The picture above is a perfect metaphor for our first impression of this lakeside town. The horses, from a corral just down the street from our rental, are brought up here to graze on the grass in front of the entirely gated community across the street from our house here in Ajijic. The gated community could as easily be in Palos Verdes or San Diego. The place is a fascinating mix of Mexican rural/small town and North American (mostly Canadian) ex-pat community. In the morning, we see very proper, usually older, country-club English speakers walking their little dogs along the street. In the afternoon, young charros come and sing to herd the horses back to the corral, and later men in cowboy hats ride the same horses down the same street. We really like watching the seamlessness with which these two very different worlds coexist.
Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest natural lake, is right down the street–the photo shows the view from our third floor balcony. The lake is, alas, rather polluted, but the walk along the malecon–the boardwalk–is very pretty. Ajijic itself is small, filled with restaurants, boutiques, and charming street scenes. While the town, according to a big mural in Centro, was founded by the Aztecs in 1472, there are few colonial buildings here.
To the north of our place–we are in Upper Ajijic–are the mountains–Sierra de San Juan Cosala. Unlike many mountain ranges, we are finding these gentle hills to be embracing, protecting, and benevolent.
A sign of how overwhelmingly North American the place is: almost all the signs are in English, including the For Rent signs! Our landlord for this wonderful three-story house with all the mod cons is from New York via Florida and has lived here 14 years. He’s the perfect landlord: here if we need him and not here if we don’t need him. A very laid back place.
We have been well looked after by my dear Facebook friend Leslie, another American who has lived here for 12 years. She picked us up at the airport in Guadalajara, she brought us food, and has shown us the ropes in town. Today she is taking us into Chapala, the bigger town on the lake, where we will go to the markets and learn how to take the bus back to Ajijic.
Finally, in another sign of how ex-pat the place is, the grounds of The Lake Chapala Society is the prettiest place in town. One has to become a member to have access to libraries, lectures, classes, and bus tours to other parts of Mexico. The grounds include a pond, a pavilion, and lovely gardens.
There are more AA meetings here than you would find in a comparably sized American town, both in English and in Spanish! I’m set!