Happy Dia de el Niño

by Judy King 30. April 2010 15:57

horseIt’s the Day of the Child in Mexico!

Schools are closed today, families are planning mini-celebrations, piñatas in the evenings for the kids. 

Children’s Day has been a big deal in Mexico with parties, piñatas, outings, and gifts since it’s 1925 inception. How big a deal? The last Walmart advertising flier devoted the center 6-8 pages to Christmas-like displays of toys and games – this in a country where most children in working families receive just a couple of gifts for Christmas instead of the mountain of presents north of the border kids have come to expect.

 

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Now here’s an interesting thought, while Children’s Day was being celebrated (usually on the second Sunday of June) by 1860 in the United States, the event has now disappeared in most states. (Some might say that every day is Children’s Day in the US.) Meanwhile by Parliamentary Act, Canada adopted the November 20 custom of Child Day in 1993.

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Many countries around the world fete their children on November 20, the date chosen as Universal Children’s Day in 1954 by the United Nations. George W. Bush proclaimed November 20 to be Children’s Day – but it still didn’t enjoy a renewal of popularity.

Children's peace paradeMexican kinder children dress up to represent a variety of countries to honor the Universal Children’s Day, and then take a walk around town to share their view of world peace with others.

UNICEF has declared an International Children’s Day on a variety of dates ranging from March 5, April 23, June 1 and even a couple of dates in December – Take your pick!

No matter what country we are in, there’s no question – our children are our future. We need to celebrate them, see to their needs, make sure they all have the opportunity to have clean water, good education and a safe environment.


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

A Preview of Holidays in the Merry Month of May

by Judy King 29. April 2010 08:18

clip_image003For those of us who are spending some of our third age at Lakeside, learning new customs and traditions are an important part of our adventure. The month of May gives us plenty of opportunities to learn—after all there are seven holidays this month—most in just in the first two weeks of the month.

During these celebrations, there will be a wide range of activities—including everything from pre-dawn serenades special Masses and school programs to fireworks, parades, gifts and the decorating of area crosses and altars with colorful spring flowers and streamers.

We have the opportunity to honor the country’s workers, builders, farmers, and mothers; plus, teachers are honored by their schools and students and then the students are feted by their teachers  -- all during the month of May. 

We’ll even have some special blogs honoring some of these days – Come back on May 3 for our view of how the construction workers came to celebrate on the day of the holy cross. 

Here is a bit of advance warning about the scheduling of government offices, schools and businesses – when they will close and when they’ll remain open during this month of holidays.

  • May 1 – Labor Day closings will include schools, government offices, some small businesses. All employees are entitled to the day off with pay.
  • May 3 – Day of the Holy Cross and Day of the Construction workers. On their day, many of the construction workers and their suppliers (paint stores, hardware stores, plumbing supply stores) take some or all of the day off work. Expect businesses in the village of Santa Cruz de Soledad to close, this is the culmination of their annual fiesta.
  • May 5 – Cinco de Mayo doesn't affect businesses here.
  • May 10 – Mexican Mother's Day doesn't close most businesses, but many women need to take off some of the day to attend special school programs or to be taken out for lunch.
  • May 15 – The Day of the Teachers  
  • May 15 – Feast Day of San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers
  • May 23 – The Day of the Students.

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(Left:) Bands will take to the streets early on May 3, roaming through Lakeside villages to play at the homes of construction workers and at the workers uncompleted building sites. (Right:) Construction workers pile into a truck with the crosses they will erect on the top of each of their unfinished projects.

 Cinco de Mayo

While we've listed Cinco de Mayo in the above list of holidays, it is not celebrated in this area of Mexico. Students of Mexican history will remember that on May 5, 1862, a war-weary Mexican army won a valiant battle against the French Army in the city of Puebla. There are plenty of celebrations in the US and Canada where it is assumed that May 5 is Mexico's Day of Independence, not just the anniversary of one battle out of decades of wars and battles.

Here’s the short version: In 1861, years of fighting the United States and a lengthy civil war had left Mexico bankrupt with large debts owed to England, Spain and France. When President Benito Juarez suspended payment of the loans for two years, all three countries invaded Mexico, intent on collecting however and whatever they could. By 1862, Spain and England had withdrawn, but Napoleon III continued his war in Mexico. On May 5, 1862, the small, worn and untrained Mexican army defeated the stronger and more modern French troops at Puebla. This was only a temporary victory for Mexico, because a year later, France was victorious and made Maximillian Emperor of Mexico for a short time. The Battle of Puebla was a moral victory that encouraged and united the people of Mexico.

