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.

OK, So Maybe I Can Love THIS Car…

by Judy King 14. July 2010 15:58

Finally!  After four months of searching, I’ve found a new car – well new to me that is…but…while I don’t usually name inanimate objects, she is crying out for the perfect name to reflect her beauty and utility!

car You read about how I hate cars in my April 25 post , “The Great Car Dilmena.” It was written about a month after my 14-year-old Windstar let me down and died – temporarily dead – in the middle of a Jocotepec street.

If you missed that post, click on the title to read it now…

For all of these weeks, I’ve been deep in the throes of searching for a used car. A friend of a friend has been combing the lots in Guadalajara while I’ve poured over online listings of available “Semi-nuevos” as used cars are called here. I’ve learned more than I wanted to know about the Ford Escape, CR-V, EcoSport, PT Cruiser, and similar practical and economical vehicles.

I didn’t want much…just not beige

My requirements were fairly simple. I need room for myself and the passengers who go with me on the driving overviews I use to acquaint newcomers with the neighborhoods, villages, highways and byways of Lake Chapala.

The narrow streets and high curbs (and the topes – speed bumps) here make a vehicle that is high off the ground a huge plus. I wanted something comfortable and easy to get into and out of – both for now, and for the future – I plan to keep this car 8-10-12 years or more and none of us is getting much younger and more flexible.

Trying to be practical and business-like, I told myself that the outside color doesn’t affect the quality of the vehicle and that price and condition are the important criteria. Meanwhile, my heart was chanting and begging, “PLEASE, not gray or beige.”

doorsFour Months – No Cars

Into the fourth month of searching, I was beginning to give up hopes of ever finding a car in my price range that hadn’t been wrecked, mistreated, or been hauling a passel of kids -- Until I  stopped into Farmacia Jessica to visit with my primary physician, friend and Godfather, Dr. Leopoldo Ibarra. 

“What kind of car do you want?” he asked. “What about another minivan?”

Polo explained that his wife wanted a smaller car for all the driving she does in Guadalajara. Hilda lives there during the week and operates their Guadalajara clinic and pharmacy. While she didn’t want to sell her Chrysler Town and Country LTD,  he thought the promise of a smaller car and selling the van to a friend might tempt her to sell her the car she’s been pampering. Over the next few days we made a deal – I didn’t see the car or know about all the plusses it has until the day I drove her home.

I could name her Mentholatum

I’ve never named a car before, but this  sweetheart is so glossy and red (think candy apple with a shimmer of gold/metallic) she’s begging for an appropriate name.

My first idea came from a favorite story of a Mexican woman near the border who called her handyman, Mentholatum,  because he fixed everything.  This car is loaded, but then it doesn’t take much to impress me.; I’ve been driving without a radio since the antenna disappeared three years ago and with the cold air from the AC coming out of the defroster vents. 

dash This car seems a little like Mentholatum – it does everything. There’s no owner’s manual so I’m learning by trial and error. Among all the bells and whistles, I discovered a 4-CD player with an extra set of controls on the steering wheel, and the other day I found a button that shows my gas mileage, how many liters of gas are left in the tank, and how many more kilometers I can drive until I run out of gas.

The message screen told me that it’d been 7200 kms since the last oil change – supposed to be just 5,000. When I checked the invoices saved by the good doctor’s wife, I saw that the last oil change was in April, exactly 7200 kms ago. So I took it into Beto at Hernandez in San Antonio for service. For fun, I had him check the tires – the message told me all were low – I thought they looked fine. Beto looked at the tires and didn’t think they were low either, until he put the gauge to the stem – and added air to all four, not much, but still…how does it know this stuff?

Help Me Name the Baby

So now that you know a bit about her, I’m waiting for your name suggestions – my favorite names seem to revolve around her color – I’ve thought Poppy, Valentina, Scarlet, Sandia (watermelon), and Cinnamon (as in red hots or Fire Stix) and Ruby. I also considered the names of Big, beautiful, courageous women who had voices to match to celebrate all the music in the car. There’s Kate Smith, Mama Cass, Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, Eleanor Roosevelt – okay, she wasn’t a singer, but she sure had found her voice – and used it.

I considered a religious bent – maybe I could name her for St. Clare, the patron saint of visions and especially of television – she would fit right in with the message board and the TV and 3-disc DVD player. in the back of the car.  

Email me your name ideas 

Send in those cards and letters with ideas for naming my new “baby” to 

I’ll even sweeten the pot…If I select your entry, I’ll give you a free annual subscription to Living at Lake Chapala – with the archived issues – That’s a $64.90 US value – just for the perfect name!

