On a sunny day Violeta and I will inhabit our faithful CRV and wander about, without being excessively directed toward anywhere in particular, along the south shore of Lake Chapala, maybe striking off randomly in search of interesting pueblos. Warm wind. Ranchera music. There are roads good and bad fraught with minor adventures and curiosities. For example, On a winding narrow rural road a sopilote, a buzzard, insisted on stalking down the middle in front of us, so that we could not pass without squashing him, or her, which we had no idea of doing. The horn had no effect. Thus go things in the wilds of Jalisco.
Thinking that the photos along the lake might interest curious souls, I decided to stick them together with some others and post them on the web. Well, I did.
If If you like pelicans, lots of them, you should look into Lake Chapala. Actually those in the photo are sparse compared to concentrations that often look like a white raft. They are mysterious. Sometimes the entire raft will begin moving in the same direction. This will last for several minutes, whereupon the raft reverses direction and goes back. There are indeed more things in heaven and earth, especially when it comes to pelicans. Phredfoto.
A malecón‘is a cement boardwalk. Towns along Lake Chapala typically have them. They vary considerably. Some are wonderful places for walking and thinking, or sitting and thinking, or supervising pelicans. Others, such as the one in Ajijic, where we live, have elaborate hemispherical bowls where skateboarders can endeavor to kill themselves. Sometimes there will be stalls selling vampiros, a drink involving tequila and various fruit juices that make it pink. They are typically served in a plastic bag with a protruding straw. On the road through San Luis Soyatlan, along the lake, long lines of people patronize a vampiro stand, wandering off with theie plastic bags and straws. Drinking in public is illegal in Mexico. There is such a thing as tempering law with discretion. Vifoto.
Many dangers attend life south of the border, not all of them understood by Americans. There are reports of giant arachnids with a taste for gringo flesh. Sane people do not take them seriously, though a school of conspiracy theorists insist that some of Hitler’s immortality drug, some of which her carried to Argentina with him, spilled into the aquifers and resulted in gigantism among various arthropods. I have seen no evidence of this, though children do occasionally disappear. .Vifoto.
The church along the lake Pretty much every town in Mexico has one, almost always on the town plaza, of which almost every town also has has one of. Churches vary from gorgeous, with acres of gold leaf, to sparse and barely adorned. No two are alike, Mexico being stubbornly itself and not (so far, anyway) being designed at corporate in New Jersey. The country is some four-fifths Catholic, most of the rest being Protestant, and this provides a social glue that unites people. How much how many people believe, I don’t know, and they seem, as do Christians everywhere, frequently to overlook the parts about fornication and adultery. This doesn’t matter. The important thing is that everyone believes or doesn’t or maybe sort of does without angry zealots hollering about separation of church and state. Which in fact Mexico has. What it doesn’t have is separation of church and culture, Phredfoto.
Anyway, the thousands of churches are usually quiet and cool and somehow apart from quotidian concerns and the rush of life. They provide at the same time national unity and a lack of McDonald’s conformity.
A church (as you might have guessed) of the small-town variety. Many of these are very old. Being built of stone, they last. Religious edifices hereabouts are in a style I call Mexican Chaotic, often being lovely and always interesting but not too definable. Mexico is not a herd country, and what it lacks in efficiency it makes up in variety.. You find elements of Gothic, maybe nave and transept, or rose window but no flying buttresses, and things that look vaguely Romanesque, and rococo ornamentation, perhaps in what might be a medieval English fortress. While Mexico is chiefly European, as for example, in language, religion, schools, governments, and literature, there are considerable indigenous influences and some religious syncretism. Violeta has pointed out that in cathedrals some of the saints depicted have distinctly Indian features, and the Virgin of Guadalupe does not appear in the Bible. Phredfoto.
You may mistake the above for an ordinary puppy of no interest. You would be mistaken, though you can be forgiven for the error. There is a story behind her. The cantineras of the Camaleón bar (see below) found her starving in the streets with little more of life ahead of her. Women being compassionate creatures, if incomprehensible, they picked her up, brought her to the bar, and thereunto annexed her. In Mexico a bar can have a dog without being raided by a swat team, three squad cars ,and the local fire department. The girls fed her mightily and relieved her of unnecessary stowaways, such as worms. Violeta, who has no shame, named her Brigitte Bar Dog. You can now see her central place in the scheme of things, and why you need to know about her. Phredfoto.
Late night at the Camaleón in Ajijic, for years the town’s Bohemian hangout. It attracted a mixed crowd of gringos and Mexicans, among the latter being El Ocelote, the Ocelot, who aspired to being a Beat from the Fifties and talked endlessly of everything Kerouac wrote. It may be that some of them had a familiarity with That Weed, though of course I have no knowledge of this. The owner at the time, Fito, had a Weimaraner named Braco, who in later years inevitably came to be known as Braco Bama. Occasionally women of rentable virtue attended. It offered the raffishness of a biker bar without the hazard. There was little drunkenness and no fights, yet you could imagine yourself to be in a frontier bar in 1890. It was the sort of place that would have horrified the tediously proper expats of the Hill Tribes, the Mexican-flavored gringo suburbs in the hills running along the lake. Phredfoto.
The men’s room in the old Camaleón. Since then it has been taken over by our friend Marisol and the whizzenzimmer modernized but less interesting facilities, sans space aliens. Whether this was an improvement can be argued, but Marisol’s former (German) husband, Rolfe, makes the best bratwurst on this side of the planet, so is well. Phredfoto
This was actually shot in Chengdu, China, during a recent trip, and I am having trouble finding a pretext for putting it into a photo essay about Mexico. However, it seemed to me that a country that can name a brand of eye glasses for Helen Keller distinctly bears watching. There is no telling what it might do. And without the photo, nobody would believe me. So there.Phredfoto.
And now Violeta and I will drive down the lake to the American Legion for breakfast.
Follow Fred. @FredRee05010728 This column accepts no responsibility for damage to your character or possible arrest.