Regresar (to return)

Regresar (to return)

By Margie Harrell



ajijic churchThey say you can’t go back. “They” surely they never spent time in Mexico. Not only can you go back but time seems to stand still in old Mexico. On the drive from the airport to Lake Chapala, there is a special spot high in the mountains that signals you have arrived. As you wind your way to the top of the hill there is a sharp curve and suddenly, there it is—the lake. It is a beautiful sight with Mount Garcia as a backdrop and the little homes clustered along the shoreline on one side of the lake.

Whether this is your second, third or fourth trip back, the reaction is always the same, a slight lump in the throat as you catch your breath and unwind. From that point on your life is never your own. Mexico has your heart and soul. The adventure begins when you arrive at the airport. Smiling faces everywhere anxious to assist you. My taxi driver had a smattering of English which he gladly shared with me as we sped along the highway, windows down to catch the breeze on this hot July day.

As we turned off the highway heading into Ajijic, I noticed that the local dump wasn´t as pungent as I had remembered it. It was the rainy season and the thick growth camouflaged the little shacks along the road and seemed to only draw your eye to the huge sunflower blossoms. All was well with the world again. As we drove through the village the word “progress” came to mind. Freshly painted houses, newly opened businesses and lots of construction going on and all after only a six month absence.

A second glance told me nothing had really changed Horses, dogs and burros still roamed the streets, the open- air markets were everywhere and the smiles were evident as everyone went about their daily lives. Nothing to worry about. Mexico was still Mexico, unchanged for over 500 years. First stop was lunch at a local outdoor restaurant. As I waited to order, I was aware of the many flies and birds around the table. I began to shoo them away and then noticed that no one else seemed to be bothered by them. Perhaps my U.S. uptight mood was still with me and I needed to relax. As my food arrived and the Pina Colada started to work, the flies seemed to disappear. As for the little birds, we shared lunch and the music that drifted in the air.

No car available this trip. None needed. To walk the village is to truly absorb the local color, a friend here, a burro there, like reading a book that has come to life before your eyes. Then it rains and the magic is complete. My week was a flurry of lunches, dinners and good company. A must was a short visit with my Imelda, my former housekeeper. She was busy doing laundry as usual and leaped into my arms when she saw me at her door. We hugged and cried together like we were family. Had it only been three short years that she had worked for me?

After leaving Imelda, I headed down towards the lakeshore in the hopes of seeing the Mexican children I had befriended when I first arrived in Mexico. It had been over a year since I had been down the road to their tarpaper shack but they came running out to greet me shouting, “Margarita, Margarita!” I couldn´t believe they had remembered me. No candies in my pockets this day but a few pesos brought those familiar smiles back to their little faces. More tears, more hugs as they pulled at me and I reluctantly said adios.

The week was gone in the blink of an eye. When the taxi came to pick me up and we drove through the town, I knew I would return again soon. After all, like most of the gringos who settle in Mexico, I felt ten years younger than when I had arrived. What better reason to come back again and again. So you really can “go back” . . . if the heart is willing.


For more information about Lake Chapala visit:

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