Aging with Dignity and Joy

by Judy King 28. August 2010 10:32

clip_image003 As I travel through Lakeside's villages and towns, I continually notice the elderly residents involved in daily life. In Mexico the aged family members don't ordinarily leave their families to live in special homes for the elderly. Those who eventually need assistance in their daily routine find that help right at home, within the extended family.

(At Right:) An elderly San Juan Cosalá resident watches the movements of the caged canary in a carnival game of chance.

The lifestyles of the local elderly extend far beyond knitting, watching TV and games of gin. Great-grandfathers hold small pudgy hands as they walk with tiny tots to the corner and back. Grandmothers rock little ones and help with kitchen chores, while grandfathers weave new seats on chairs and light cooking fires.

When it comes to village social life, everyone participates—from the newest babes to oldsters nearing the century mark. I was amazed when I first watched the participants in a religious procession. I enjoyed the Indian dancers and bands, but I was simply amazed to see the vast number of old folks walking the two or three mile course, some with canes, others leaning on the arms of teenage grandchildren.

edtior-donamaria(At Left:) You’ll meet Dona Maria and several of her Nestipac neighbors in Phyllis Rauch’s Soul of Mexico article in the September 2010 issue of Living at Lake Chapala. Photo by Phyllis Rauch

When I described the scene to friends, we improvised the conversations we imagined would have taken place should one's elders back home have suggested participating in a similar event.

"Now Mother, you know there will be a huge crowd, and it will be hot and dusty. We'll just take the car and park at one of the intersections so you can see it all go by. Won't that be nice?"

"Dance? You want to dance in a procession? Dad, I have so much to do today I won't even have time to fix your lunch. And you want to dance? On the cobblestones? You'll break a hip."

"I really think it would be best if you just stayed at the home in the afternoons. If you insist on walking downtown every afternoon, we may have to look into that elderly daycare service.”



(Above:) It’s not unusual to see people of “the third age” as it is so wonderfully called in Mexico, walking, dancing, playing music in local processions. At right above is Dona Reina, another of Phyllis Rauch’s  Nestipac neighbors from the upcoming Soul of Mexico article)

Since that first procession, I've spotted many of Lakeside's seasoned citizens not just attending, but actively participating in the celebrations, processions, and daily village events. Here’s a look at our Mexican neighbors in their golden years.

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(Left) A tiny older woman sits in the waning afternoon sun near her altar to the Virgin of Guadalupe. (Right) Mama Chuy, the matriarch of an Ajijic family marches home with enough flowers to decorate all of the family graves for Day of the Dead.

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(Left) A group of gentlemen gather every afternoon on their favorite plaza bench in the center of town. (Right) Nearby, their female counterparts exchange bits of daily news as they rest in the plaza sunshine.

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(Left) A grandmother joins friends to watch a San Juan Cosalá procession featuring elderly dancers. (Right) A local couple waits in the churchyard for the arrival of the bride, their great-niece.

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(Left) Proudly 87 years old, a woman unpacks the goods she will sell during an outdoor market. (Right) The peanut seller and his wife, the cascarones (confetti filled egg shells)seller, take a break in the plaza.

Looking around, it's pretty obvious that the elderly in Mexico are cherished, revered and considered a viable part of the community. Precious few need the services of a home for the elderly, they are still an active and vital part of their extended family unit.

This attitude toward the elders is just another of the reasons we so value spending our retirement years here, where young people are taught the value of their elders and we, too, are treated with increasing respect and can learn from and share in the respectful attitudes and benefits.

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, 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.

MMMMM…El Sabor de Ancient Mexico

by Judy King 22. August 2010 13:20

Many of the favorite foods and sabores (flavors) traditional in Mexican cuisine (and equally familiar in north of the border cooking) originated right here -- in this part of the new world.

The list of foods the Aztecs were enjoying long before the arrival of the Europeans reads like the contents of avocadomost US And American kitchens – especially in those who have come to love some of Mexico’s favorite vegetables.

Early reports written by the Spanish explorers describe markets full of avocados, beans, chocolate, corn, chile, jicama (crunchy, sweet, root vegetable), nopales (prickly pear cactus) pineapple, papaya, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, vanilla, and more – much more.

