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February 2009

Feature Article

Talking Walls: Lakeside's Murals

By Carol L. Bowman

As I've walked through the streets of Ajijic, eyes down, preoccupied with avoiding a tumble on the cobblestones and pavement pitfalls, I've missed some of the area's treasures. Taking a risk, I recently looked up at the architecture, and at schools and village government buildings that revealed their treasures—murals painted by local artists. Animated walls talked to me and colorful images sprang from their facades while telling their stories.

A mural is simply a very large image—such as a painting—applied directly to a wall or a ceiling. Murals are revered in Mexico as they bring art into the public sphere, showing up on empty expanses where people live and work, where the art affects their daily lives. A mural is where art converges with politics, social issues or history.

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From the Editors

Managing the February Calendar

It's no surprise that February is the pinnacle of the surge of northern visitors during the winter high season. Who wouldn't want to escape bitter cold, sheets of ice and piles of snow for a few days in warm, sunny Mexico?

What isn't readily apparent is the frantic pace Lakeside visitors and residents keep during this busy month. February isn't just about Valentine hearts, chocolate, flowers and love here on the shores of Mexico's largest natural lake. Many of the area's charities and causes plan gala fundraisers and events during the winter season so that our snowbirds will be able to attend. Other special events—annual events including the Lakeside Northern Lights Music Festival and the Lakeside Bridge Tournament—are scheduled so folks north of the border who want to participate can be here during February when the weather is dismal back home.

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Taking the Boards at LLT

By Ed Tasca

One of the entertainment treasures at Lake Chapala is its renowned Lakeside Little Theater in San Antonio, Tlayacapan. Recently, I had the privilege of joining some very talented people at Lakeside Little Theater and got a chance to act on stage for the first time. It was quite an experience.

To truly appreciate the art of the local little theater, you must first understand that everything you see on the stage is fake, mostly made of Styrofoam, including, in some cases, one or two actors. Alcohol is really vinegar. Food displays are made of colored cork. Some of my hair came courtesy of shoe polish. Make-up masks the unsightly. In my case, it was so thick that I believe I looked, from the audience, to be digitally blurred. Caught on the street in such garishness, I could have been left for dead by skinheads.

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Getting Here

The Gypsy in My Soul

By Shirley Thayer

There is no logical explanation for how I ended up living at Lakeside. I never thought about living in a foreign country. I am not one of those people who dreamed of retiring here (or anywhere for that matter); I didn't even spend a lot of time traveling in Mexico. No one (especially me) would ever have guessed that I would one day end up in a town on a lake in central Mexico.

I have always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of a person. I do things and go places I might not if I stopped to think about it too much. Moving to Chapala is a case in point. Soon after my arrival, I began to realize how much I didn't know when I made the move. At first I focused on what I might have saved by being more careful, doing more research, asking more questions. Then I realized that, me being me, the way I got here is the only way I could have done it. If I knew too much, stopped to consider everything, I would have scared myself into staying put. And, I would have missed out on an adventure that now, nearly a year later, has really just begun.

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Mexican Kitchen

A Mexican Love Story

By Michael McLaughlin

Pancho owned an automotive repair business in Chapala. As a boy he started washing car windows, fixing flat tires and after many hard years he owned his own repair shop.

On the office wall was a picture of Pancho and his wife on a vacation in Puerto Vallarta. He was smiling, wearing crossed bandoleers, a giant sombrero and holding two pistols. Next to him was Rosa, her head covered in white Spanish lace, an open fan in front of her face; her dark seductive eyes peering out. It was Pancho's favorite picture of them.

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Homes & Lodging

Education…the Key to Success

By Shirley Hale

"No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure."
Emma Goldman, author

The oldest of the 27 children at Villa Infantil (the children's home on the south side of the lake) is Margarita who is 11 years old and wishes to be either a dentist or a beauty operator when she finishes school. I asked her why and with a smile she replied, "So people can have clean teeth and I can get girls to look pretty for their First Communions, and their Quinceañeros (15th birthday parties), and maybe even their weddings."

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Out & About

Going Organic? What's Available Locally?

By James Tipton

Lots of Lakeside shoppers loved their large organic supermarkets back in the United States and Canada where they reveled in chains like Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Market. While those shoppers love living at Lakeside, they long for similar organic markets here.

