The first view of Guadalajara was from the airplane’s small window. The airport then was one runway, one single story building, and we took a bus from the plane to the airport. We exited the same exit way we still use today but walked right out into a dirt parking lot.
A young beautiful Mexican woman picked us up and drove us to the Real de Chapala hotel. We took in the incredibly vast fields, and very few buildings, and the beautiful untouched mountains surrounding Lake Chapala. The first view of the lake still remains emblazoned in my memory. A wave of peace flowed through me as a feeling of “home” overtook me. My husband gave my hand a loving squeeze.
We decided to rent first, then see if we wanted to buy. We rented on the outskirts of Chapala Centro and made our life there for 11 more years. We walked quite a bit in Chapala, but it was a quick drive to Ajijic going through an almost empty carretera between Chapala and Ajijic. I could drive between Chapala and La Nueva Posada in under eight minutes.
The birth of Infinitum seemed to be the only Internet in town. There was no Facebook page for us to ask questions . . . but there was Chapala.com which we could go onto every day and read people’s thoughts, theories, and suggestions. And it is still in operation and upgraded.
It was easy to make friends, because only certain personality types would become expats, and we all already had that in common. We learned about the Mexican culture by asking questions and making friends of our Mexican neighbors. It was relatively quiet, of course the festivals, and events weren’t always quiet, and we got used to the rhythm of the street as the junk truck drove around calling through its speakers for items, and the gas truck announced its presence, as did other vendors. I loved walking out my front door for veggies, fruit, water, gas. And there was a small tienda on each corner of our block for fresh eggs and milk and various other goodies. We loved getting to know our village a day at a time.
As we slowly aged away from “newbie” to established, we began to see patterns form. New expats started arriving, but instead of studying and slowly integrating, they wanted to fix and improve and do everything the way they did it back home. It was years before I noticed the sounds of lawn mowers, weed whippers, power washers polluting the air. The gardeners used their own hand tools and the few mowers were push mowers. Street workers stopped using hand picks and jackhammers appeared. More and more people were moving into Fraccs. and bringing more and more of their transportation devices.
A bike path went up, businesses began to fill the vacant areas along the roadside, and one of our beautiful mountains started to lose its shape as it was stripped for use of lumber and sand for supplies for all the development.
It’s now 17 years later for me. I am here, my husband got his greatest wish, to die in Mexico, and still more people arrive each day. There is no real rush hour; when we drive, we learn to sit and wait as our main road is simply too small to handle all the traffic. The side roads are squeezed tightly as people try to park and drive on a road built 400 years ago to handle the horse and burro traffic.
I have loved it here since the moment we landed. But as more and more people come, I have to wonder how much good we have done. And there has been a lot accomplished. And how many locals have moved out of town because our deeper pockets have substantially made it difficult if not impossible for many to stay in town? But I also note the harm we have done each time I look up at the mountain with three-quarters of its crest now missing.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com