Dating Old Mexico Style – El Paseo

by Judy King 6. July 2010 20:34

plaza-papel The first dating experience for many Mexico teens is the paseo – that’s the traditional Sunday evening pastime  when young people stroll in concentric circles around the plaza.

Under the watchful eyes of extended family members, boys walk in one direction, and girls the other. When a young man sees a girl he likes, he drops away from his friends to walk with her (and often her gaggle of giggling girlfriends).

From Paseo to Golden Anniversary and more…

people-bench I met Guadalupe, a Mexican tour guide, 20 years ago on my first trip to Mexico. He explained to our group of tourists how he had met his wife in a 1937 paseo in his village. When he saw her walking with her sisters, he bought a flower. On the next round when he passed it to her, then his anxiety began.

Tradition at that time decreed that if she kept the flower, the next time they met he could switch directions and walk with her. If she returned the flower to him, he would be rejected in full view of most of his relatives and other residents of the village. With shaking knees and sweating hands he circled the plaza and was delighted to see her smile – a smile that he said still warmed his heart more than 50 years later.

Walking

I like knowing the origin of terms – in Spanish as well as English. I was puzzled when I heard folks using the verb andar (to walk) as we would say to date.

su-domingo plaza-snacks

Su Domingo

Domingo (Sunday) is the big day to be out, doing, walking, going to the movie, having a snack on the plaza after evening Mass, or just having fun. With Friday evening or Saturday pay days, Sunday is also a big shopping day – the day to buy the basic and staples for the week. There’s another interesting use of a Spanish word that accompanies these Sunday traditions. Su Domingo (literally your Sunday) translates to mean “your allowance.”

 plaza-sunsetDating customs

Fathers exercise far greater control over their families (especially daughters) than residents and visitors might guess from their first view of the young girls’ choice of outfits, jewelry, and makeup. Many girls are still not allowed to date until their 15th birthday and their quinceañera (coming out party).

Even then fathers want to meet and approve of young suitors and set strict curfews, even for daughters still living at home in their 20s. Girls are expected to see their novios (boyfriends) at home and to spend a great deal of their dating time in the family living room surrounded by aunts and uncles, siblings, grandparents, and a blaring TV set.

Eventually parents permit a little private time on the stoop – but with other family members just inside. We spot couples who have eased off the stoop and down the street a bit be shielded by a dark doorway or a drooping tree for a few caresses and kisses.

Mexico, the Land of Contrasts

In nearly every facet of life here in Mexico, there are contradictions to the typical traditions and contrasts in the way life works compared to the way folks want it to be. Teenagers are pretty much the same everywhere; girls here sneak out or slip off from the family just as they do up north, in direct opposition to the rules and desires of their parents.

And…the outcome can be just as disappointing and difficult – teen pregnancy. there seem to be just two solutions – a teenage marriage, or the family stepping up to support the girl and her child.


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.

Horse Puppies and Other Reasons to Love Lakeside

by Judy King 22. June 2010 09:21

camino-real It’s wonderful living in a rural environment  and at Lake Chapala, spring and early summer still means the arrival of baby animals.

I think that the profusion of animals with their wobbly new offspring was one of the endearing things that increased my intense feelings of “coming home” in the middle of Mexico – especially since home had once been small-town Iowa.

In that Iowa farmhouse, I stood washing dishes while watching the little calves with their mothers on the hill in the pasture across the gravel road.

The baby pigs lived with their moms in the farrowing house for a time, and then were turned out into a large lot with the clanging automatic feeders out beside the barn. (They were less endearing when they squeezed under the fence and rooted and snacked on the tender, sprouting plants in my vegetable garden.)

Even the mama quail got into the act, parading their family of little ones across the freshly plowed and planted garden and out toward the machine shed.

goats1 goats2

It was one of my own little offspring – about 40 years ago – who coined the phrase “horse puppies.” The origin is obvious – we thought the logic brilliant.

