Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

by Judy King 28. July 2010 13:12

Rain Garbage Bag Rain GearFor some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about rain lately –  maybe that’s because we’ve received about 20” of rainfall since the rainy season started six weeks ago – about 60% of our annual average rainfall.

So far, I’ve been as cheerful as Gene Kelly about our soggy summer, I’ve not been singing and dancing in the rain, but the mountains are wondrously green, the lake is rising – on course for a 30-year high point .

My garden has never looked better…but…unlike Julie Andrews, I’m not cooing about “raindrops on roses” being one of my favorite things.

Think about it, it’s rained 24 of the 28 days this month – and on most of those days, it’s rained in daylight hours contrary to claims you may have read on other websites that it only rains at night here in paradise.

Those claims are fairly accurate – in times of normal weather patterns. It’s when tropical storms and hurricanes start circling their warm, moist air into our region, the blue  skies darken and we move into cycles of gray days and hours of gentle, steady rainfall. It’s enough, as Elvis said, to have “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”

28July8am Those Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

As Alex and Bonnie have moved up the Atlantic/Gulf Coasts and Celia,  Darby and Estelle have pushed rain to us from the Pacific Coast this month, I’ve had plenty of indoor computer time.

I’ve been following the tropical storms on The Weather Channel link on Amigo Rodrigo’s online radio station at KMEXRadio.FM. It’s easy to spot the oddly shaped state of Jalisco – it forms that prominent bump on the Pacific Coast and then reaches inland to our location at 5,000 feet on the north shore of Lake Chapala.

Be sure to click on the animate (Weather in Motion) button under the map to see what those clouds have been doing the past few hours. For example,  the map above is the still shot at for 8:17 a.m. EDT (7:17 a.m. Chapala Time). When you animate the scene, you see the storm cells that produced the .75” we received between Midnight and dawn…and you can see how that large series of cells to the south at 7 a.m. is moving into our zone toward midday.

editor4-rainI’ve also been taking some sort of perverse pleasure in checking the website for the private weather station in Riberas de Pilar – several times a day – just to see how much rain we’ve received. I must not be alone, the owner of the site reports 6,000 visitors last Sunday!

Rather than to start “Crying in the Rain” like the Everly Brothers, “Walking in the Rain” with Johnny Ray,  or complaining, “Oh No, Don’t Let the Rain Come Down” with the Serendipity Singers, I’ve been enjoying some extra time curled up some favorite books, Rain of Gold, House of Rain and The Rain God as I “Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain” (Donavan).

One recent “Day That the Rain Came Down” (Jane Morgan) I spent watching some old movies, The Rainmaker, Rain Man, and two movies titled Rain -- one with Faye Dunaway and one with Joan Crawford.

 
Are there really 800 Songs about Rain?

A little research showed me that while there are only about 100 movies with the word rain in the title, there are more than eight hundred songs about rain – some with lyrics of note for our lives this month:

 DSC00782  “Rain Rain” (Cher)

Rain, Rain in the sky
Everywhere I look my eyes see
Rain, rain fallin' down
Crying as it hits the ground

“Eastern Rain” (Joni Mitchell)

Rain comes from the east one night
We watch it come
To hang like beaded curtains
Till the morning sun
Water dripping from our clothes
You with raindrops on your nose
Ask me sadly please don’t go away now.

DSC00902 “The Late September Dogs” (Melissa Ethridge)

Come on let it rain
Let it rain down on me
Let the rain touch my hands
Let the rain set me free
Let it rain down on me

“The Rain” (Will Smith)

The little rain drops fallin’ down on me
But I can’t seem to feel it, feel it
Feel it coming over me

editor3-garciaKeep your Eye on Mount Garcia

“Can you Stand the Rain?” (Boys ii Men)  We’re still loving life here at Lake Chapala, “Come Rain or Come Shine” (Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Bette Midler).

Still….we’re keeping an eye on Lake Chapala’s south shore peak, Mount Garcia to see if it’s still shrouded in clouds.

You see local lore says that when Sr. Garcia puts on his sombrero, you’ll know it’s going to rain. Seems like all month he’s had it pulled down to his eyebrows.