There was a time when there wasn't a true organic product to be had in the entire region. Thankfully that situation has now improved. I recently had the opportunity to take a look at what's available when the ACÁ ladies organized an organic shopping tour to outlets in Guadalajara and here at Lakeside.

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Cost of Living

CFE: To DAC and Back (we live in hope…)

By Georgina Russell

If you live in Mexico, you know about CFE: La Comisión Federal de Electricidad (Federal Electricity Company). It is the dominant electric company and the second most powerful state-owned company in Mexico (after Pemex—Petroleos Mexicanos). Electricity is the most expensive utility in Mexico, at least among the expat crowd.

CFE proudly proclaims, in English and Spanish, that they are una empresa de clase mundial (a world class company). On their website (, you can learn (in English or in Spanish) about their mission, find out about the Comisión's history, read their financial statements, consult your bill and pay your bill online if you have an account with Banamex, Bancomer, Banorte, Santander, Serfin or Inbursa.

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Soul of México

Zapotec Weavers Come to Ajijic

By Don Adams

My friends Francisco and Maria are not as fluent in English, nor as aware of the specifics of the eras of the ancient history of their people, the Zapotecs of Mexico as this article would indicate. None of the three of us are fluent in the language of the other so many of our conversations would have been all but incomprehensible to anyone watching and listening. Fluttering hands gracefully miming, and the few words of Spanish we held in common offered sufficient common ground to let us share information and friendship. And, as everywhere else, much is silently expressed in shared meals, in many cases served on the sidewalk outside the small storage space used as a home while Francisco and Maria are away from their village. My gracious friends shared freely all they had; their life stories and their hospitality. My contribution is to expand their stories and offer them to you. This is the story Francisco, Maria, and I offer to you. Historical data included here was verified through a variety of original sources.

This village presses on my heart. When business is good Maria and I escape to our village for a few days, but always return, sent back by my father.

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Health & Safety

Weight Watchers Works

By Elsa Wasserman

For the past year I have watched my friend, Terry, undergo a dramatic transformation. Now those are very strong words and as you will see, they are true.

Terry was a big, handsome man with a tailored beard and mustache when I met him. He wore lovely jackets from the many countries in which he had worked during the previous 15 years. He always made a great appearance. He was also reserved and never wanted to be conspicuous in any group-a reflection of his concern about the weight he had gained since retirement.

Terry decided in September 2007 that he wanted to lose that weight and he headed to a Weight Watchers meeting-then in its first Ajijic location--at Total Body Care Spa. At that time the Spa's co-owner Angie was group leader of two weekly meetings--one in Spanish and another in English. In less than a year, the membership of Weight Watchers grew from 10 to more than 30 active members. The new larger group exceeded the space and time available at Total Body Care and now meets in the bar of La Nueva Posada.

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People, Places & Things

Love is in the Air

By Harriet Hart

Cynics claim that Valentine's Day is just another "Hallmark Holiday", a time when the retail world pressures us to buy cards, boxes of chocolates and bouquets of flowers. Romantics choose to think of the day for lovers differently. It's true that in the US men and women purchase and exchange gifts of flowers, candies, jewelry, perfume and sexy lingerie accompanied by cards bearing romantic messages; in other places across the world, February 14 is a day when folks stop and take time to honor the people they love.

In Wales wooden love spoons are decorated with hearts, keys and keyholes sending the message "You unlock my heart." In Norway and Denmark Valentinsdag involves a quiet romantic dinner for two with perhaps a single rose and a card. Here in our adopted country of Mexico, the holiday is known as El Día de San Valentin or El Día de Amistad y Amor (The Day of Friendship and Love).

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Upcoming Issue

March 2009: Spring at Lake Chapala

Spring doesn't always wait for the March equinox here at Lakeside. Many facets of the season changes with a late January or early February jump start. Long before the first day of spring we've been lulled by six weeks of balmier temperatures, softer breezes, nest-building song birds twittering for a mate, and springtime trees bursting with dyed egg yellow primavera, purple jacaranda, and pink "orchid" flowers.

Every season our growing Living at Lake Chapala team of writers are working across the area to find fascinating new places, things, people and ideas to share with you. The broad scope of topics they're covering for the upcoming March 2009 issue is no exception.

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