I suppose it is a lot easier for a toddler to call all of the baby animals “puppies” than to learn the whole range of correct baby animal names: calves, colts, piglets, kids, etc.  So while we didn’t encourage baby talk, we adopted cow puppies, horse puppies, pig puppies, and goat puppies.  The family adopted the phrase – one I still catch myself using out of habit, all these years later.

horse-bathThe Horse Puppies Made Me Do It…

So was it just the appeal of farm animals – horses, cattle, goats, pigs and chickens that attracted me to a new life at Lake Chapala?

Well, the animals, small corn fields and fruit trees were certainly was part of it – but I think that was only part of the whole that caused me to fall in love so completely, so thoroughly and deeply with life here.

Daily life here at Lakeside sparked a series of warm memories – the daily scenes here reminded me of how life was in rural American back in the early 1950s.

I think the combination of the simpler way of life, the connection of the extended family. the constant attraction and stream of entertainment in the town plaza all caused me to feel so strongly that I was  “coming home” in spite of the cobblestone streets, profusion of fiercely colored tropical flowers and surrounding ring of mountains.

The Way It Was

There were a multitude of experiences that played into that feeling and into those remembered images. Some have changed little in the 20 years I’ve been here. The Mexican families walking together to church or the plaza on warm evenings continue to remind me of being “uptown” on Saturday night back when Iowa farmers didn’t yet have electric service and needed to come to town on Saturday night to buy groceries, get haircuts, and “do their trading.”

baby-vertcal I grew up in a small town; on Saturdays we parked my grandparents’ car as near as possible to the intersection of Broadway and Main so my mother, grandmother and aunt could sit in the car and “watch the people go by.”

Where did the music originate? It was always there -- Sousa marches, happy late 40s big band, and polkas – there must have been a juke box outside somewhere  on the sidewalk.

Dad and grandpa leaned against the wall between Kelly’s Jewelry store and the barber shop and shoe shine place, or sat on the hood of the car, smoking and visiting with old school friends, customers, and business contacts.

Meanwhile my uncle sold popcorn from his sidewalk gas-powered cart and I ran and played in the courthouse lawn, browsed in the dime store, and poured over the enormous display of penny candy at the Candy Kitchen next to the Ritz Theater.

The Way It Is

Have you visited the plaza in your nearest Lakeside village on Sunday nights?  Sunday in Ajijic is the old Saturday in the Midwest. So much so that a child’s allowance here is called, in Spanish, su domingo (your Sunday).

Folks of all ages still stream to the plaza, all cleaned up and with hair slicked back. Children run and play among the walkways, pelting each other with cascarones (eggshells filled with confetti). The old folks sit on benches and visit with old friends, relatives and neighbors. The teens and young marrieds either walk in the paseo (strolling around the plaza – the boys in one direction and girls in the other) or dance to the band in the plaza kiosko (bandstand). 

The ambiance and intent of these experiences are nearly the same – yet the scenes unfolded 1800 miles and a lifetime apart – reminding many of the expats who venture into the real life of central Mexico of home, and of growing up 50 or 60 years ago.

Ahh…it’s good to have come home – especially when home means I can see a horse being bathed on a sidewalk in the middle of Ajijic while her horse puppy looks on and then go to the plaza on Sunday night, sit on a bench, listen to the music and watch the people go by. 


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.

Girls: They’re the Same Everywhere

by Judy King 9. June 2010 21:38

Scenes like the two photos that follow this paragraph are part of the reason I always carry my camera with me.

I caught these three little girls walking home from school. Evidently as they reached the plaza the story they were sharing became so tantalizing that they couldn't walk and talk. They stopped, the better to gather all the gripping details and I smiled to myself as I watched them, and their body language.

 
Here’s a bit of after-school drama in the plaza. Check out the position of the middle child’s feet!

All of us who were once little girls, or who have known or even raised little girls know the script of this conversation without ever hearing a word. I can tell by the way the girl on the right is gesturing with her right hand how tall he is, and by the way the center girl drags her toe on the plaza’s tiles before she entwines her ankles and how the taller girl on the left leans in to whisper a secret in the middle girl's ear that this is a story of great drama, importance and that it's all about him.

I take great pleasure in knowing that some things really don't ever change—especially not little girls and their conversations.

I hope these photos strike the same chord in you as they did in me and bring you a few moments of smiling memories of enticing conversations after school, too many years ago.