You’ve heard that the diet of the original residents of the Americas was based on the famed three sisters – beans, corn, and squash, with a generous seasoning of chile. Together, they created a nearly perfect nutritionally-balanced diet.

Aguacate – the Spanish name for avocados (like these on the tree in my garden) – is an Arabic word. Like many other things which originated in Mexico, the name bestowed by the Spanish reflect the history of the time. King Fernando and Queen Isabella sent their explorers out to find new riches to replenish the country’s coffers after the 700-year occupation by the Moors. 

mexican-market2  (Left:) Those are the jicamas – there in this market shot between the watermelons and the mangos, apples and (undyed) oranges.

Still other wonderful foods vital to the colonial Mexican cuisine came with the Spanish explorers, invaders and the missionary monks who taught the indigenous mestizos to plant orchards of bananas, mangos, apples and citrus fruits and to raise chickens, cattle, pigs, goats and other livestock to balance the turkey and fish available in the new world.

In the new Mexican Kitchen column, Executive Chef Lorraine Russo of La Nueva Posada joins me to share with you some easy to like, and easy to make dishes using many of Mexico’s indigenous foods as we celebrate Mexico’s 200th birthday.

Lorraine recently stumbled upon a recipe for a super simple five-ingredient salad that makes the most of the flavors of Lake Chapala and features a variation of a theme highlighting the colors of the Mexican flag.

Admittedly avocado is a paler shade of green and papaya is a little two orangey to be called red, but nothing could be more simple (or more beautiful) than the combination of the rich, delicious and nutritious avocados, cubes of the giant Mexican papaya with jicama (Mexico’s indigenous sweet and crunchy white root vegetable). All it takes to finish it off is a drizzle of raspberry vinaigrette and a little extra crunch from toasted nuts.

papayaMMMMM, now this is a great combination – a couple of tastes of this salad and you’ll be shouting “Viva Mexico” on the September 15-16 Independence Day celebration with a perfect Mexican accent.


  • 1  medium papaya, peeled and diced
  • 1  medium avocado, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 cup jicama, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat raspberry vinaigrette

Toss the ingredients together just before serving.

Lorraine says she’s thinking it would be just right to sprinkle a small handful of the locally grown (and inexpensive) red raspberries onto each serving – in September or October – just as soon as they come back into season and are plentiful again.

NOTE:  This article is designed to give you this great salad recipe and to tease you into reading the full-length article with recipes which will appear in the September 2010 issue of Living at Lake Chapala which celebrates Mexico Bicentennial Anniversary of the call for Independence from Spain on September 15, 1810.

Then, Part Two of this story – along with a whole army of delicious recipes using Mexico’s very traditional and indigenous ingredients will appear in Living at Lake Chapala’s November 2010 issue celebrating the Centennial Anniversary of Mexico’s Revolution which began on November 21, 1910.  You’ll want to share in the kitchen fun during both months.

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, 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.

Villages, Subdivisions, Developments, Towns

by Judy King 19. August 2010 09:20

Last month I heard from a subscriber who is still living North of the Border. She is avidly checking listings for rentals and homes for sale on real estate websites and getting more and more confused.

chapala 05 048"Help!" she pleaded, "I haven't been there yet, and I just can't visualize where anything is in relationship to anything else. Where are the towns of Riberas, San Antonio Tlayacapan, Villa Nova and Vista Allegre? How far apart are they?"

I wrote right back to her to explain that here on the North Shore of Lake Chapala there are two “county-seat” towns and eight villages which lay like a string of beads along the water's edge. Some of the other names she lists are fraccionamientos. (county authorized subdivisions) and which are neighborhoods or condo associations.

(ABOVE:) Chapala and Jocotepec are the north shore’s Municipios (County Seat Towns). In each of these towns you’ll find a building for the “county” offices. The famed old Nido Hotel in Chapala has been converted to the office building.

From the east end of the lake to the western end, the North shore villages are fairly evenly spaced – between two to about five miles apart.

