Living At Lake Chapala
By Judy King
Review by Harriet Hart
Ever since I met Judy King she’s been the person I called when confronted with a Mexican dilemma such as what to do when the gardener or maid asks for a hefty loan. Judy’s response was always practical: “How much are you prepared to write off if you have to?” Her newly published book Living at Lake Chapala is 378 pages of that kind of pithy, pragmatic advice I have come to rely on from her.
Judy King is co-founder and publisher of the on-line magazine Living at Lake Chapala which ran successfully from 2001 until 2013. With 1800 articles in her possession, it seemed obvious to take the next step and produce a book featuring the best of the best. She invites her readers to travel with her through the adventure of living at Lakeside–in six sections with 76 articles on topics ranging from the cultural, like mariachi music and folk dance, to day-to-day realities like driving, buying a home, finding a dentist, shopping, sightseeing, touring and tipping. This is not a guide book on how to move here; it’s a resource manual on what to do once you’ve arrived!
One of my favorite chapters is #12: The Virgin of Guadalupe. In it Judy details the history of the Virgin, gives an interpretation of her image and an account of the scientific research into this miracle and concludes with an explanation of why Guadalupe inspires such devotion: “Guadalupe creates a bond, a profound pride in being Mexican. Her influence crosses all borders…transcends the normal division of social and economic strata…with her devotees the rich and humble, the industrialized and the farmer, the educated and the illiterate, the religious and the cynical…she is the Mother of Mexico, the Queen of the Americas, She is Mexico.” This passage illustrates Judy’s clear, concise writing style and her deep appreciation for her adopted country.
Chapter after chapter provides expatriates with tips on how to behave. For example, in Death and Funeral Customs she explains that you don’t send flowers to the bereaved. “You’ll need to go to the flower shop to purchase an arrangement, bouquet or a funeral wreath which is called the corona. Be sure to wait until the flowers are ready and then take them to the home yourself.” If the death occurs in the family of a close friend or employee, Judy suggests making a cash donation to help cover funeral expenses. Years ago I when my gardener’s wife died, I telephoned Judy to see what to do. Now owners of this book have the answer at hand.
Where else could you find a directory of hospitals complete with addresses, phone numbers and services provided or a comprehensive calendar of celebrations? I have used The Walking Tour of Guadalajara (#68) and Sightseeing in Tonala (#69) while entertaining an endless stream of visitors from up north.
Living at Lake Chapala is well-organized, comprehensive, entertaining and informative, bordering on essential. I’m giving one to the volunteers at the Information Desk, Lake Chapala Society and recommend all local realtors who make a successful sale buy one for new home owners. This volume is as valuable a contribution to the community as its author, Renaissance woman Judy King, who edits The Chapala Review, offers newcomer seminars and sells comfort food at the Monday market.
Don’t pick up your phone like I do and call Judy King for advice: buy her book instead. It costs $300 pesos and is available at Diane Pearl’s, La Nueva Posada, Yves Restaurant, at the Monday market and in electronic form from Amazon in September.