Mother’s Day

May 10 is always Mother's Day (Dia de la Madre) in Mexico.  While Gringo moms are often awakened with ominous sounds and smells emanating from their kitchens, many Mexican moms are awakened sometime between 2 a.m. and dawn by the musicians hired by the family to serenade them. Trios, bands and mariachis wander Lakeside streets by the dozens, playing first at this house and then at that, always starting the new serenade with the traditional song for all happy days, "Las Mañanitas." While not an official paid holiday, many businesses close and maids who are mothers often have the day off to attend the program at school.

Teachers and Students Days

The Dia del Maestro on May 15 is set aside for students to honor Mexico's teachers. Special gifts, programs and songs honor the teachers, and some schools  close at mid-day; others are closed all day. A week later the tables turn and the teachers honor the students. There’s often refreshments, dancing, programs, little gifts, and parties to mark the day. Children seem to be double dipping this time of year…Children’s Day on April 30 is another opportunity to dote on the nation’s kids – enough so to inspire stores to gird up and prepare huge displays of toys and gifts –  it looks a good deal like Christmas!


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

The First Rainbird!

by Judy King 26. April 2010 22:32

nets-with-clear-sky There’s cause for great celebration and joy here at Lake Chapala tonight. Join us in a loud and hearty, “Hurrah” a delighted, “Yippee!” and even perhaps we could raise a glass of tequila and gritar (cheer) a happy “Salud” to the first sounds of the ugly and pitiful rainbird.

You see, it doesn’t rain here on the north shore of Mexico’s largest lake from the middle of September or early October until the  rainy season begins on (or before) the June 13 feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, the patron of San Antonio Tlayacapan. The old wives tales here say that six weeks after we hear the first rainbird the first showers of the summer rainy season will begin to fall.

When it hasn’t rained in months, and the afternoon wind brings along a healthy wave of dust and sand, we eagerly await the awakening of the rainbirds and their  message that rain is just around the corner – well ok, just a calendar page or two away. 

The large, local prehistoric-looking cicadas come out of their long hibernation and into lusty pre-maturity adolescence at this time of year, and begin their loud screechy, buzzing, and trilling mating calls.

clouds-on-sr-garciaThe songs of love produced by our unlovely insect heralds of the coming rainy season increase in frequency, volume, and desperation as the weeks pass – they awaken with only one purpose, and it’s as if they know their reproductive clocks are ticking. They must complete their life cycle by laying the eggs for next year’s rainbirds  before they drown in the first rains.

Actually the human cries of anguish and displeasure also increase in frequency, volume, and desperation as the month of May wears on. This old wife thinks it must be a requirement of human nature to complain about the weather --  no matter what. Although Lake Chapala is said to have one of the two best climates in the world, we still must, simply must complain about the weather. It just wouldn’t be right if we didn’t. 

clouds-building SO, in May and early June, the hottest time of the year here on the shore of Mexico’s largest natural lake, we complain about the heat. Everything is relative, so if you are in Texas, you won’t be too sympathetic when we gripe about May’s afternoon highs of 80-90 (a few days we’ll hit 95 in the late afternoon) followed by overnight lows of 60-70. 

Thankfully the humidity is extremely low at  this time of year, usually below 30% and that means it’s drier here than in the Sahara Desert. That gives us that “dry heat” you hear folks in places like Arizona and Nevada talking about. Ah, it’s still hot and very few places and homes here have air conditioning. 

Once the rains begin, it’s pure heaven here. Mornings are cool and overcast, until the sun streams through and reveals a bright blue cloudless sky around 10 a.m. All through late June, July, August and sometimes September, the temperature warms during the day to around 75 to 80, and by late afternoon, dramatic grand thunderheads are building over the mountains that encircle the lake.

rain-over-lake Sometimes we have a heavy shower around 7 or 8 p.m. Usually it waits until the middle of the night to let go with a dramatic thundering, banging and booming rainstorm punctuated by flashes of beautiful lightning. The temperature drops into the high 50s or low 60s for perfect sleeping. The next day we start all over again, in a world that has been washed fresh and clean.

There are those who will tell you it only rains at night here. But in the manner of “telling it like it is,” we’ll tell you the straight scoop…it only rains at night until there is a tropical storm or hurricane skirting one of Mexico’s coasts. When one of those spinning systems hovers in one spot, it feeds that warm moist air over the mountains and into our area. Sometimes we have as many as two or three days of overcast skies in a row.

double-rainbow That’s when we who live here start into our own form of seasonal depression disorder. On the rare occasions when the clouds have lingered three or even four days, there’s been evidence of mass depression among the foreigners. Once we’ve become accustomed to one of the best climates on earth – the year-round beauty of eternal spring, we loose the ability to adapt to climatic change!

If you want to check the accuracy of the rainbirds (or of the old wives) six weeks from tonight is June 7 – that would give us the rains a full week early this year…wouldn’t that be nice!

Meanwhile, here’s another tip from those wise old wives. Watch for the clouds to settle down and obscure the top of Mount Garcia, the mountain on the south shore of the lake. Our Mexican friends and neighbors tell us that when “Sr. Garcia puts on his sombrero, rain is coming. (The second photo above shows el Senor and his sombrero.)