Meanwhile, we’re wondering …

Who Will Stop the Rain (Credence Clearwater Revival)

Heard the singers playin’, how we cheered for more.
The crowd had rushed together, tryin’ to keep warm.
Still the rain kept pourin’, fallin’ on my ears.
And I wonder, still I wonder who’ll stop the rain.


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.

Hello, Who’s Calling? TELMEX???

by Judy King 25. July 2010 16:04

Telmex, the telephone company of Mexico, was privatized by the government in 1990. Until then, the price and service of telephones were as tightly regulated as gasoline still is today through Pemex.

Telmex, which is owned by the world’s richest man -- Carlos Sim, (Yes, he has passed up Bill Gates and Warren Buffet) is perhaps a little less loved, respected, and trusted than Ma Bell.

Telmex
Carretera #113 in Ajijic, 
(376) 766-2131 or 2132

Open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The current cost for the installation of a new line ranges is about $100 US – down from $150 US about five years ago and $400 or more 20 years ago – when there was a line available. The good news is that most often your telephone line will be included in the inventory of the house you buy or rent. Don’t leave anything to chance – be sure to check the inventory and be sure it says, “Telephone line -- (376) 76X-XXXX.” If it just says “telephone” you may receive an antiquated telephone instrument and no line to plug it into.

If you need the phone company to run wires inside your home, there will be an additional charge. There is also an additional fee if you need a telephone instrument as well.

Special Promotions Save Big Bucks

Telmex runs frequent promotions these days on the cost of telephone service combined with high speed Prodigy service.  Currently, you can sign on for 1 GB of download speed via Prodigy, have 100 local calls, 100 minutes of long distance service within Mexico and calls to the US and Canada for $2.39 pesos (about 20 cents) per minute. for $289 pesos per month.

If you sign on to have 2 GB of Prodigy download, you’ll get 200 local calls per month, unlimited long distance calls within Mexico and 100 minutes of long distance to the US or Canada (additional minutes across the border will be billed at about 10 cents per minute) for $499 pesos per month.

If you’re looking for the top of the line, consider the $999 peso (about $80 US) package. It features 3 GB download, unlimited calls locally, within Mexico and to the US! What a deal this is – it’s really quick and easy to run up more long distance calls than that – and still pay for monthly service, national calls and internet separately.

Most of these packages include call waiting, call forwarding and caller identification.

Line availability:
From late 1993 into 1995, Telmex crews were assisted by Florida Bell systems in installing fiber optic lines and systems at Lakeside capable of carrying the load from an infinite number of phones. The current occasional shortage of phones and delays in installation in specific neighborhoods is usually not due to a lack of lines, but caused by a shortage of switching equipment. There sometimes just isn't enough space in the switching boxes to provide the numbers needed to meet the increased demand for phones.

If you are purchasing a home without a phone line, go to the Telmex office ASAP to see if lines are available in your neighborhood. If so, buy your line immediately, even though you’ll have to pay the monthly bill even if you haven’t moved in.

Be Careful of “Putting the Phone to Sleep”

We’ve heard some horror stories of folks who left for the summer or an extended trip anytime of the year and opted for Telmex’s option to reduce the billing costs during their absence. Rather than being able to “put the phone on vacation” as you may have up north, here the option is called “putting the phone to sleep.” If you are thinking that sounds uncomfortably like euthanasia, you may be right. We’ve heard a series of sad stories from folks who tried to save a bit of money with this program. There are a number of steps which must be followed exactly – or the phone company ends up owning your line – with no prior notice or chance of recovery. 

Monthly rates:
The current basic monthly telephone rate (without internet) is $189 pesos plus IVA (15% added value tax). This pays the rental on your line for a month, and includes 99 completed calls. These 99 calls include completed local and long distance calls (even when you reach an answering machine) – about three calls per day. Each call over the first 99 is billed at $1.48 pesos or about 15 cents, plus IVA, each.

You'll need to purchase a phone card at a grocery store, pharmacy or at Telmex to make a call from a Mexican payphone. The cards are available in $30, $50 or $100 peso increments.