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People, Places & Things of Lake Chapala | Getting Here, Moving and Driving

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.

The July Edition of Living at Lake Chapala

by Judy King 5. July 2010 19:58

July’s early patriotic holidays honoring Canada (July 1) and the United States (July 4) and the associated long holiday weekend are drawing to a close.

imageNow perhaps you’ll have time to read the new July issue of Mexico Insights Living at Lake Chapala, our online magazine.

Each month our team of local residents and experts produce a full line up of 11 articles for our Living at Lake Chapala subscribers. We’re always proud of the work our writers do, take a look at what they’ve found to share with you in this month’s issue.

(Photo at Right:) When Micki Wendt made her first trip to Lakeside, she saw the area with fresh eyes — and loved a good deal of what she saw, including this Ajijic mural.

It's Summertime — Let's Hit the Road
Summertime is all about going on a great adventure — right? This issue we have four great adventures for you.

In the new July Feature Article, Herbert Piekow and his friend and photographer Victor, are sharing with us their recent trip to the Guadalajara zoo. There, through their eyes we're sure to see lions, and tigers and bears…oh my! And that's not all — there are the buffalos, llamas, flamingos, and all the fish in the aquarium.  

imageHerbert has done a great job of taking us along with him to see all the animals in the zoo — and then a whole lot more.

(Photo at Left:) Guadalajara’s famous sculptor and artist Sergio Bustamonte created this bunch of playful monkeys to line the stairway fountain and cascades near the zoo’s entrance. (Photo by Victor Morando)

Then in our Out and about Column, Jim Cook heads off searching for the Treasure of the Sierra Puebla and a wonderful Flower Festival in a very special Mexican town. He and Christopher English found a great deal more than flowers on this expedition into the mountains of Mexico.

Michael McLaughlin and his wife and photographer Anita Lee took six months last year to really get to know Mexico by spending a month in each of six locations. This month they share with us their experiences living and exploring Mexico's capitol — Mexico City. Did they find the horribly polluted, crime-ridden, gridlocked city we've all heard about? Hardly…read their story in this month's People, Places and Things.

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(Above photos:) When Michael McLaughlin and Anita Lee planned their month in Mexico City, they thought they'd have plenty of time to see all of the city's fabulous sights. As it turned out, there were far more sights than month…sounds like they'll have to go back for more. (Photos by Anita Lee)

Our fourth article describing a great travel adventure is by one of the long-time subscribers and readers of Living at Lake Chapala, Micki Wendt. This month's Getting Here article is her first piece for our pages — but she'll be back in August with another story.

When she came across her journal of her very first trip to Lakeside back in 2006, she realized that other readers would like seeing our area through her eyes. It seems strange to read her comments about making a decision about retirement here — we know she's been here now for a good long while.

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(Above Photos:) Micki tells us that color is the name of the game at Lake Chapala. She was smitten with the bursts of wonderful lush color everywhere she looked. (Left:) The vines only accent the color combination on this house. (Right:) Even village shops are filled with vivid color and friendly faces.

A Pillow of Diamonds, Resting Places of the Soul and Finding a Dentist
What a wonderful area Lake Chapala is and what a wonderful community we've chosen to call home. We've said it imagebefore, the most interesting people seem to find their way here. Jim Tipton is back in this issue, visiting with Margaret Van Every and her husband Bob in the new Community article. They are relatively new residents of Lakeside, but already Margaret has written and published a book of tanka poems, A Pillow Stuffed With Diamonds.

We're exploring the tradition of descansos (resting places for the souls) in this month's Soul of Mexico story. You've seen the crosses and mounds of flowers along the highways and byways of Mexico — each cross marks the spot on which a death occurred. Some believe that when death comes suddenly and violently, the soul may be confused, and instead of leaving this world, it lingers at the spot where it left the body. In recent years this tradition has become more and more popular outside of Mexico, too.

Next we've gathered some tips and ideas to help newcomers select a new Lakeside dentist. As a matter of fact, most of the information we've compiled for the Health and Safety column could also help you find the doctor and vet that best matches your needs and personality, too.

Buying Small Appliances, Locating the Fault Lines and Cooking with Salsa
We hear so often from folks asking us what they should move and what should they leave behind. This month we're trying to provide some of the information they may need to decide if they'll bring their kitchen appliances or replace them here. We've just looked locally at basic kitchen equipment, but we think you'll find the availability and pricing interesting. Check it out in our Cost of Living column.