  • Mezcala
  • San Juan Tecomatlán
  • San Nicolás de Ibarra
  • Santa Cruz de la Soledad
  • Chapala
  • San Antonio Tlayacapan
  • Ajijic
  • San Juan Cosalá
  • El Chante
  • Jocotepec

The several categories of settlements here at Lake Chapala include (in order of importance):

Municipios--(county seats) The towns of Chapala and Jocotepec are both the seats of government for their respective municipios, (counties).

DSC00357Pueblos (villages)—these are the other small towns from the bulleted list. Each has a plaza and church. Only the municipios and pueblos have regular, free garbage pickup and access to sewage treatment plants. Homes in all other areas have septic systems.

These villages are represented in “county government” by a locally elected representative called a Delagado from a Delagacion building.

(Left:) The Ajijic seat of local government has been decorated with murals by local artists.

Fraccionamientos (subdivisions) are neighborhoods with homes built over a longer period of time and by a variety of builders. Some have a gate with a guard, and most now have a homeowners' association with rules and regulations, with a board of directors governing the subdivision. Some have their own water system, and garbage pickup, which, along with street maintenance, is covered by the fraccionamiento fees.

Some of the area's fraccionamientos are Chapala Haciendas, Las Brisas de Chapala, Vista del Lago, Riberas del Pilar, Mirasol, Chula Vista, La Floresta, Villa Nova, Rancho del Oro, and the Raquet Club.

There are other, smaller neighborhoods that are too small to be organized. A few of these smaller clusters of individual homes are the places called Las Salvias, Los Charales, La Canacinta, El Limón, Jaltepec, and La Cristina.

Note: Fraccionamientos that do not collect fees also don’t provide services, nor do these other small un-organized neighborhoods. You’ll want to check to know how the streets are maintained, if there is street lighting, and how neighbors handle garbage pickup.


 Condominium Associations—most area condo associations are developments where the homes were built in the same or similar style by one builder – all at about the same time. The homeowners share ownership and responsibility of the common areas, some of which can include a swimming pool and club house.

Some associations are small, with just a handful of homes – including Las Palmas, Villas San Jose, Villas Canacinta, and the 16-unit El Palmar Courtyard (shown at left). Others, like Riviera Alta, Villa del Sol, Birds of Paradise, Los Arroyos and El Parque have up to 100 or more houses. Many of the condo associations have a guard at the gate and some share gardeners for all of the homes. A few even pay for the exterior maintenance of the buildings.

As you might guess, the monthly fees in these developments are much higher than in the fraccionamientos where fewer services are paid communally. Among the many other area developments or condo associations include Vista Allegre, Los Terraces, Lomas del Lago, Lomas de Tepalo, Lomas de Ajijic, Los Olivos, Mission del Lago, and the 30-some new developments between Ajijic and Jocotepec.

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, 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.

Hot Utility Tips for Home Buyers

by Judy King 10. August 2010 21:14

It may seem at first glance that everything at Lake Chapala is just like back home  – after all we tout our groups and events that meet each month in English, the high speed internet, satellite service and grocery store filled to the rafters with imported items and a new mall with movie theater, Walmart and Domino’s Pizza are lined along the highway at the edge of town.

Don’t let your eyes fool you. Lakeside is a series of small Mexican villages – occupied mostly by…Mexicans. Expats are still less than 10% of the local population – yes, even in Ajijic! And our world revolves on a Mexican clock which functions thanks to a Mexican power company. We cook on gas stoves supplied by local delivery trucks and we answer phones with lines installed and maintained by the world’s richest man – Carlos Slim.

You’ll find that the common daily operating systems of all of these common utilities (along with the water, cable/satellite and cell phone service) have surprises for all newcomers.

Here’s a list of tips to give you a head’s up on some of the twists and turns that await those who live here.

  • When a buyer purchases a home or a renter moves from one house to another, the utilities are not turned off. Instead, the utilities (and taxes) are prorated fairly according to the amount of time each party is in the house.
  • Before making an offer on a home or signing a lease to rent a house, be sure to check the written inventory of goods that will remain in the house. Be absolutely certain that the stationary gas tank, the telephone line with number xxx-xxxx and the satellite system's dish, descrambler or tuner box(es), motor and other necessary equipment are specifically listed. It’s not good enough to say telephone and/or satellite dish.
  • At closing, the buyer receives copies of the current paid electric and telephone bills, letters to the electric and telephone companies transferring the accounts to the buyer and copies of the seller's identification papers so that the utilities can be put in the buyer’s name.
  • The buyer's broker withholds a small amount of money from the seller's final money until all of the outstanding utility bills have been received and prorated.