Bill Payment

Just outside of the Telmex building, there is a payment machine that allows you to pay your Telmex bill electronically—as long as you have the bill. If you prefer, with our without the current bill you can now use the drive-through window  -- just give the attendant at the window from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. your phone number and he or she will tell you the amount to pay.

Of course you can also still walk into the building, and wait in line to pay if you prefer.

There is a grace period of about one week before your phone is disconnected. If your billing date has passed and your phone rings in the late afternoon or early evening and you hear only a short recorded message in Spanish, it probably is Telmex reminding you to pay the bill the next day to avoid disconnection. During the first couple weeks of the disconnect, calls can still be received, but when you attempt to place a call you will hear a recorded Spanish message telling you that the bill needs to be paid.

Paying Telmex bills from the United States—in dollars:
Telmex has designed a program to allow Mexican migrant workers in the US to pay phone bills for family members living in Mexico. This service may work well for gringos who divide their time between Mexico and their homes back north. If you are in the U.S., call (800) 365-8808 for more information about this service.

No matter what country you are in, click here to visit the Telmex website. When you reach the website, click first on  “cambia pais” in the upper right hand corner of the page. This will then offer you the choice of 10 countries (and languages) including Estados Unidos de America – the Unites States of America. You can pay your bill, apply for a new phone line and accomplish a number of other errands from this site.


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.

It’s the Little Things

by Judy King 20. July 2010 21:55

What is it that keeps me so totally enthralled with life in central Mexico? Of course it’s the climate, and it’s the advantageous economy which allows me to live better for less, but far overshadowing both of those things is the adventure of experiencing something new nearly every day of my life.

Where’s the adventure in my ordinary-looking life? It’s in the little things – the details – the ironic everyday experiences that  wry,  unusual, odd, thought provoking and touching when I stop to take a closer look.

Sometimes that means it’s the way things are done:

  • Workers mixing concrete  on the ground – like they’re making a giant pile of pie dough
  • The auto body guys who work in a nearby alley and produce perfection with hammers and an outdoor paint job
  • The guy who climbs trees barefooted and uses only a machete to trim out branches
  • Homemade ladders made from scrap lumber – not OSHA approved
  • Electrical entrances that would cause US builders, inspectors and fire marshals’ nightmares

sanchez More often it’s the people – just being people

Other times that’ means seeing wives riding “sidesaddle” on bikes with their husbands, great-grandfathers and their tiny progeny taking halting steps to the corner and back every afternoon, entire families sitting around a table and singing old Mexican songs, a small boy whispering a secret into an even  smaller girl’s ear, and the way local residents express their deeply-rooted faith and devotion.

There have been times when I’ve seen that seemingly endless connection of spirituality expressed in processions bearing images of patron saints or revered virgin figures.

I’ve seen the outward practice of religious beliefs in the elderly women who struggle with canes and walkers to walk to church every day for Mass every evening.

Most recently I spotted an example of that deep faith during the recent patio construction project. (You read about that endeavor – and how my simple job grew in to a big deal job in another recent post, “The Great Patio Project.”

Jose seemed to be the “new guy” in the crew. He was one of the mason’s helpers, an unusual position for a man of his age, and with his apparent health challenges. I wondered how effective he would be when I saw his  shuffling gait and the slight to moderate tremor in his hands.

As the days passed, I couldn’t help but keep noticing Jose – he had the biggest smile when he greeted me in the morning, the first  back after lunch, the one toting the extra big buckets of sand or rocks – he was determined to show that he was doing his share of the work, and more.

What  I couldn’t miss was  the cross he’d painted on the front of his straw hat. Whether it was a symbol of his faith or a sign of protection he wore it well  -- especially with this T-shirt with the words, “French Riviera” splashed across his chest.

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People, Places & Things of Lake Chapala


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.

Cathedrals? Most are Churches

by Judy King 18. July 2010 13:47

catheral Capillas, Templos, Parroquias, Cathedrals—How do you know the difference?

It’s difficult sorting out all the different types of area churches, even here in Ajijic and Chapala. I’ve noticed that a lot of newcomers and even some folks who have lived here 30 years or more assume that because the Parish churches in Ajijic, Chapala and Jocotepec are grand and old, they must be cathedrals.

