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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!).

 

 

A Mexican Tribute to Bonita

If you’ve read this blog for any time, you are aware that I walk along the malecon almost every day. I love the walk and the sheer beauty of the lake.

I live just one block from the lake.

Along the way, I pass a number of typical Mexican homes, one of which is owned by ex-pats that I’ve come to know over the past year. We’re friendly enough to chat a little and even pick up items for each other on our occasional trips to Costco in Guadalajara.

One day, passing by their property, I saw some men working on the sidewalk wall of their place. They were taking down and replacing some tiles and generally cleaning up.

I wasn’t quite sure what exactly they were doing, but a day or so later I passed by again and there was a tile frame around a bright white blank wall.

Something was afoot.

Then over the course of a few more days and weeks, I passed by several women who were slowly filling in the blank with more tiles, creating a large work of art, in a bright Mexican style.

One day, I stopped to talk with the ladies. They showed me various specific tiles and told me about the art and the pattern. They even invited me to donate a tile or something small to honor a loved one that would be added to the wall.

Now, that was a perfect invitation.

So I looked through some of Bonnie’s possessions for an appropriate item and I came across an earring that she had worn on and off during our time together. She always insisted on having earrings on whenever we went out, even if it was just around the block.

So I gave one of them to the ladies.

And sure enough, up it went in the wall.

Hopefully you can see it here in this close-up. It’s the wooden patterned wheel and it now sits happily in this art near the lake in Chapala.

I think Bonnie would be pleased.

Rainy Season in Chapala 2020

We’re deep into the rainy season. Yes, we have had some rain during the early mornings and evenings several times so far. More likely are deeply impressive thunderstorms that roll across the lake from West to East during the nights.

The lake has risen five inches so far and we’ve got a couple of more months of rain. Nice!

We’ve got a lone sentry keeping watch on the lake. Every day I walk by and usually a bird is there, watching.

It’s also a pretty lazy time here too.

It appears too that the cats insist that I take some time off, leave the computer alone, and chill.

Good advice!

Nothing has changed covidwise here. We’re still in maskland. Gotta say, I do feel weird walking into a bank with a mask on. I also always want to put my hands in the air.

There’s no word yet when movies and sports and concerts might resume and under what conditions. Apparently, the government here is deciding how to re-open schools. Businesses remain open.

So it seems that we’re really in a holding pattern.

We’re okay and seem to be handling it all well.

Hopefully you are too.

All the best, Bob

 

 

 

Cleaning up in Chapala

One of the endearing aspects to life here in Mexico and in Chapala are the contrasts. At first glance, one might notice the litter, the poverty, the need. But the longer I’ve lived here, the more I’ve come to appreciate how hard the Mexicans work on maintaining their land, their homes, and their villages and cities.

I vividly recall some of the early morning trips to the airport when Bonnie had to travel to Houston for treatment. The flights really were at o’dark hundred. We’d drive through a very quiet Chapala with only the streetlights illuminating the surrounding.

This was especially surreal after the thunderstorms that happen overnight during the rainy season (happening now through September).

There would be a few people out–almost all of them street cleaners. Not the hulking noisy machines you see in the U.S.. These are men and women with large straw brooms sweeping the streets and sidewalks.

Often, while walking through town I encounter people out washing the exterior of their homes and the sidewalks. Every street has people who will wash your car while you visit or shop.

This week, the malecon and the adjacent beaches of the lake were being cleaned by a legion of washers. It’s usual to see a team of two with a power washer spraying down the malecon and scrubbing as needed. The plants are trimmed; trash removed; debris gathered up that’s washed ashore.

This effort was larger and very effective.

Kind of inspires me to do some house cleaning. I put in a message to my cleaning service to have Lupita, my expert house cleaner, visit this week!