Welcome to Mexico! – August 2009

Welcome to Mexico!

By Victoria Schmidt

The Streets of Chapala

 

I walk the streets of Chapala daily with my dog, Boo, and I am always impressed with how quickly things can change and the constant activity on the streets. Like our favorite little abarrotes on the corner, the one my husband walked to every night—it disappeared in the course of a day. They were there one night, and the next afternoon we drove by—and the shop was completely empty. No note, no going out of business sale. Just gone. Our little homeopathic farmacia, open one day, closed the next. It is now an Internet access store. (And I have yet to see anyone in it.) The same thing happened to the lady who does our alterations. Here and then gone. Things change here within a blink of an eye.

Restaurants are something else that come and go with great regularity. I’ve learned that if we want to try out a new restaurant, we’d better do it within the first few weeks, or it may be gone quickly. Some will relocate, but most just cease to exist.

A native of Chapala told me that the reason so many businesses change so often is that the landlords give a good rate for a new tenant, and then as they see business building, they feel they could boost the rent when the lease comes due. Or they decide they want to rent to a family member, and family always comes before tenants. This seems a plausible explanation.

What always seems to stay the same, however, is the constant work that goes on. This morning I passed some CFE workers repairing a meter, and a gas truck delivering gas. The streets are alive with the sounds of independents selling their wares through their loudspeakers, or simply shouting out their windows. Up the street there’s a pile of broken cement outside of one home tossed out from demolition work inside. And further up the street there is a pile of sand piled outside another home as building is going on inside. Along the way are the maids sweeping and the gardeners clipping. They are out there working hard every day.

In the mornings, I see the parents escorting their uniformed children to the local schools, and sometimes, as I pass those schools, I hear the children playing beyond the walls. Squeals of laughter and shrieks of delight play within my ears and bring a smile to my face. Sometimes I schedule my walks, just so I can hear those sounds.

My favorite walk is when I walk along the newly-finished malecon. I watch the fishermen in the lake, the birds being fed, and pass by all the other pedestrians enjoying the beautiful waterfront walk. I like to sit on the bench and watch the water, and wonder who may be sitting on the opposite shore.

I started out being a stranger in this town. I’d walk among the people, but I didn’t feel as though I was one of them. I was just a gringa passing through. But now that I’ve been here for a while, as much as the street signs, I’ve become a part of this place. My neighbors’ smile and wave as we go by, some call out after my dog, or me and some even stop to talk. Since most of my neighbors are Mexican, those conversations are as brief as my Spanish, but they always leave me with a warm feeling in my heart.

 

Ojo Del Lago
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