink and enjoying to the fullest the few remaining days and the last weekend before the beginning of Lent.

The usually quiet street is jammed.

And the entrance fee for the park has gone from a lowly five pesos (twenty cents U.S.)  to thirty-five pesos (a dollar and seventy-five cents).

Still, the park is rocking and rolling.

All the usually quiet and grassy pathways are now crowded with vendors, mostly food yet a few product providers as well. Booze too. It’s legal here. And, not to be left out, a paraphernalia shop where the proprietor was puffing away on a beefy doobie. It’s legal here too, although the government has yet to determine the rules. (Mexican courts recently struck down the marijuana ban.)

Food, food, food!

And carnaval games.

And, of course, cotton candy. Take a look at the size you can get there. (I didn’t.)

There’s a area for bands to play and a hot air balloon where you can take a tethered ride.

What a town!

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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