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December 2010


Feature Article

We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad

By Judy King

I loved Mexico's treasured holiday customs, events, and activities from that first Christmas a few months after my arrival in 1990 — but I didn't understand much of what I saw and I had more questions than information. There weren't articles in the Guadalajara Reporter (then called the Colony Reporter) or the Ojo Del Lago, the only monthly magazine.

I didn't have a clue what was happening, and I'm sure I missed more events than I saw, but I loved it all, just the same. Nothing has been more fun for me over the years than beginning to learn how our Mexican neighbors celebrate the year-end holidays of light and love.

To shorten your learning curve, here's an outline of Mexico's special December customs.

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From the Editors

December 2010: A Month of Light and Joy

While every month at Lake Chapala is studded with celebrations, holidays and fiestas, there are two special nine-day December celebrations in Mexico, both honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus.

These two events are the nearest and dearest to the hearts of our Mexican neighbors. After all, when Mary appeared as Maria de Guadalupe to Juan Diego on a Mexican mountaintop in December 1531, she proclaimed herself as the mother of all Mexico, of all of the Americas, and of all of the Western Hemisphere.

The first of these novenas honors the Mary of that apparition—Mexico's beloved Virgin of Guadalupe.

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Community

Lakeside's Well-Traveled Cantantes

By Amy Friend

Discovering new traditions to round out the holiday season is important to expats who move to Lake Chapala. One of the highest ranking events on the packed calendars of Lakeside residents is the annual Christmas concert presented by Los Cantantes del Lago — Lakeside's community choir.

The 2010 program (which will be performed at 4 p.m. on December 12 and at 7:30 p.m. December 13) will feature the traditional music local audiences have come to expect from this talented group.

A choir member recently said, "The Christmas concerts are nostalgic, heartwarming events that seem to evoke the kinds of feelings we wish could last all year. We know we are doing a good job when we see a member of the audience wiping a tear."

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Getting Here

Mix and Match Fun for Lakeside Singles

By Karen Blue

I've always maintained that if you're going to be single, Lake Chapala is the best place in the world to do it. Recently single life at Lakeside became even better!

The newly formed LCS Singles Mix and Match Group held its inaugural event in September. The get together was held on the patio of the Lake Chapala Society and featured beer, wine, soft drinks, and a few appetizers to get the group started. It provided the opportunity for the Lake Chapala Society (which sponsors the group) to distribute questionnaires to discover the types of activities most interesting to Lakeside singles.

This new group was conceived by Pat Doran, Special Events Chairman, and Terry Vidal, Executive Director of the Lake Chapala Society. Membership in the LCS Singles Mix and Match Group is open to all single Lakeside residents; non-LCS members will be charged a nominal fee to attend the events. The organization's goal is to have fun in the sun and under the stars.

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Mexican Kitchen

Cooking with Tequila Adds a Little Mexican Kick

By Executive Chef Lorraine Russo and Judy King

"Ah, here's a whole table of taste testers for my brand new margarita mousse recipe." Lorraine Russo, executive chef of La Nueva Posada, placed a handful of spoons and two margarita glasses filled with a delicate green substance in the middle of the table still littered with Living at Lake Chapala seminar handouts, coffee cups and the attendees' notes.

I couldn't wait to try the new dessert. Lorraine and I had been discussing this spin-off of one of Lorraine's favorite recipes for several weeks. We watched as the seminar guests cautiously dipped their spoons into the sugar-rimmed glasses and hesitantly sampled a tiny taste. Lorraine laughed out loud when broad smiles spread across their faces in response to the miniscule portion and they reached to fill their spoons again and again with the cool, creamy mousse.

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Homes & Lodging

The House of the Ten Virgins

By Harriet Hart

Mary, Mother of Jesus, takes many forms in Mexico. She appeared as Guadalupe on December 12, 1531 to a peasant, Juan Diego, on the outskirts of Mexico City. Images of her, in her many manifestations preside over churches and homes all over the land.

Ajijic's chapel has the Virgin of the Rosary, Guadalajara has the Virgin of Zapopan, patron saint of the city, the state of Jalisco and Lake Chapala. Patzcuaro has the Virgin of Salud (Health) and Oaxaca, the Virgin of Solitude. Some virgins are named for places, others for periods in Mary's life. All are objects of veneration, depicted by artists in a variety of mediums.

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Out & About

Shopping with Heart

By Harriet Hart

Christmas is a time of tradition: the tree trimming, the turkey dinner, and caroling. When you move to a new country, you have a choice of whether to import the old traditions, adopt those of your new home or invent some to suit your new locale. My husband and I have done a bit of all three.

