This is the story of my experiences living as an ex-pat in Mexico since 2003. It's to culminate in a published book. With your help, I'll be editing, selecting a title, and cover art: a participatory project. Your comments encouraged!

Letters from Mexico

Don Karp

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ExpatsBlog.com - Where Expats Blog

November 24, 2018

Guadalajara

Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico. Only an hour away is Mexico’s largest fresh-water lake, Lake Chapala. Lake Chapala has the largest US expat community in Mexico with up to 20% of its population from the US and Canada: tourists, snowbirds, and more permanent residents who are retirees.

I visited during the week of November 5, 2018. My hosts took good care of me.

Rancho La Salud

My initial impetus for the trip was to check out the first cohousing village in Mexico, Rancho La Salud Village, in Ajijic on Lake Chapala. I had a long phone conversation with its founder, Jaime a few months prior because I am considering setting up a cohousing community where I live in Tepoztlan. Jaime and I were very simpatico, and he was very encouraging of my efforts, inviting me to spend time there.

My overnight hosts were the Stephenson’s. You can learn more about Rancho La Salud from their website, Facebook page, and from this YouTube video. Jaime, the founder, spoke with me at length, and we shared much in common with our life stories. He showed me the farm across the road from the Village and took me out to lunch. I felt welcomed.

The main cathedral in Guadalajara Centro.                         Photo by Don Karp

Namaste Lake Chapla

I spent another two days in Ajijic, with a man who lived in a group house referred by a mutual friend. I had no idea it was a spiritual community founded by a teacher of A Course in Miracles. This was a minor miracle because I had been working for months before my trip with the transformation techniques espoused by the Course without even knowing of the connection.

I joined in on the morning and late afternoon classes led by the founder of Namaste Lake Chapala, James Twyman. On my second day I prepared the community meal. I bought the vegetables and spent hours chopping and cooking them into a huge pot of stew.

There were more than enough hugs to go around, and I enjoyed our spiritual sing along sessions.

Here is a video slide show I made of the community featuring James singing a song he wrote on the soundtrack.

Namaste Lake Chapala. Video by Don Karp.

Guadalajara

I took a bus to Guadalajara to spend the weekend at the home of a Couchsurfer. I was lucky in having a tourist agent as my host who provided me with a private room. She transported me to a local club to hear a blues band. The first band, Bad Boys Blues, comprised a trio: Genaro A. Palacios Clemow was an old guy with white hair and a leather hat containing large coins in the hatband. He sat in between two younger guys. One played an electronic upright bass. The other played a washboard. Genaro sang and played harmonica and guitar. He sang in English in a raspy but understandable voice. The washboard player did most of the vocals, covering Taj Mahal, zydeco, and other folk-blues: a nice diversity and well done. At intermission I went up to the stage to compliment them. It surprised me to see that the old guy was wearing a nose tube connected to an oxygen tank. Later I learned that the washboard player was his son. The second group, Gato Gordo, had Genaro with two other guitars, drums, and an electric piano. They were fabulous, playing standard blues melodies and rock at full volume. Genaro sang original lyrics to theses classic melodies. It thrilled me to see an authentic blues band in Mexico!

We explored the center of the city the next day. There were no skyscrapers or high rises. We had to go slowly through heavy traffic before entering the underground parking garage in the town center. Guadalajara’s center has everything right there. The main cathedral; a market with stalls selling trinkets; a plaza with modern sculpture, a horizontal fountain, and monuments; and a museum which was an orphanage centuries ago: Hospicio Cabanas.

The museum entrance contained many murals, with a central circular one on the roof. There were over a hundred rooms in this building with over 20 patios, each with a different display theme. Included were hands-on exhibits for children. Themes varied from historical to modern sculpture. At one end of the central large open plaza was a sculpture of two very large white fingers pointing at each other. These orphan kids lucked out having this grand building as their home!

 

My stay ended as my host called an Uber to take me to the airport to catch a very early morning flight back to Mexico City and the bus ride returning home to Tepoztlan.

 

Have you ever been to Guadalajara? What do you think? Would you want to visit?

Slide show of the central plaza of Guadalajara, Mexico.                              Video by Don Karp.

Hospicio Cabanas, Guadalajara, Mexico. Top: patio with modern sculpture and fountain. 2nd row down, left: me in central courtyard; right: op art display of old cell phones   similar to the one I use currently; 3rd row from top: mural on roof of entrance hall; bottom row: me between sculpture of fingers. Photos by Elena Ochoa.