Ricky Martin may have found a broader fan base and superstar status Livin’ La Vida Loca in 1999, but for those of us livin’ la vida Lakeside the rewards are just as satisfying. Life along Lake Chapala may be less dramatic and scaled down than Martin’s but it is, nonetheless, as pleasing, rewarding, and fulfilling.
There are many reasons to love living here. Each resident has his or her own. Some are common, universal in nature. Others can be quite personal. Here is my Top 10:
10. Jacarandas: Jacarandas trees are not unique to Lakeside. They can be found in a variety of tropical places. But their contradictory purple color, simultaneously vivid and soft, is incredible. The breathtaking canopies formed by Jacaranda trees are a feast for one’s eyes and spirit
9. Sunsets: While many places around the world boast of more spectacular sunsets, Lake Chapala’s pastel western skies at dusk are as calming, soothing, and healing as can be found anywhere.
8. Musicians and Artists: The abundance of local musicians and artists astounds me. Certainly the quality of talent varies, but when gifted troubadours who stroll through restaurants or serenade passengers on buses entertain, they make mundane activities an enjoyable adventure. Murals make strolls through any of the towns here an outdoor museum visit. And don’t even get me started on the beautiful paintings, sculptures, photography, jewelry, and incredibly hand-crafted clothing produced here. It is the Louvre and New York City’s Museum of Modern Art combined with Seattle’s Pike Place Market and Paris’ Left Bank.
7. Views: Whether one gazes at the lake, the largest in Mexico, or across it to the mountains, standing like sentries, or turns around and looks at the ridges behind us, the views are impressive, relaxing, and induce a sense of serenity.
6. LCS and American Legion: Like an extended family, the Lake Chapala Society and American Legion serve and support the plethora of ex-pats, émigrés, and adventurers from El Norte. Their programs, activities, and assistance to both English and Spanish speaking Lakesiders are a welcomed and appreciated addition to our community.
5. Restaurants: The variety and quality of local restaurants and food carts is astounding. Whether it is traditional Mexican fare or Italian, Greek, Thai, American, Tex-Mex, Sushi, French, Chinese, German, etc., it is available here. We all have our preferences, but we also have the opportunity to explore, experiment, and discover new flavors and anoint new favorites.
4. Mexican People: My admiration and respect for the people, the local Mexican People, is deeper than Copper Canyon. Their culture, traditions, work ethic, pride, family values (which expose what a joke that politicized phrase is in the US), patience, dignity, and beauty make each day a joy for me. I appreciate the many who speak English and who calmly deal with my unsure attempts at Spanish. I sincerely thank them for allowing me to live among them and to learn from them. I believe observing and interacting with the Mexican People has made me a better person.
3. Weather: It is said the year-round Lakeside climate is among the best in the world. Some accounts say it is second; others claim it is third. Let’s not quibble; the weather here, over-all, is as perfect as it can get. To describe the climate here, I simply paraphrase the 1988 film Field of Dreams: “Is this heaven? No, it’s Lakeside.”
2. Expenses: My rent is one-third what I’d pay north of the border. My combined phone and electric bill is less than $30 USD. I can ride the local bus from Ajijic to Chapala for nine pesos (50-60 cents). Greater distances cost a few pesos more. But no destination is more than $1 USD. The bus to Guadalajara costs 50 pesos or approximately $3.00 USD. Restaurants, and I’ve previously mentioned their variety and abundance, offer bargains unheard of in the US; it is not uncommon to have a substantial meal, a beer, and pay the tip for about $10-$12 USD. Medical expenses and prescriptions are a fraction of what they are in the US. On the other hand, some items are more expensive here or more difficult to find; Peanut butter is more expensive and any form of pre-shave like Lectric-Shave is as rare as a Republican in Seattle. But these items are exceptions. Generally speaking, then, living along Lake Chapala isn’t just economically wise, it is downright cheap.
1. Children: There is nothing I love more about life along Lake Chapala than the children. Their faces are beautiful, their voices musical, their behavior near-perfect. I rarely hear crying, demands, or arguments with family members. I do hear, however, laughter, glee, and an appreciation for what they have. The tweens and teens, too, are well-behaved and respectful, and they also exude happiness. This pleasant attitude and happiness is contagious and it fills me with joy. And that joy, the feeling I experience seeing and hearing the children here is, for me, the strongest reason why I enjoy livin’ la vida Lakeside.