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.

Outdoor Living is Lake Chapala’s Finest Feature

by Judy King 24. March 2010 10:41

P6240573 I guess like folks anywhere, I occasionally start taking the beauty and comfort of living here for granted. Sometimes it just takes a little time with a newcomer or a visitor to remember how lucky we are to be able to have outdoor activities, all year around. .

When I watch the weather reports showing cars sliding over snow-covered roads in winter or folks sweltering in heat and humidity I’m reminded of how lucky we are to be here and I reclaim the joy of being outside – anytime I want.

Here at Lake Chapala we have the opportunity to enjoy so many activities outside—year round. I try to remember to take time each day for some quiet relaxation in my garden listening to the birds singing and checking on the progress of the plants, trees and flowers.

Take a look at some of the summer and winter outdoor activities we take for granted here in central Mexico.

  • Most fiestas, including birthday parties for the tiniest toddlers, are held outdoors in entertainment pavilions or gardens
  • My attorney’s office has an outside waiting room with a bubbling fountain and benches in a shady nook.
  • Liz mexican massageThe cocktail areas for relaxing and chatting before concerts at the Auditorium and during intermissions at the Lakeside Little Theater are outdoor. The theater has small chimineas (clay wood burning fireplaces) to create an illusion of warmth for the cooler nights; a jacket or shawl is usually enough to keep us comfortable under the stars.
  • One of the village homes I lived in had no glass in the windows that faced the courtyard. The overhang protected us from rain and we just didn't use those rooms on the coldest days.
  • Most Lakeside restaurants have outdoor seating, or areas that are under a roof but have no side walls. Dining under the sprawling rubber tree at La Nueva Posada, in the colorful gardens at Pedro's, the upper story palapa at #4 or the semi-open areas at Ajijic Tango, or the lakefront patio of La Tasca, or the intimate, center of town space at The Secret Garden  make lunch or dinner out a very special event.
  • Lectures, groups, activities, and events are held year round on the shady patio or under the roof of the kiosk at the Lake Chapala Society.
  • Wedding receptions and huge parties take place in outdoor pavilions like Ajijic's La Pista or La Huerta and Chapala’s Mama Chuy’s where breezes blow year round through shady areas.
  • Concerts are often produced outside, in town plazas, in the front atriums of local churches and in the charro rings.
  • Golfers. tennis players, and volley ball teams are on the courses and courts every day, year round. One avid golfer tells me that there are an average of five days a year when there is enough daytime rain to keep him away from his tee time.
  • Auto repair and body work is done almost always outside, as are upholstery and woodworking.
  • Every Monday in Chapala, every Tuesday in San Antonio and San Juan Cosalá, every Wednesday in Ajijic and every Thursday in Jocotepec the tianguis (open air markets) are held in the appointed village streets.
  • Older members of local families do a great deal of their socializing, even in the evenings, on the sidewalk in front of their homes. Insects are not even a reason to keep us inside.
  • The breezes are usually balmy during 11 months of our Lakeside year and then the streets come alive with street corner or wandering vendors selling tamales, steamed guasanas (green garbanzos), boiled or toasted peanuts, hot dogs, ice cream, tacos and other goodies. People here still take time to stroll, and to do some of their shopping and errands in the evenings.

Mexico Insights Outdoor Living Tips --

DSC00224With all of these activities and events, compounded by the time you’ll spend on your one terrace or patio, we spend much of our life in Mexico outside. With pleasant temperatures and sunny skies most days, foreigners may not remember that at this altitude and longitude, the sun has a great deal more power and we need to wear sunglasses and frequently apply sunscreen to protect our eyes and skin from UV damage and sunburn.

When selecting a house to rent or buy, look for a home with a covered, south-facing terrace. Your furniture will be protected from the heavy summer nighttime rains, you’ll avoid the strong, hot sun’s rays in the hottest spring months, and have the benefit of the low, southern sun in the winter. 

What about you? What do you enjoy most about outdoor living at Lake Chapala? What are you looking forward to doing here? What tips to you have about outdoor living for those exploring life here? Just click on comments below and leave us a message.


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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