Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lake Chapala and Ajijic

Lake Chapala lies 30 miles south of Guadalajara and lot of American and Canadian retirees live there. The town of Ajijic (ah-hee-HEEK, sounds like “take a peek”) is famous for its artists´ colony. This fanciful mural gives you a flavor of the place -- the images are a mix of images from American indigenous petroglyphs, which look a lot like the Cro-Magnon cave paintings of Spain and France.

The influence of North American money is obvious in the upkeep of the buildings, the gardens, the street plantings and the stores. They cater to visitors with money to spend. Restaurant menus have English translations, which is not common in Guadalajara and most of the other places we´ve visited.

Lake Chapala, Mexico´s biggest lake at about 50 miles long and 20 miles wide, is the highest it´s been in decades because of a very heavy rainy season. This public park shows the impact. With lake levels low, development crept down to meet the water, with obvious results. It takes just one generation to forget history.

People I´ve talked with in Guadalajara say that the lake used to be a popular place to swim, water-ski and fish. Now it has a reputation for pollution. A lake of that size in the U.S., so close to a population center, would have been crawling with boats on a Sunday afternoon. We saw just two or three.

We liked the flowers. They pour over walls and from second-story terraces. When you get a peek through the iron gates, you see lots of lovely gardens.

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