An expat finds paradise at Lake Chapala Riviera
By JEAN BARNETT –
Well over 80 years ago I wrote an article about Mexico entitled “Truth is Stranger than Fiction” which I entered in a competition and won a bronze medal.
Now, at 102 years of age, I find the same theme applicable to present day Mexico where I now live. As strange as it may seem, that article actually set the stage for my late retirement years. Today, along with many other expats from the northern climes, I am still reaping the benefits of the many years spent in this mystic land.
I was born in 1913 during that never-to-be-forgotten depression, the “Dirty ‘30s.” At that time, only children of the more affluent could afford a college education, and my personal dreams of college ended after only one year. However, here and there, courses were offered in various fields of education to try to fill the void. At 16 I was extremely interested in archaeology as it related to the background beliefs of the religious organization to which I belonged. I was intensely intrigued by the tangible evidence of the ancient civilizations that once inhabited Mexico, and vowed that someday I would visit that land of mystery. This set the stage for much of my life thereafter.
Life marches on
and it was not until my two sons were in their early teens that I finally made my first trip to Mexico, the land that proved “Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.” On our many trips to explore firsthand the colossal stone archaeological remains of former great civilizations, I was overwhelmed by the grandeur and the magnificence of the many pyramids and temples constructed by those ancient builders.
After trips to the Yucatan Peninsula and many other places my husband and I decided that Mexico would be the ideal retirement Shangri-la, not simply because of the climate and the exotic flowering landscape but also because of the genial Mexican people. For example, one morning during a tour of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec we were at a restaurant ordering breakfast. We did not speak any Spanish, so we were looking at the delicious-looking fare on a nearby table. A dapper little Mexican gentleman, who turned out to be a bilingual businessman by the name of Enrique Morales, came to our rescue.
“Excuse me, Señora,” he said, waving aside the brilliantly costumed waitress, “You do not realize that you have ordered tough burro steaks that you will not like. Allow me to order for you.” We became lifelong friends, enjoying unlimited hospitality at his beautiful home in Guadalajara, “The City of Roses,” where we often stayed on other trips.
During one of these trips while vacationing in Guadalajara, we took a side trip to lovely Lake Chapala via the eastern pass and exiting via the western pass. On the western tip of the lake, we stopped at the town of Jocotepec, parked opposite the main Cathedral, and sat on the nearby plaza sipping soft drinks. Suddenly the local church bells tolled out “Oh Canada,”
our national anthem. Someone had spotted our Canadian license plate, apparently the first Canadian vehicle to be seen in the pueblo.
After such a welcome we decided to explore this friendly area. We drove up a dusty back road till we came to an open-gated plum tree orchard. A sign on the gate read: “Refrescos (soft drinks) at the lake.” So we drove on through.
As we sipped our refresco and gazed out over Lake Chapala, little did we dream that many years later we would be living in that very place. Today that orchard is a well-established subdivision called Roca Azul. It is home to an RV park, a private sports club and numerous other expats besides us. Yes, truth can be stranger than fiction, as demonstrated by our fateful return to that lovely orchard now called Roca Azul, nestled in the mountains surrounding Lake Chapala.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jean Barnett
Jean’s name, face and byline are well-known in the Lake Chapala area; not many expats have lived here longer. She first visited the area in 1951 and later moved here permanently. Originally from Canada, Jean was once a reporter for newspapers in The Yukon and in Ontario. As a true Lake Chapala “old-timer”, Jean has many Mexico experiences to share.