Welcome back Rainbirds!


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

The Great Car Dilemna

by Judy King 25. April 2010 21:46

1956-Dodge-Royal-Lancer-red-black-ggr-2  I hate cars. I don’t like repairing them, dealing with their problems, buying them or selling them. In fact about the only thing I like is driving them. I’ve never been a car fan, lusting after specific makes or models.

I had a momentary childhood obsession with big finned black, white and red 1956 Dodge Royal that dr. Fee herded around the streets of town. Remember? They were tri-colored; mom liked the grey, pink and white that matched our new tweedy wallpaper and plaid slipcovers. Now that was a car. Then I felt a momentary warmth in high school for a friend’s 1962 white Impala with red interior.

Since then cars have meant transportation, nothing more – I liked them better if they were a decent color. Other than that, the only thing I require of a car is for it to be comfortable, start when I put the key in the slot and quit when I take the key back out. I’ve had a long relationship with my current vehicle, a 1996 Ford Windstar I bought in 1998 with 42,000 miles, and it’s given me barely a moment’s problem other than routine oil changes, a set of tires, replacing the shocks and struts, etc. through the ensuring 12 years and 60,000 miles.

Until…about a month ago when I was out in Jocotepec in the midst of one of the four-hour Lakeside overviews I occasionally do to help newly arrived folks get acquainted with the territory. My formerly well-behaved car stopped -- right in the middle of the street and wouldn’t go another foot.

Long story short - bystanders pushed it to the curb, I walked a couple of blocks to fetch a mechanic who called a cab to return my client and I to Ajijic while he towed the minivan to his shop – and what I assumed was the car equivalent of hospice care.

A day later, he called with the diagnosis. The bad news was I’d hit a rock or tope (speed bump) and lost all the oil. The good news was that engine is designed to shut down when there’s no oil, to prevent additional damage. The repairs were completed in two more days (the new oil pan had to come from Guadalajara). The entire bill was just over $100 US.

The long term prognosis, however, wasn’t good. There’s a lingering transmission problem. The cost of rebuilding that is estimated at about $1,000 – and that’s 1/3 to 1/2 of the value of the car and that doesn’t make sense to me, even though the interior is perfect, the tires good and the body just in need of a touchup in a few dozen spots. All those other mysterious systems will still be 14 years old.

So…I’m reluctantly car shopping. As I conduct the weekly Mexico Insights Newcomers Seminar, I outline the obvious and hidden costs of buying a Mexican-plated car and suggest strongly that they drive a US plated car to Lakeside. Now I’m facing these costs head on, and wondering where it’s best for me to buy a new car.

Here are some of the extra expenses involved when purchasing a Mexican-plated car:

1. Expect to pay 25% more for a car in Mexico as for the same car in the US. (Cars in the $7000 to 9000 range in the US are the peso equivalent of $8500 to $12,000 US here.

2. You may be expected to pay 15% IVA (sales tax).

3. You must pay Tenencia – that’s a road use tax that is 2.8% of the current value of the car paid annually for each of the first 10 years. Considering the low depreciation of cars here, that means that owners pay almost 25% of the new cost of the car in this tax during the first 10 years. (That cost soars to almost 75% for cars with a new value of $44,000 or more – so if you gotta have a Hummer or high end, fancy, smancy something, you pay for the luxury. A friend has a 2003 CR-V and paid about $300 US for this year’s Tenencia.

4. The process of converting the title to your name is $150 to $200 US

5. Annual licensing/registration is $30 to $50 US ($600 pesos).

6. Insurance is MUCH more expensive on Mexican-plated cars than on US or Canadian –plated cars -- approximately 2 to 3 times as much as for an equal US-plated car. Want a real example? When I put Mexican plates on my US Windstar (extenuating circumstances, don’t ask) the van was 10 years old and the insurance went from $220 US per year with Iowa plates to $650 US per year when we put the Mexican plates on it. Full coverage on the Windstar this year (she’s 14 years old) is still $350 US!

I toyed with the idea of searching for a car in Texas via the internet, taking the bus up, buying the car, and then driving back. If I wasn’t working -- editing both the Lake Chapala Review and Living at Lake Chapala and adding posts to the blog and conducting the weekly seminars and working on a special cross-cultural project, I’d do just that – and take time to visit family and friends in Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota.

DSC01613Frankly, much as I’d like to see everyone, I’m not sure that the reduction in cost would be worth the time required for the trip, the stress of driving from Texas to Minnesota and back to Texas and then the 700 miles in Mexico. That trip would be great fun, but it would also eat up a good deal of the savings, real or perceived.