Our new Christmas tradition, the one that brings me the most pleasure, is how we exchange gifts. Every year on December 23rd we drive to nearby Tlaquepaque (a nearby suburb of Guadalajara) with the sole purpose of choosing a gift for ourselves. We love decorating our Mexican home and we love folk art so this gives us the perfect opportunity to buy a new piece of art to adorn our home without feeling guilty.

Our first Christmas purchase for each other was an iron roof cross from Chiapas crafted by Maestro Guadalupe Hermosillo Escobar. I had no idea how special this item was until the owner of the shop, Guillermo Manzano, explained it to me.

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Cost of Living

Leo the Tailor

By James Tipton

"Leo the Tailor." That might be the title of a story by Issac Bashevis Singer, who wrote tales like "The Little Shoemakers". "Leo the Tailor" could have been the title of the fairy tale "The Valiant Tailor," discovered by the Brothers Grimm, and included in one of their collections. Walt Disney Productions even told their version of the story about a tailor who finds himself facing the giants menacing his medieval village (Mickey and Princess Minnie starred in "The Brave Little Tailor"). There was a novel by John Le Carré, The Tailor of Panama, about a reluctant tailor who becomes a British spy.

Chapala's Leo el Sastre (Leo the tailor) is Leopoldo Briseño Hernandez. He spends his days cutting and sewing (much of it by hand) at his sastrería (tailor shop). As is common in Mexico, this business is in one section of a home where Leo lives with his wife, Juana Sánchez R. It is located in Chapala at Juarez #592, almost at the northwest corner of Juárez and Degollado, a very short walk north of the Chapala Plaza. You'll see the bilingual sign above his door:

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Soul of México

The Treasure of Tonalá Ceramics

By Carol L. Bowman

Along the entire block, goods spilled onto the sidewalk from the unending row of narrow store fronts. The whimsical array of merchandise dizzied the senses and sent mental cash registers spinning. Each tienda's doors were flung open in true Mexican tradition, to lure the next shopper inside. My imagination ran wild as my eyes feasted on so much that I don't need, but can't live without.

No matter how many times I visit Tonalá, the centuries-old crafts village between Chapala and Guadalajara, this urge to buy overwhelms me, mounds of decorative items bewilder me and creative juices surge through my veins. As I scurried past the tempting store fronts, I struggled to ignore a contemporary chair shaped as a giant high heel shoe, covered in pink fuzzy fabric. It might as well have had my granddaughter's name written all over it.

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Health & Safety

Things to Know about being in a Mexican Hospital

By Fran Murphy

Editor's Note: In the November 2010 issue we featured an article about Lakeside resident Tony Jackson who recently underwent quadruple bypass surgery in the IMSS system hospital. This article has sparked reader questions and concerns about being in the hospital here. This month we're featuring one of our "golden oldie" articles — we're rerunning a valuable account of what newcomers need to know when entering a private hospital. It was written a couple of years ago by a friend and neighbor.

I recently had the fortune, or perhaps some would consider misfortune, to spend about ten days in two Guadalajara hospitals. First, I spent four days at Hospital Jardines de Guadalupe with my husband when he had an emergency cardiovascular procedure. The second stint of six days occurred soon after when I was hospitalized at San Javier Hospital for a hip replacement.

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People, Places & Things

A Christmas Tree for Mexico

By Phyllis Rauch

Finding the perfect Christmas tree in Mexico was a challenge from the start. My childhood memories centered on tall evergreens, and my mother's yearly search for the perfect tree.

One year we mistakenly brought home a faulty tree — it was so crooked that no matter which way we turned it the tree had a definite list. When finally my mom was close to tears, my father declared the tree would make perfect wood for the fireplace, and we trooped to the tree lot for a second try.

My Austrian husband shared his memories of trees decorated with candy and fruit — each piece lovingly wrapped in colored tissue paper to be hung on the tree. Apples and cookies were attached to red strings knotted well in advance.

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Upcoming Issue

January 2011: We Begin Again

A new day, a new month, a new year — life here at Lake Chapala has been a fresh start for most of us.

Is there anything as inspiring as hanging up a new calendar or smoothing the first page in a new desk calendar before writing the first appointment in your best penmanship? While we experience a minor version of this rebirth when we turn the page at the end of each month — there's just nothing quite like a brand new year full of promise, resolutions and opportunities.

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