Next, in our Homes and Lodging category, we're exploring a very important topic.Because Mexico doesn't require disclosure from either sellers or realtors, it's vital that those relocating to Lake Chapala learn as much as they can about local houses, neighborhoods and conditions. Area fault lines only affect the homes located directly on the fault — and that's a narrow band — but you don't want your home to be…the one.

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Above photos: Here is a good example of the need for folks at Lakeside to remember, "buyer beware." This lower Chula Vista house straddles one of the area’s  fault lines. Notice how the cracks extend from the house, through the planter, across the sidewalk and into the street. The blue house at the right is the same property but with the cracks all plastered over, the outer wall enlarged and painted up to go back on the market. The house sold a while back. The new owners have filled in those spaces in the wall. When we drove by this week we noticed that the new wall is already showing  tell-tale vertical cracks, in the very same places, again.

Not only have we described for you the type of problems in the area, and the locations of those problem areas, we're also sharing with you a way to get the only known map of the fault lines. Don't miss this piece.


Judy King and Chef Lorraine are in the Mexican Kitchen answering a reader's question. It was our Web Genius David McLaughlin who was seeking our aid and assistance. With a refrigerator full of bottles and cans of commercially produced salsas, David wants ideas of how to use up the leftovers. We've come up with a whole range of tasty dishes — for breakfast, lunch and dinner and had a good time fixing a few of the easy options for the article's pictures.

(Left:) Now this seems like an easy question…which salsa will you buy? There's good Mexican brands for $12 to $15 pesos, or the familiar US brand, Pace's, at $49 pesos. Do you suppose it is really four times as good?

Whew, isn't that a great line up of articles? Our writers just keep outdoing even their own previous best efforts.

If you are a subscriber, you can read all of this month’s articles just by going to the Mexico Insists website and then logging in with the user name and password you registered when you subscribed.

If you haven’t yet subscribed, but would like to read a sample of our work, email Editor Judy King: and I’ll send you the log in codes so you can read the May and June issues – from cover to cover – FREE of cost of obligation. Take a look at what you are missing!

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.

A Visitor’s View of Lake Chapala

by Judy King 28. May 2010 08:49

rosario 2004 009 A while back we received a letter from one of our Living at Lake Chapala subscribers with a list of the things he experienced and thoroughly enjoyed during his trip to Lake Chapala.

Here are the things Californian Charles Patton liked best on his first visit to our area.

"The Lakeside environment was enjoyable as a result of:

  • Strangers who were willing to engage me in pleasant conversation
  • Shopkeepers, bank tellers, taxi drivers, B&B personnel, and others who were actually considerate, generous, and polite
  • A noticeable absence of "mania" in the behavior of the general populous
  • Engaging a Mexican in conversation and sensing that the person was willing, and interested in communicating even though they may not have good command of the English language and in spite of the fact that I do not have good command of the Spanish language
  • Going out for a meal and lingering without feeling as if the operators of the restaurant wanted me to leave as quickly as possible so that they could seat another customer compounded by the enjoyment of good food at an extremely reasonable price
  • The absence of guilt when I would just hang out at LCS or the lake, or at a restaurant or take a nap. It was OK to rest; it was OK to savor the moment
  • Encountering other Americans and Canadians who were actually interested in having a friendly conversation and who were not consumed by materialism or evaluating others predicated on their material or financial standing
  • The presence of many artists whose works of art have their origins somewhere deep within their souls and spirits and who are so eager to share themselves with others be it for the purpose of commerce or simply the enjoyment derived from sharing their passion with another human being

"Guadalajara, on the other hand, seems to have all of the customary and usual attributes of a big city but then one does not have to spend a lot of time in Guadalajara -- other than for major shopping or occasional forays into various entertainment venues or visits to historical and cultural landmarks.

mkt-8-hamock"While I realize that Mexico is not a perfect country and that it is a country rife with poverty, and bureaucratic bungling, monopolies that can make life a little frustrating (especially for electricity or telephone service, etc.) and that recycling and waste management remain unexplored concepts, it is the culture, the people, the value system in place, the cost of living, and the natural beauty that makes the country so attractive.”

Thanks to Charles Patton for letting us share with you his views of Living at Lake Chapala. We think sometimes it's good for you to hear it what this area is like -- from someone who has just seen it with brand-new eyes.

Readers: We’d like you to share your views of what you have seen and how you feel, what you like or don’t like while visiting or living at Lake Chapala? Email me: and tell us your story – we’ll be happy to share it with our world of Mexico Insights Blog readers.

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.

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, 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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