Here, in a nutshell are the definitions of the various types of churches in Mexico (and elsewhere):

Catedral Often foreigners refer to “the Cathedral in Chapala” or “the Cathedral in Ajijic” in an attempt to refer respectfully to the larger church in local communities. There is only one Cathedral in the Guadalajara archdiocese, and it is in downtown Guadalajara.

A cathedral is always the seat of the Bishop; in fact, the word comes from a Latin word meaning “the Bishop’s throne.” While the Archdiocese of Western Mexico has thousands of capillas, templos, sanctuaries and parroquias,and is governed by Cardinal Juan Sandaval Iñiguez and five obispos (bishops), there is only one Cathedral.

Basilica About equal in importance to the cathedral are the Basilicas – they’re not neighborhood churches, they are special churches directly under the domain of the Vatican. Where Cathedrals, Templos and Parroquias divide their collection between the home needs and the dioceses, Basilicas divide their income between their own needs and Rome. In architectural terms, basilica indicates a church of special beauty.

A basilica contains a miraculous image, often some advocacíon of the Virgin Mary to which pilgrimages are made. In the third century, Constantine sent his mother to the Holy Lands to supervise the building of the first basilica at the site of the nativity. Later he ordered the building of the basilica of St. Peter. Basilicas are administered by an Abbot or Abad, who is directly accountable to the Pope.

Here in Mexico, basilicas are defined by that miraculous image and as the destinations of peregrinos (pilgrims) who come to see it. The basilicas in this area include the home altars of the Virgin of Zapopan (the patron of the state of Jalisco) and the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos. When you visit Joco-churchPatzcuaro in the neighboring state of Michoacán, you’ll want to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Salud. My favorite Basilicas are the Oaxaca church ion which is housed Our Lady of Soledad (the Virgin Mary in her grief at the foot of the cross) and of course La Villa, the home of the image of Mary as she appeared in Mexico, The Virgin of Guadalupe.

Parroquia  – The large area of the diocese is divided into parroquias (Parishes). In order to become a parish an area much have a fixed boundary, a priest and in addition in Mexico, must schedule a fixed number of masses and mass attendees per week. An interesting example is the church in Lake Chapala’s San Antonio Tlayacapan. For many years, the San Antonio congregation was part of the parroquia of Ajijic. About three years ago, they reached the necessary requirements and became parroquia, with their own Sr. Cura (parish priest). To go back a bit more, the Ajijic congregation (along with San Antonio Tlayacapan) were under the umbrella of the Chapala parroquia, El Templo de San Francisco until the 1970s.

Templo Community church buildings are officially called Templos, even when the congregation has been elevated to the position of parroquia.  For example, in print, the main church in Ajijic is called El Templo de San Andrés.

cajajitlan-chapelSanctuario -- A Santuario begins as a hermitage or a chapel, but it contains a miraculous image, in Ajijic this is the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Capilla The very word chapel brings to mind a small space for worship. In the old days, and in the very large churches, chapels were built along the sides of the space for the congregation. Some of the chapels were dedicated to special saints, others were built over the the burial site of a local church dignitary or family. In old European churches, it was common for a chapel to be used just for baptisms was built a short distance from the church. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one example.

Some of Mexico’s capillas (chapels) were once attached to the hospitales built by the Franciscans as they moved through the area. Most of these capillas predate the templo built a short distance away (usually across the town’s plaza). These ancient hospitales included spaces for a number of activities – there were places for traveling monks to rest and be restores, school spaces, corral, barn and storage space, as well as places for the sick to be treated and the area residents to receive religious san-ceceliainstruction and to learn farming and artisan techniques. 

You can visit very typical capillas in Ajijic, and even older examples in the nearby villages of Cajititlan and Santa Cruz de las Flores. In San Juan Cosalá, and San Antonio Tlayacapan, only the steeples remain from the original capillas.

Hermitages – Once located in caves high on the mountains and inhabited by hermits who retreated from the community to dedicate their life to prayer and sacrifice, today there are hermitages – small gathering places for prayer in most Mexican communities. These can be as simple as an outdoor cross, or be a spot or tiny building dedicated to honoring a favorite saint or Virgin.

