ALONG THE CARRETERA
By Margie Harrell
With ever-changing mountains on the right and beautiful Lake Chapala on the left the views from the highway into the sleepy little village of Ajijic are spectacular at any time of the year. The vistas seem to beckon all who pass by to stop and stay awhile with the risk of never wanting to leave again. The English translation of carretera is highway but that is much too drab a word to describe this magical stretch of road, an entrance to a new and exciting life for many.
Like a time capsule the carretera reflects the way of everyday life in this part of Mexico. Soon after I arrived I purchased an old Volkswagen coche that was in desperate need of new upholstery – any upholstery. Where to find such a service in a small town? Not to worry, friends soon directed me up to the carretera and there he was in the back of a taco stand, a friendly old gentleman who did an outstanding job for me. Days later when I returned to pick up my car I was amazed to see he had included new floor mats at no charge to me. Only in Mexico.
Each morning as I headed out for my daily walk I would invariably end up on the carretera in search of wonderful hidden treasures. I was never disappointed. The smell of fresh baked bread would greet me along with many diet tempting creamy desserts and always many baskets of gorgeous flowers everywhere. Over the years shops and restaurants would open and close creating a constantly changing scene to explore. Perhaps a live concert at the auditorium or the latest movie from Hollywood. Art classes a short block away or just relax at Salvador’s restaurant to watch the passing parade.
One day Señor Montezuma came to visit me and I was in desperate need of a doctor but being new in town I wasn’t yet familiar with the local medicos. Up the hill on the carretera there he was just waiting to cure me and a microbiologist to boot. As I left the farmacia next to his office I felt I was already well on my way to a speedy recovery.
The high point of the week is always the Wednesday open-air tianguis where everyone in town congregates to purchase their fresh vegetables, fruits and miscellaneous other items of which there are many. It is also a great spot for meeting up with new amigos as a slight breeze wafts through the brightly colored canopies. Should you buy more than you can carry a taxi is always close at hand for a few pesos.
A quick stop at the post office and on to my bank completes a morning’s errands to be followed by a lazy lunch at a roadside cafe. Progress has crept onto the carretera with its many traffic lights which only seem to signal it is time to slow down and smell the roses, literally. It has been over 500 years since the first settlers arrived in the village but despite the changes it still manages to look much as it did then. It’s more than just a place to shop, it’s a new adventure every day……along the carretera.