By Victoria A. Schmidt
My husband and I moved to Chapala nearly 15 years ago. We fell in love with Chapala and felt the love and joy of our Mexican neighbors. Our neighbors became extended families and the cities were filled with small shops and houses we could go to for people who did refurbishing, sewing, baking, it was just a trick to find these places. The town was filled with music, and festivals and parades and the celebrations of culture were always an educational experience. We also were saddened to see the level of poverty and the lack of resources for the people. Yet they were so happy, respectful, and generally wonderful to be sharing our living space.
I’d listen to others around me as we would investigate one establishment after another. We had favorite Mexican restaurants we’ve visit two to three times a week. And slowly over time, other establishments started up. There was not El Dorado, or Walmart, or Mall. No casino. One movie theatre. Only one or two stores took credit cards. And the mountains had peaks and valleys, and were not cut for sand. But the building brought developments, and homes and more importantly jobs. More restaurants, brought more jobs. More building brought construction, electrician and mechanical jobs. And yet, still more people kept coming. Some changes have been welcomed. Others have not. The other day I was crossing an old familiar street, and realized only the rocks in the road were the same. The stores were different, even the tianguis was different. Same place, better road.
Yet driving down the road took so much longer. The polite Mexican drivers were overwhelmed with Northerners not familiar with the customs of allowing people into crowded traffic. There’s a beautiful bike path, yet twice as many cars. How are we affecting the people who live around us? How neighborly are we to our neighbors? How many of us have gone out of our way to include or help our neighbors?
I think of one particular family who came into our lives first as the father who worked at a local restaurant. His young son helped bus dishes at the bar. Later we discovered we were neighbors; the whole family became friends. We watched the children grow up, graduate and become parents. We participated by helping our maid’s children through school, and in other ways. They became a family to us.
I see the way that some relationships developed, grew, and how our lives blended together. This is a result of mutual sharing and respect.
Too many times, I’ve heard other types of comparisons that are not so beneficial. As I look back at the Chapala I moved to, it is different. I return to our place of origin, and there have been changes there as well. Not all were positive.
Now we are moving into another world changed by a pandemic. We need to figure out how to make sure we vaccinate people, defeat the variants, bring people back to work, make sure education continues, travels can be safe from both health and safety hazards, but safe from needless blame and finger pointing. How do we move forward when some people in our home live in homes without plumbing, and we are doing fundraising for fresh water and community bathrooms for our own barrios? Most houses don’t have a bathroom. What are we doing for the dignities of the poor who populate this city today? There are many agencies that are making their own dent and there are reputable organizations that help. I challenge everyone to do their best to improve and enrich our own lives, by keeping improving ourselves by improving our communities.
ED. NOTE: In May’s issue, the article “The Hitchhiker” had an incorrect by-line. The piece was written by J.T. Dodds. The quote at the beginning is correctly attributed to –Allen Watts, but the article itself was written by J.T. Dodds, as indicated in the Index. Our apologies to Mr. Dodds.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com