This little shrine at left is at the east end of the malecon in Chapala – near the Chapala fish restaurants. The large figure in the center is Santa Cecelia, the patron of the musicians. Other figures in the hermitage is St. Jude, the Virgin of Zapopan, the Virgin of Guadalupe and Chapala’s patron, San Francisco de Asis.

church-ajijic So what are the area churches called? 

Ajijic:

  • Templo de San Andrés—the parish church of Ajijic -- This is the main church of Ajijic, and where the local pastors are centered. From this church, named for St. Andrew, the entire network of local churches and services is governed and coordinated by the local team of priests.
  • Santuario de la Virgen de Guadalupe -- The Santuario in Ajijic is the more modern church on Ocampo, near Six Corners.
  •  Capilla de la Virgen del Rosario -- Most foreigners know this as the “old” church— Dedicated to Ajijic’s beloved image of Mary as the Virgin of the Rosary, this chapel is on the north side of the Ajijic plaza.

 

church-ajijic-chapelchapel-ajijic-interior

  • Capilla de San Jose de La Floresta -- When the farmland was sold to begin the neighborhood of La Floresta, the owner made a request, that land be reserved for a church. The chapel, started in the 1960s has recently been refurbished. It is dedicated to St. Joseph.
  • The Hermitage – The tiny “chapel” on the mountain above the village of Ajijic is dedicated to the Holy Cross. The hiking path that leads the way to the hermitage is lined with monuments marking the stations of the cross.

Chapala:

  • Templo de San Francisco de Asis -- the parish church of Chapala – this parish church is one of the few in this area which is not located next to the town plaza. Instead San Francisco occupies a place of honor near the town’s pier and malecon.
  • Capilla de la Virgen del Carmen – This beautiful little jewel is located in the north-central portion of Chapala.

church-san-francisco chapel-del-carmen

  • Capilla de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe – The least obvious of the Chapala Chapels is in the neighborhood by the same name.
  • Capilla de la Señora del Lordes – If you haven’t visited this tiny beauty, take time to see it…When you reach the Hotel Monte Carlo, turn and drive up the hill into the neighborhood settled 150 years ago by a large group of French expats.  You’ll notice that all of the streets are named for famous locations in France.
  • chruch-san-antonioThe Hermitages – There are several of the small hermitages in Chapala. They remember Santa Cecelia, the patron of musicians, The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, The Sacred Heart, and The small building on the Cerro de San Miguel high above the town.
  • Templo de Nuestra Senora de el Pilar – This small church along the highway in Riberas is the area’s newest Catholic house of worship – by about 50 years or more. It is part of the parish of Chapala.

San Antonio Tlayacapan:

  • Templo de San Antonio de Padua – this is the parish church of the village of San Antonio Tlayacapan located between Chapala and Ajijic.
  • The  Hermitages de Santa Cruz – The four crosses along San Antonio streets (San Jose, two on La Paz and Jesus Garcia are locations of observation in this village. Once all towns had boundary marking crosses.

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Mexican Churches, Saints & Virgins


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.

Party in a Box

by Judy King 15. July 2010 08:54

DCP_2300 There is a wonderfully strange party phenomenon here in Mexico. After experiencing it for several years, I have finally come up with a name for it. I call it "Party in a Box."

In advance of all sorts of occasions, nothing happens, nothing happens, nothing happens and then, whomp...a full-fledged, wonderful party materializes.

The first time I witnessed Mexican actually create a party was in my own garden, and I couldn't believe my eyes. About three weeks before the event, my Maria asked to use my garden for her child's fifth birthday party.

"Of course," I said, secretly flattered that the family wanted to have the party at my house. I asked Maria what I could do to help, with a machine gun rattle of questions:

  • Should I rent tables and chairs?
  • Do you need my gardener to move some of the garden furniture?
  • What are we going to serve? pinatas
  • Where should we put the rope and pulley for the piñatas?
  • How many people will there be? What time will the party begin?
  • Do we need to put up the white miniature lights?
  • Will my coolers be large enough for the drinks?"

I wondered why sweet, quiet Maria looked a little frightened; surely it wasn't my barrage of questions. Good heavens, if she didn't have all those details organized, I was glad I had brought them up so she could get the party planned. Maria ducked her head and quietly said, "Vamos a ver." (We'll see).