There May Be a Reason for the Lower Cost of US Cars

While the cars in the US are cheaper, they also have many more miles on the odometer and all of the liabilities that extra use implies. 2003-2005 Mexican cars seem to have 40,000 to 80,000 kilometers – that’s only 25,000 to 50,000 miles. The 5-7 year old US cars I’m seeing online have “normal milage” of 80-115,000 – that’s twice their Mexican counterparts. Plus there’s the winter road salt residue and rust issues.

My Worst Fear

I have another concern about buying an American-plated car. It’s scary to walk onto a strange car lot and shake hands with one of those happy guys in the plaid jacket that you see in the Used Car lot commercials on TV. I shudder when I think of saying to him, “I want a used car. Can you do the paperwork fast so I can head back home to Mexico.” I have visions of Buddy calling his brother-in-law on the intercom: “Hey there Billy Bob, bring up that lemon, a… er, that nice car we’ve been saving from there in the back row.”

SO What to do…

The Windstar’s transmission is still perking along, more or less ok, a car genius friend is looking through the semi-nuevos (almost new or used cars) in Guadalajara. The problem at the moment seems that the domino effect of last year’s weakened economy means that fewer folks in Mexico’s second largest city are trading cars in on newer and better ones. One of these days he’ll find a good one, and I’ll make the purchase. I’ll settle for almost anything that is high enough to make it over the topes, has a decent back seat. A CR-V or Ford Escape might be good – as long as it isn’t beige.

(The cars in this blog? The photo of that 1956 Dodge Lancer just like Dr. Fee’s beauty. I spotted that hot pink limo in the Guadalajara airport parking lot a couple years ago. I wonder who they were picking up. The mind boggles. The perfectly restored Cadillac El Dorado convertible parked at the Real De Chapala Hotel  had just delivered the bride and groom to their reception.)


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Viva Los Charros!!

by Judy King 22. April 2010 09:32

 out1-dance

Our home state of Jalisco proudly promotes its claim as “El Corozon de México” (the heart of Mexico). Not only is the centrally-located state home to the beautiful historic city of Guadalajara and the country’s largest natural lake, Jalisco is known as the home of Mexico’s representative symbols: tequila, mariachi music, el jarabe tapatio (Mexican Hat Dance), haciendas (the huge old farms) and los charros (those elegantly dressed horsemen we see in local parades).

One icon represents all of these treasured traditions and the country as well -- the instantly recognized, 100% Mexican national costume, el gran traje de charros (the dress suit of the horsemen). The elegant snugly tailored black suit and vest is extravagantly trimmed with embroidery and/or silver buttons and worn with a white shirt and soft bow tie. To be absolutely correct, the suit includes a leather holster, silver plated revolver and fine wide-brimmed sombrero.

Those black suits with vests and silver buttons and white or black ties are totally socially interchangeable for tuxedos (at least in Mexico) and are frequently worn at fashionable high society weddings here. Wish you could have seen the wedding party, mariachis, even the white calandria (Mexican “Cinderella” carriage) with white horse all arranged on the steps of the Ajijic church for a wedding portrait following the ceremony.

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In Mexico, charro is a term referring to a traditional horseman or cowboy of Mexico, The Mexican charro tradition has derived from Spanish horsemen who came from Salamanca and settled in Jalisco --  just as the dancing horses the charros in Jalisco ride evolved from breeding the sturdy Spanish horses with the elegant Lippizans the Mexico’s brief emperor Maximilian imported from his homeland – Austria.

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While at Lake Chapala charros still work with livestock and horses, and use their riding and roping skills on a daily basis, they are best known for their participation in the frequent charreadas, a type of rodeo, held in the Lienza Charro (these are not bull ring) in each of the north shore villages

The charreada, or corrida, is the. national sport in Mexico. and is regulated by the Federación Mexicana de Charrería. There are more charros in the state of Jalisco than any other state in Mexico and the home of an annual national championship and competition in conjunction with the annual early September international mariachi convention.

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Want to see more of those gran trajes or appropriate these working outfits? El Charro, founded in 1961, designs and sells authentic charro outfits, according to the rules of the national and state organizations. Take a look at the US branch of the old Guadalajara company, El Charro. The famous Guadalajara-based company provides off-the-rack charro outfits – this El Paso, Texas, branch caters to folkloric dancers and mariachis.

There is a wide selection of styles and designs with suits ranging from $250.00 for a simple suit to $3,000 for an elegant attire with gold and silver beaded embroidery. Hats are valued at $80 to $1,500 according to design and materials.

Nothing is more important to Mexicans than their country and her honor, traditions and customs. The charros, an organization which was founded long ago, soon after Mexico triumphed over Spain have pledged to maintain those values and principles.

Viva Los Charros!


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

About Judy King

Judy King

Hi There — Welcome to my little corner of the world. I'm Judy King and I live in the centuries-old village of Ajijic on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest natural lake.

I've lived here full time since 1990, and... [ more ]

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