  • The buyer must contract for their own new cable or satellite TV programming service.
  • The electric and phone bills must be paid on time, even if you don't receive them.
  • Because all homes use propane gas for cooking, clothes drying and most for water heating (a few have solar heaters) there is no regular bill. You must be home when the gas is delivered and you must pay for the gas in cash.
  • Even if your neighborhood or your house does not receive water, cable, electricity or telephone service for several days or weeks, you will not be eligible for a proportionate refund or credit on the bill.
  • Many newer homes have installed water pressure systems to move water through the house. When there's no electricity to power the pump, there is no water. Don't remove the tinaco (rooftop tank). Instead pipe the water through it with your pressure system, and have a valve so you could switch to gravity flow if necessary.
  • Because the electric company charges more per kilowatt hour as your usage climbs, you might be able to lower you bill by installing a second meter. Dividing the kilowatt hours just might do the trick.


Mexican utility companies

Learning to maneuver through the maze of gas delivery, Telmex red tape and delays, CFE's complicated billing practices and paying your water bill annually takes some time, some Spanish and some patience.

These utility challenges is just one of the reasons we suggest that new residents at Lake Chapala rent first—the rental manager will pay your bills from a management account you set up in their office, along with your first and last rent and security deposit. With someone else paying your bills, you'll just need to remember to visit the office once a month to replenish the management account and pay the rent.

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, 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.

Living at Lake Chapala’s August Issue

by Judy King 1. August 2010 15:14

Wow, it’s the First Day of this year’s EIGHTH month! 
I can barely believe that this month marks the three-quarters mark of 2010. We are having another great year here at Living at Lake Chapala. In fact, nine members of our writing team has been out gathering information for our all new August issue. We've prepared a little bit of everything this month — take a look at this summary of our new articles.

image A Sailor Run Aground

Jim Tipton is introducing you to one of his very good friends in this month's Community Article. If you've not yet met Ken and Lise Clarke, you'll want to after you read about how this Lakeside couple met aboard ship and fell instantly head over heels in love. This is a love story with lasting power — when they reached dry land, they raised a family and then moved to Lakeside for retirement — and so Ken could write his story of the years at sea.

Mexico's Traditional Music

Mexico is a land of eternal music — it's part of the lifestyle — it's part of life. What's Mexico's most popular music? That, like most things in this land of contrasts, depends. There are those who would vote for orchestras playing classical music, or for classic rock and roll. More traditionally, you'd have a giant pile of votes for mariachi — that smooth blend of violins, guitars and trumpets. Earning just as much (or more) devotion from residents in central and northern Mexico would be the bandas — the groups of trumpets, trombones, clarinets, and percussion that play a type of music that sounds a little like a sharply uniformed military brass marching band colliding with The Six Fat Dutchmen Polka Band.

(Left:) A youthful group of musicians — a banda plays traditional music on the Ajijic plaza. (Right:) Bandas of all levels of fame and popularity perform in Lakeside's villages. This group came from a nearby town to play in an Ajijic club on July 17. The big name groups come to town for the annual fiesta and during mardi gras.

As Micki Wendt explains in this month's Out and About column, this isn't all about John Phillip Sousa, and it's not about Lawrence (a-one and a-two) Welk (but it helps if you were in your high school marching band and lived in the upper Midwest near a German or Polish population.) Banda music is a Mexican hybrid, and it's the love of the nation.

You may not think you know banda, but you've heard it — the bad, the ok, the good, and the really good. You're apt to hear it every time you pass a construction site or wait at a stop light behind a car with a throbbing stereo, or hear the marching band marching around town at 7 a.m. during fiesta. So far you've probably been more annoyed than in love, but give this article and the links to some professional videos a chance…you may be surprised!