Two weeks before the party, I stopped in to see Maria to find out why she had not been in touch with party details. I asked most of the same questions plus, "What are you going to do for decorations? What size tables are you going to use? Do you have enough tablecloths? What is the theme?"

jello Maria looked worried and touched my cheek as though she was checking a child for a fever. She patted my hand and told me she would let me know what I should do. At least now she was concerned about all she still had to do before the party. As I closed the car door, I heard her say, "Vamos a ver."

A week before the party, we played out the same scene, but with some new questions. Now, though the conversations occurred every day – after all it was the last week. Meanwhile I became more and more worried about the outcome of this obviously unplanned party, Maria seemed more and more concerned as well. In those daily calls after I asked about the party, she asked how I was feeling. Then she quietly reassured me, "Vamos a ver."

On the day of the party, I was totally stressed out. I had a horrid headache, my feet hurt from walking to the door multiple times to see if anyone was coming to begin preparations. When I stopped in at Maria's house I saw no bags or bundles of party supplies. Maria  even turned down my offer of a ride into Guadalajara to find matching tablecloths, napkins, paper plates and cups, centerpieces, party hats and favors, saying, "Vamos a ver."

By noon, my pulse throbbed in my temples. I called her. "Maria," I spoke perhaps a bit loudly and sternly. "What about this party? Are you still going to have it today? Nothing is happening. When do you expect to get things going over here? Guests could arrive before you are ready. What time are the guests expected? What are you going to do to entertain all those kids?"

musical chairs

You know what Maria said? She said, "Don't worry, Señora Judy. The party isn't until three or four this afternoon. The guests won't come until then. Vamos a ver"

The birthday boy's older sisters arrived at 2:45. Each carried a small bag from the papeleria (stationery store). Two cousins followed them in the door carrying slightly larger bags. More girls showed up at the door and the next time I looked into the garden, they were working in pairs, blowing up multicolored balloons and tying them onto strings to make a canopy across the garden. Other girls strung lines of intricately cut tissue paper, papel picado between the rows of balloons.

 

pinata1 pinata2

The next time I answered the door, I found Maria with three of her sisters, each carrying a huge brown clay pot. One sister carried potato salad, another beans, and the third chile con carne. Maria struggled with a black garbage bag of tostados in one hand and a bag of white Styrofoam plates, stacks of plastic glasses and a quart bottle of hot sauce in the other. Mama, bringing up the rear, clutched bags filled with heads of lettuce, tomatoes, some onions and of all things, a tiny food processor. Mama set up shop in my kitchen, chopping and shredding condiments for the tostados.

By the time the sisters had organized my garden tables into serving areas, other women arrived with giant plastic bowls of jewel-toned gelatin, (Mexicans serve birthday cake and gelatin, probably a reflection on how few homes have freezers to keep ice cream cold until serving time). A teenaged boy carried in a 5-gallon water bottle filled with strawberry agua fresca and his little brothers brought an enormous package of napkins, a small stereo and cassette tapes.

The six piñatas were whisked into the front bedroom of the house, along with the bags of oranges, tangerines, balloons, candy and tiny toys to fill them. I didn't see all of the piñatas in my weakened state, but when I peeked in, the decorating girls were stuffing treats into a boat, Spiderman, a donkey, and a huge yellow Big Bird.

candle Mordita---Bite face

Two of the teenaged aunties set out adorable little paper bags onto a couple trays and filled them with popcorn and candies. These clown-decorated bags were the "bolas" or favors. Before they finished putting in the last lollipops, the men arrived with the biggest cooler I had ever seen. Its six-foot length amply held bags of ice for the children's agua fresca and still had space to cool several cases of beer for the adults.

While the men carried in stacks of folding chairs and tables, I glanced at my watch. It was just after four. I looked up in time to see Maria's husband struggling through the door with a giant decorated sheet cake and an even larger grin. I was starting to feel really good about the whole event we had planned here. I turned to Maria, "Do you think that will be enough beer? There are a lot of people here."

Maria just smiled and said "Vamos a ver."


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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