Mexican banda members are snappy dressers. (Left:) This Chapala group was performing right outside the municipal building one evening — all in white and that shade of hot pink that here is called Rosa Mexicana. (Right:) Ajijic's Banda Incomparable was sporting new suits at last year's fiesta — their logo is embroidered on the back of the jackets.

Really Great Karma and  A Cookbook for a Cause

We're fixated this month on great food prepared by sets of Mexican sisters with great ideas and big hearts. First in the Mexican Kitchen, Harriet Hart is visiting a new restaurant on Calle Hidalgo in Ajijc which is owned and operated by Margarita and Rocio del Castillo. These vegetarian sisters recently moved from their home town — Guadalajara — and opened one of the cutest lunch spots in town — Buen Karma.

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Then former mental health professional Carol Bowman interviewed a trio of Guadalajara women — the Levy sisters — who have turned their skills in the kitchen into a cookbook (written in Spanish) and then turned the cookbook into a fundraising tool with proceeds going toward their pet project — a mental health center in Jalisco's capital city. You'll enjoy meeting the Levy sisters and learning about their favorite non-profit in this month's Health and Safety column.

The New Expat Radio Station for English Speakers

Then Judy is bringing you something very new — online radio for expats! Yep, Amigo Rodrigo is spinning American music on a 24-hour-a-day radio station — along with Mexican news and weather in English, Spanish vocabulary words and other specialty bits of information — and you can listen to it all on your computer. It couldn't be easier. Catch up with all of this in the Feature Article.

Back to School (Times Two) and Attending the Ballet 
What fun, we've devoted two slots this month to how foreigners at Lakeside get involved in the community, and take on some or all of the school expenses for slightly overwhelmed local families. While there are a dozen or more groups and organizations who are creating scholarships to pay the expenses so local kids can continue to attend classes — from Kinder through Grad School — our Cost of Living and Soul of Mexico columns tell how individuals are making a difference here at Lake Chapala.

First up Georgina Russell is back, this time in our Cost of Living slot explaining how she administers a fund for area kids. Who started this fund and this program? A trio of New York kids who were visiting their relatives at Lakeside! Now the US kids come back every year to see how the money they've raised in their home town and New York schools is being put to use here.

(Left:) One of the special joys of being a sponsor to a Lakeside student is being included in graduations, programs and special school events. (Right:) The ballet at Lake Chapala? You bet. And Scott Richards enjoyed it all – see his report in this month’s People, Places and Things.

Then long-time Lakeside resident, Phyllis Rauch explains how she and her late husband became involved in helping to educate the members of a family in their village of Nestipac. While Phyllis dreamed at first of "their kids" becoming doctors, lawyers and engineers, she reflects on how it's all worked out in real life and beautifully illustrates the Soul of Mexico piece with photos of her current (and we suspect her favorite) student Daniela.

Saving the Wild Orchids

Artist Janice Kimball delves into the world of Mexican wild orchids this month in our Homes and Lodging column. You'll enjoy her story of how she came to fall in love with these tender exotic beauties — years ago in the middle of an all-too-long Detroit winter. Now she's on a soapbox, helping us learn to protect the wild orchids from area mountains — and best of all she tells us where to find lovely, not-endangered, plants in local nurseries.

(Left:) These lavender beauties were once wild orchids in the Jalisco mountains above Lake Chapala. They've been blooming on a tree in Ajijic now for nearly 15 years. (Right:) Leave the wild orchids to bloom for another year in the mountains. Local nurseries have a lovely selection of hybrid orchids at very reasonable prices.

Planning for Singles

And to wrap up the issue, Judy is exploring some tips for singles living at Lakeside. It's just so important to form a support group and then finalize some of the necessary plans so that your friends will easily be able to help your children should you be recovering from illness or surgery and when you die. Look for this so very important information in the Getting Here space.

Are you a Living at Lake Chapala Subscriber?

That’s our rundown this month – and now, while you read these pieces we are already working on our Big Blowout Bicentennial Celebration for the September issue of Living at Lake Chapala. We’d love to have you become one of our family of subscribers and we’re betting you’ll love reading the very best online magazine about life in Mexico. Did we mention that subscribers have access to on-line support – we’re always here to answer your email questions! What a deal that is!

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, 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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